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At only 10 years old, Addie Weger from Cameron, North Carolina is already a breeder, owner, and handler.

Weger, who shows two Swedish Vallhunds – CH Hightower Au Reult Alva Elora “Eevee” and Au Reult SD Maplewoof Master of Disaster “Valkyrie” – inspires other junior handlers to get involved and stay involved in dog sports in addition to her own training.

Finding Her Dream Breed

Although Weger comes from a dog show family, she early on found a passion for her own dog breed. “I saw a photo of a Swedish Vallhund when I was 6 and knew they were what I wanted. We researched the breed for a couple of years and I was lucky enough to get a Champion girl to show” explained Weger who noted that the two won Best of Breed at their first show together and she’s been BOS at the last 2 AKC National shows they attended.

When Weger first aged into Junior Showmanship she started with her sister’s Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and now has transitioned to her Vallhund puppy Valkyrie. Valkyrie has been Weger’s primary juniors’ dog. “She really loves to show with me and it’s fun to show a dog that enjoys it like she does” Weger explained.

She fell in love with the breed, and now wants to help others to discover it as well.

“I was the only junior handler in AKC to show a Swedish Vallhund last year, but I hope I’m changing that. We had a litter of puppies and gave a puppy to a junior handler, and she’s already started showing him in breed. I really love this breed so I hope other juniors can see how fun they are too” Weger explained.

10-year-old Addie Weger holding Swedish Valhund
Lenore Hedemark

Continuing a Legacy

Weger comes from an experienced dog show family and she’s grateful for the support of her family.

“My mom used to handle Australian Cattle Dogs and she also has had Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers ever since they were in the Miscellaneous class. She started showing when she was nine. My Grandma showed dogs, my aunt shows Tollers. My older uncle and aunt did obedience in 4-H in the ’60s. My older brother did 4-H, 2 cousins did 4-H and one is still active in Obedience and Rally in AKC” Weger says.

Weger plans to continue the family tradition and her five-year-old younger sister now sometimes helps out with showing the Vallhunds.

As a member of Cape Fear Dog Training Club, Weger trains in Obedience, Rally, Trick Dog, and Barn Hunt. She has also taken seminars in Scent Work and Herding and competes in FastCAT.

Weger attributes her involvement in dog shows with helping to shape her future plans: “Doing junior handling has helped me set goals and then work towards them. It’s made me more outgoing. I look forward to the next show and working towards the next show the second we drive away from the show site after a weekend”

Lenore Hedemark

Making Friends in Juniors

When asked about her favorite part of showing dogs Weger responded “It may be silly, but I really like hanging out with friends that all like dogs. We all may have slightly different goals, or similar goals, we all have different breeds and different ways to get ready for a show, but we all love the same things”

This social aspect of Junior Showmanship helps to encourage and inspire Weger. When talking about her dog show friends, Weger says: “I like seeing them on weekends and talking to them and their dogs. It’s just fun to spend time with your dog and even waiting around for your ring time isn’t boring if you’re sitting with your dog and chatting with your friends.”

Although dog shows are competitive, Weger explains that there is a lot of support and encouragement amongst the kids and teens who are involved in junior showmanship. “I like meeting new junior handlers and seeing them improve and move up to the open classes and cheering them on. We all cheer for each other and get excited when we see our friends win or improve on something we know they worked at.”

Weger takes any opportunity to educate others about her favorite breed. “I really like walking my Vallhunds around a show and answering questions about them. People don’t see them often, and they ask what breed they are, so I can tell them about the breed and how crazy and silly and fun Vallhunds are.”

Proudest Moments

Weger’s proudest moment showing dogs so far have come at AKC Nationals. “I’ve been there twice, once for breed with my Champion Vallhund, Eevee, when I was 8 years old. Then I qualified for Junior Showmanship the next year when I was 9 with Valkyrie.”

In 2020 she won BOS (Best of Opposite Sex) in 2020 a moment she describes as one of her proudest show wins to date. Weger has qualified for another junior showmanship invitation for 2022 and is really looking forward to being back at nationals.

Weger’s other standout moment so far in her show career has been winning a Best Junior Handler ribbon. She was nine and hadn’t expected to be considered Best Junior Handler award, so the win came as a complete surprise “I’d only been showing for 7 months, and I know I was really improving but it was still a huge surprise” Weger remembers.

Inspiring Others

Weger is aware that just because she has been lucky enough to grow up in a family with show dogs, that isn’t the case for most kids who are interested in showing dogs. “Of all my friends I only know one other junior that grew up with their family showing dogs like I did. So, I think most juniors are coming to the sport from different places and it’s really important to help them.” Supporting other juniors is personally important to her, and she encourages adults to step up where they can to support juniors. “A few of my juniors’ friends can’t even own a dog yet, or can’t have a purebred dog yet, but they really want to learn…. If you’re a breeder or handler that can watch the juniors ring and offer advice or even offer a dog to someone to train or show you should try it.”

She encourages everyone to do what they can to support juniors from mentoring and being available to answering questions to helping kids have access to dogs. Supporting juniors is important to Weger’s whole family. “My Mom co-owns a couple of her dogs with several juniors so they can take turns training and showing them, AKC juniors department has made it easy to add a junior handler’s name to a dog so they can be eligible to show.” Weger described.

To any kids who are curious about dog sports and interested in getting involved, Weger encourages them to “try it out!” She wants kids to know how much fun dog shows can be and that there are “so many different sports to try with your dog” so there’s something for everyone/every dog to enjoy. Weger encourages kids interested in dog sports to visit shows and ask questions of people at the show. Weger also encourages kids to connect with other kids and teens who are showing dogs. “The juniors that I’ve met have all been really nice and friendly, so come watch juniors and introduce yourself so we can help you get started” Weger encourages.

Lenore Hedemark

Breeding Her First Litter

One of Weger’s proudest moments in the dog world so far has been helping to raise and deliver her first litter of Swedish Vallhunds. Working with her breed mentors, Weger learned all about the pros and cons of breeding her dog. They supported her understanding and exploring the qualities and faults of her dog and then Weger’s mentor helped her select a stud dog that would be a good match for her dog.

The decision to breed was also rooted in Weger’s commitment to supporting other junior handlers as her hope and plan for the litter was to be able to give a Vallhund to a junior’s family to help them get started with the breed. Through this first litter, Weger learned about the joys and challenges of breeding.

Weger loved the process of socializing and raising the puppies before they went to their new homes. She is currently researching studs for a 2023 breeding. One of Weger’s big dreams is to someday be a bred-by exhibitor at Westminster.

Future Plans

When she’s not at dog shows, Weger stays busy with school and other hobbies.

She is homeschooled, is in the 4th grade, and is active in her local homeschool co-op. When not showing dogs Weger enjoys “fiber arts and competing in fiber festivals with my rug hooked and rug punched pictures and felted art.” She won two first place ribbons with her fiber art at the Southeast Regional show last fall

When it comes to dogs, Weger has big plans with her dogs this year including competing in FastCAT, Barn Hunt, and Rally. She hopes to finish Valkyrie’s Championship and Eevee’s Grand Championship. Weger will also be showing puppies from her first bred-by litter this year “My next goal is to show in the Bred-By Exhibitor classes and hopefully finish one of them from that class”

Getting Started in AKC Juniors

Teens and children under 18 have the chance to learn about good sportsmanship, dogs, and dog shows, and develop their handling skills with the AKC Juniors Program.

Juniors are eligible to compete in Showmanship, Obedience, Agility, Rally, Tracking, Hunt Tests, Herding, Field Trials, Earthdog, Lure Coursing, Coursing Ability, Coonhound Events, and more. There is no minimum age requirement for sports other than Showmanship (where you must be nine).

If your child is interested in becoming a junior, they should first watch a dog show and sign up for a class. Juniors under 18 years old can sign up for a Junior Handler number here. This number will let them both take classes and compete.

Junior participation in AKC sports will be recognized through the AKC Junior Recognition Program and at the end of the year, AKC will award the Junior Versatility Awards and Scholarships. You can go to this link to learn more about the AKC Junior Recognition Program.