Search Menu

A total of 89 Junior Handlers from across America competed with their dogs in the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. These top talents went head-to-head in the preliminary competition. Just eight junior handlers and their dogs moved into the finals to compete for the coveted award of Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best Junior Handler.

Best Junior Handler

Junior Handler Luke Waters with Wire Fox Terrier “Kira” GCH CH Claypools Make Your Mark took home the Best Junior title in the competitive finals. Waters lives in Claypool, Indiana. This win is a testament to Waters’ dedication, and skill, as well as the special connection he shares with Kira.

JGrassi for WKC

Junior Showmanship Finalists

The other seven finalists were:

2. Octavia Stenson with Norwegian Buhund GCHB CH Cultiva Cruisin For A Bruisin Pineapple Express

3. Brynn Moores with Flat-Coated Retriever GCHG CH Wingmaster Splendid Prince Hairy RN JH CGC

4. Jade Chase with Black Russian Terrier GCH CH Sparta-Naissur I’M No One To Be Trifled With

5. Ava Katherine Hata with Dachshund (Longhaired) GCH CH Setsers King of Rock and Roll, SI TKN

6. Summer Koster with Collie (Rough) GCH CH Braeton’s Son Of A Sailor

7. Annaliese Noth with Smooth Fox Terrier GCH CH Decorum Jetstream Mischief Managed

8. Olivia Uyeno with Manchester Terrier (Standard) GCHS CH Cashlane Tulou Tagaloa FDC CA BCAT CGCA CGCU TKP

Who Are Junior Handlers?

Junior Handlers are kids and teens from across the country with an interest in dogs, dog shows, and dog sports. Some grow up with parents, grandparents, or other family members who show dogs, while others are the first person in their family to get involved with showing dogs.

The American Kennel Club Junior Showmanship program teaches kids and teens about dog breeds, dog care, and handling. Junior handlers can begin competing in Junior Showmanship when they are nine years old, and they age out of the program at 18 years old.

The Road to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Unlike other shows that Junior Handlers can simply enter, competing in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a prize in and of itself. To compete at Westminster, Junior Handlers must receive an invitation to enter the show.

To earn an invitation, they must have been named Best Junior Handler in a minimum of two competing classes at seven or more AKC dog shows in the previous year. Once they arrive at Westminster, Juniors then compete in the preliminaries to narrow down the competition to the eight finalists.

AKC Staff
Junior Handlers competing for Best Junior Handler at Westminster.

How Are Junior Handlers Evaluated?

In the sport of Conformation, a judge’s primary objective is to evaluate how closely the dog aligns with the breed standard. But in Junior Showmanship, the judge evaluates the Junior Handler on how they present their dog and how they enhance their dog’s qualities. Juniors need to be able to demonstrate to the judge knowledge of their breed and appropriate ways to present the dog. The judge is looking at the Junior Handler’s control of the dog, the way they present their dog, and the teamwork between the Junior and their dog.

Which Dogs Compete?

Many Juniors get started with their family dog. While junior handlers need purebred dogs to show, their dogs don’t always have to be top-quality show dogs, since they’re being judged on how they handle the dog.

Junior handlers are the future of the sport of Conformation, and it’s a great way for them to show their dogs and gain experience with different breeds.

Winning Big at Westminster

Each Junior Handler finalist at Westminster receives a scholarship that they can put towards tuition at the college or technical school of their choice in the future. The Best Junior Handler award winner receives a $10,000 scholarship, with the second-place finisher receiving a $5,000 scholarship, the third-place finisher receiving a $4,000 scholarship, and the fourth-place finisher receiving a $3,000 scholarship. The remaining four finalists each take home a $500 scholarship.

The 148th Annual Westminster Kennel Club has named it’s 2024 Best in Show! Catch reruns of the coverage on demand and learn more about one of the most famous dog shows in the United States at