AKC Junior Event Opportunities

By Jackie Wooden

There are many fun events offered by the AKC in which juniors may compete. Most often juniors choose to compete in just Breed and Junior Showmanship classes. There are, however, companion events that are often held in conjunction with the breed shows that rarely have any juniors competing. These companion events are Rally and Obedience. Yes, it is easier to just train your dog for the Breed and Showmanship rings, but Obedience and Rally are just as fun and very rewarding to both handler and dog. It takes time and effort to get your dog to learn the difference between the Breed/Showmanship collar and the flat collar for the Rally and Obedience rings, but is well worth it! At first your dog might try and sit in Breed or Juniors, but with a little more time and training they quickly learn the difference. Doing a Rally/Obedience training session right before or after a Breed/Showmanship lesson will help your dog make the distinction between the two collars. Before you know it, they will instantaneously sense the difference between the two collar types. Personally, I think that Rally and Obedience helps to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. The more you work with him, the better he will listen to you in all types of situations and events. In my personal experience, my dog became more tail wagging happy when obedience and rally classes were added to her repertoire.

At the 2015 Mission Circuit Show in Pomona, California, several Rally/Obedience exhibitors gave me some tips about how to better train my dogs. One of them, Kristina C. Kotavary, gave helpful suggestions on what specific Rally/Obedience training books to read. Quite often I learn a lot by just watching the experts at work in the show ring. One very helpful handler/friend is Claudia Burk, who got me started in showing dogs and helped build a strong foundation for Rally and Obedience. Lance Kruse has also given me helpful training tips at a couple AKC dog shows. He demonstrated how to do focus training. Focus training is where you have your dog sit and tilt their nose tip towards your left cheek. When your dog focuses or watches you, you reward them with a piece of bait. Keep repeating this until your dog watches you on command. The next step is to have them maintain that focus while walking and performing other required tasks. The focus training is critical to maintain your dog’s attention in the show ring and avoid distractions while working off lead.

Rally and Obedience are a different type of competition than Breed and Showmanship, in that you are not necessarily trying to beat others but rather improve upon your own previous score. Each dog and handler team completes the Rally or Obedience exercises individually and receives a score based on their performance as a team. The goal is to earn a qualifying score, and any placement ribbon is an added bonus. I love the challenge of trying to beat my previous score! A qualifying score in Rally is
70 to 100 points and 170 to 200 points in Obedience. With each qualifying score you earn a “leg” towards the title for that Rally or Obedience level of competition. Three “legs” are required to earn an event title. The title is then added to your dog’s name on their AKC certificate, showing that your dog is not only beautiful but smart, as well. Since this is not a competition in which only a few can earn a “leg” or title, the other competitors are very friendly, willing to help, offer advice, and demonstrate techniques that you can use to improve your ring performance. I feel competitors are especially willing to help and encourage juniors in these events, they recognize that there are few juniors in companion events, and know that we are the next generation that will help keep the sport of dog showing alive!

There are even more AKC fun competitions you can explore. Currently, I am training one of my dogs for Agility, and another is being tested through TDI (Therapy Dogs International) so he can work towards earning his AKC Therapy Dog title. If you are looking for exciting, challenging, activities besides Breed and Showmanship to participate in, or develop a stronger, tail wagging relationship with your dog, then consider getting involved in Rally and Obedience competitions! These fun performance ctivities give you and your dog something more to look forward to at AKC dog shows. I hope to see more juniors participating in Rally and Obedience soon! It maybe the extra fun that you have been looking for at AKC events!