Natalia Backos, a 14-year-old from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, has never known a time when she didn’t spend her weekends at dog shows. A proud third-generation breeder/owner/handler, Backos is following in the footsteps of her grandmother and mother, alongside her sister. Her dogs include her Parson Russell Terriers BISS GCH Panther Creek Stone Cold Sober “Boozer” and CH Rag Valley Good As Gold “Micah,” her Standard Schnauzer Dinamyt’s Nothing But Trouble “Rebel”, and her Siberian Husky Diamondt’s Miracles From Heaven “Mira.”
Backos has been around dog shows her entire life and remembers that she was just 2.5 years old when she began showing. “I first stepped into the ring with my sister’s whippet at a Junior Handling Seminar at New Castle, Pennsylvania with Mr. Tommy Glassford,” she remembers. Since starting to show dogs as a toddler, she hasn’t stopped. Her already long list of impressive accomplishments includes winning Best of Opposite Sex at her breed national and the prestigious Montgomery County Kennel Club at just 11 years old. That win was with Backos’s first Juniors dog, Henley, who she showed and trained through Grand Championship on her own.
Backos is proud to be from a dog show family that has nurtured and encouraged her passion for training and showing dogs. “I wake up and the first thing on my mind is dogs,” she says. “I go to sleep and the last thing on my mind is dogs.” The same is true for her family, and Backos has benefited from their support and passion “Having family involved in the dog world has been amazing because I have been given many opportunities to grow and learn. The support is never-ending.”
Working With Dogs
Backos and her dogs train and compete in a variety of sports including Conformation, Dock Diving, Barn Hunt, and Earthdog. When thinking back over her accomplishments with the dogs, Backos recalls that her proudest moment is having been recognized as the No. 1 Parson Russell Terrier Junior for the past five years. She’s also especially proud of achieving Best Juniors with numerous different breeds.
For Backos, the joy of showing dogs comes from the opportunity to spend quality time training and working with her dogs, not just the big wins. She especially appreciates the opportunities she has had getting to work and learn from different breeds and people. Backos notes that this has helped her to grow as a handler by giving her skills to “alter my training methods to what best works for me and my dogs.”
If you don’t come from a family involved in breeding and showing dogs, it can feel overwhelming to try to figure out how to get involved. Backos’s advice to kids and teens interested in getting involved in AKC sports is to seek out mentorship and “find genuine people who will help and support you.” To adults in the dog show community, she encourages everyone to be open and kind. “Many times, kids and teens are turned away from the sport due to a bad experience with an older person in the community,” she says. “We all need to do better by having open arms!”
In addition to showing dogs, Backos is a busy and active teenager and is very involved in her local school community. “I have been enrolled in public school and have maintained all As and Bs while going to shows and staying top ranked,” she says proudly. “I also participate in musicals, select ensemble, cheerleading, and gymnastics all with my school.” Although she’s very active in other sports, the lessons she’s learned as a Junior Handler carry over and continue to bring her back to her passion for working with dogs. “Being a Junior Handler has given me more responsibility. It has also made me realize that this is something I truly love doing and want to continue for years to come.”
Backos has big plans for her dogs in the future. Her goals for 2022 include adding some performance titles to her dogs’ resumes and starting to show two new puppies. “I also am going to work extra hard to get into the Terrier Top 10 for Juniors and go for Top Five Parson Russell Terrier OH with my boy, Boozer (BISS GCH Panther Creek Stone Cold Sober), as we ended this past year at number 7!”