Search Menu

Lexie Littlefield of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, first learned about dog training by watching YouTube videos. She began competing as a Junior Handler in 2021. In her first year of showing, she qualified for the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the 2022 and 2023 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin. Ranked among the top Juniors handling Golden Retrievers, Littlefield, now 14, trains and competes not only in Conformation, but also in AKC Rally, Diving Dogs, Agility, and Barn Hunt.

Littlefield is constantly learning and improving her skills. “While I have had some unexpected success in my first year of showing, I still feel like I have a lot to learn!” she says. “Sometimes, I try new things and they work, and sometimes really, they don’t.”

Getting Started in Junior Showmanship

Not long after turning 13, Littlefield began training with her family dog, Coco’s Got This In The Bag CGC VHMA, known as “Chanel.” Through watching YouTube videos, Littlefield began to work on basic obedience and agility skills with Chanel, then started attending classes at a local dog training center.

Through a mutual friend in the dog world, Littlefield connected with former Junior Handler Mia Speciale. Speciale let Littlefield show her Ibizan Hound in Junior Showmanship and even introduced Littlefield to Kathi Schapp, now Littlefield’s mentor. “Kathi introduced me to my first-ever Juniors dog and Golden, “Kitten” [FoxRun’s The Whole Kit and Caboodle CGC]. Kitten made a huge impact on my show career and was the first Golden to ever capture my heart,” says Littlefield.

Heather Schapp
Littlefield with her mentor’s Golden Retriever, Emmie.

In addition to Chanel, Littlefield shows two Golden Retrievers. She shows GCH CH FoxRun’s Stylin’ & Profilin’ BN RN FDC ATT CGCA CGCU TKI, known as “Beckham,” whom she co-owns with Kathi and Chuck Schapp, and FoxRun’s A Breath of Snow & Ashes ATT SWN SCA SIA SBA, known as “Emmie.” The Schapps currently own Emmie, whom Littlefield will co-own in the future, when the dog is older.

Getting Mentorship in the Dog World

Littlefield credits her success to the support of her mentors, who have helped her start training and make connections that allow her to show different dogs. In particular, Kathi Schapp has been instrumental in her development, assisting her in quickly developing the skills needed to be a top competitor. “She is really trying to teach me about all of the different things I can do with dogs,” Littlefield explains.

To take her showing to the next level, Littlefield now works and lives with her mentors part-time. She aims to increase her knowledge and skills in all areas of working with dogs, including handling, basic grooming, and properly socializing puppies, which she calls “super-fun.” She adds, “While I love competing in Showmanship, I also really enjoy traveling to new places and meeting new people.”

School in the AM, Dog Training in the PM

Achieving this kind of success requires Littlefield to spend a lot of time training and traveling to dog shows. “I’m very lucky that my parents are letting me home-school this year. It has made keeping my grades up much easier,” she explains. Her normal routine involves starting school first thing in the morning and finishing studying by noon. “That gives me the afternoon to spend time with the dogs, doing fun things and throwing in some training,” she says.

Kathi Schapp
Littlefield with her Golden, Beckham, at a Conformation event.

Homeschooling also makes it much easier for her to travel and compete at shows that involve traveling during the week. “I can do my schoolwork in the RV or even do it ahead of time,” Littlefield says. The hard work has paid off. Besides qualifying for major shows, Littlefield’s dog show highlights include winning multiple Best Junior awards at Golden Retriever specialty shows and winning a $500 scholarship at the 2022 National Dog Show Presented by Purina while handling top Border Collie MBIS MBISS GCHP MVR Diamonds In The Rough TKN CGC.

Being New to the Dog World

Littlefield hopes that kids and teens who are interested in showing dogs will consider getting involved in dog sports. “Even if you don’t come from a ‘dog family,’ there are lots of great resources online to get you started,” she says. She suggests finding a local mentor whom you can start to work with and learn from. For adults considering mentoring Juniors, Lexie advises that “it is important to remember that we are just kids. We often get distracted and wander off with our friends. But most of us do really want to learn and appreciate what you teach us.” Most of all, she encourages adults in the dog world to “please be kind.”

For Littlefield, breaking into dog sports hasn’t always been easy. “I won’t lie, sometimes it is challenging,” she admits. “A lot of the juniors in my area grew up together and as a newcomer, it’s been tough breaking into their groups. I guess it’s just like being the new kid in school. She recommends that Juniors’ parents “encourage [your] son or daughter to be kind and helpful to other Juniors,” which can help build community. She adds, “I admire the talent that a lot of Juniors have, and I have been very lucky to meet some that I know will always be my friends.”

Building Confidence and Looking to the Future

Littlefield has worked hard to develop confidence in and out of the ring. “When I first started, I was a very shy and awkward kid, and showing dogs has taught me to be more outgoing and confident,” she says. Over time, she has begun to feel more relaxed, saying, “I think that being a Junior Handler has taught me that I really can do anything if I apply myself.”

Jordan Isom
Littlefield with Beckham, a Golden Retriever that she co-owns.

Working with dogs has helped Littlefield to think about the future in new ways. “Prior to being involved in dog sports, I never would have thought that I’d have the confidence or social skills to be able to attend college or have any kind of career. Now, I know that anything is a possibility.”

Though she’s still figuring out what she wants to do in the future, she says, “I know whatever I choose to do, I can be successful at it.” In the immediate future, Lexie is looking forward to being involved with more performance events with the Golden Retrievers she co-owns. She is especially looking forward to trialing in Agility and hopes to possibly do some Hunt Tests as well in summer 2023.
Get Your Free AKC eBook

10 Essential Skills: Canine Good Citizen Test Items

Whether you are planning on getting your dog CGC certified or just looking to learn more about the test this e-book is a great place to start.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download