For 15-year-old Allison Chism of Ocala, Florida, there has never been a time that she hasn’t been at dog shows. “I’ve loved being able to grow up and watch my mom, sister, and my grandmother succeed, which has given me the inspiration to follow in their footsteps,” she says.
Chism officially stepped into the ring for the first time at seven years old with her first German Wirehaired Pointer. But she had already been practicing for that day for years and used to play “dog show” in the backyard with her older sister. In the photo below, Chism was four years old pretending to be a judge as her older sister Alexis was handling GCH Afterhours Cute As A Button JH CGC “Cutie.”
Although Chism has already been very successful, she says that showing isn’t just about winning—it’s about the entire experience of working with her dogs. “Showing at a young age has taught me to be patient and that it’s okay to make mistakes.” Chism currently primarily shows her German Wirehaired Pointer Athena (Afterhours Dream To Inspire RN TKE VHMA).
In addition to Junior Showmanship, the two also compete in Rally, Trick Dog, and Fast CAT. Chism is most proud of Athena’s versatility, explaining that “at just one-year-old, she has her Rally Novice, Trick Dog Elite Performer, Virtual Home Manners Adult, two Q’s for her Beginner Novice and one Q for her Companion Dog. She also has 90 points towards her BCAT.”
Chism has already co-bred multiple litters of GWP puppies along with her grandmother, mother, and older sister and she is currently in the process of applying to be an AKC Breeder of Merit. Health and betterment of the breed have been the primary focus of her family’s breeding program and their German Wirehaired Pointers/Afterhours Kennels, currently have the most OFA CHIC’d Wirehairs in the United States.
“As a junior handler, I want to breed to continue my grandmother’s legacy to better the future of the breed,” Chism says. “In order to have a dog that can properly function, in both the field and the show ring, the dog must be properly built. As I continue breeding in the future, my main focus is and will always be health.”
The pandemic has allowed Chism and Athena to develop passions for new sports. “Athena was born just before the pandemic and I am thankful that AKC has allowed us to participate in some venues while we were quarantined at home,” Chism says. “I’ve enjoyed venturing out and trying new AKC Sports and have found a passion for rally. I look forward to competing in Rally and Obedience at shows with Athena in the future.”
Another unexpected benefit of the pandemic for Chism has been the opportunity to get even more involved with dogs than she already was. “Due to COVID-19, my family made the decision to pursue online schooling,” she explains. “This has allowed me to spend much more time with my dogs and start training for new sports.” Because Florida didn’t have many travel restrictions, dog shows continued being held there and she was able to complete her schooling while traveling to them. The expansion of the AKC Virtual Titling program during COVID has been particularly beneficial to Chism and she credits this new pilot program with allowing her to achieve her goals while in quarantine.
While a family connection in dog sports is helpful, Chism emphasizes that you don’t have to have one to get involved in dog sports. For kids and teens looking to get started, she says “it’s key to find a good mentor to guide you in the right direction.” To do this, she encourages finding a local dog club that holds classes. You’ll be able to meet other juniors, as well as adults who can help you to understand how dog shows work and give you the training skills to help you and your dog get ready. “Don’t be so focused on winning,” she advises future junior handlers. “Win or lose, as long as you and your dog have fun, that’s all that matters!”
Chism has many future goals for herself and her dogs. She recently successfully began showing “Mocha” GCH Afterhours Peppermint Mocha TKN VHMA in Junior Showmanship and also has big plans to continue performance sports. “I’m in the process of getting some agility equipment,” she says. “I also plan on starting dock diving and hunt tests in the future, after my dogs complete the required health testing for our breed.”
Outside of the ring, Chism plans to pursue higher education to become a veterinarian, a goal she’ll no doubt achieve thanks to all she’s learned in the ring. “Being a junior handler has taught me to work hard to achieve my goals.”
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, and Coonhound Events. 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 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 to 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.
For more information, email your questions to Juniors@akc.org.