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A passion for terriers and dog shows led 17-year-old Royal Miller, from Pennsylvania, to become ranked as #7 Junior Handler in the Terrier group.

“I never expected to be in the top 10 in my group because of COVID-19,” Royal explains. “Yet there I was, winning in juniors and moving up to #7 in the Terrier group.”

Royal’s dogs include Charm (GCHB Greentree Nugget’s Charm), JB (GCHB Greentree in Margaritaville TKN), and Dyna (GCH Greentree Charm Dynagriffe TKN).

Getting Started

Royal got started in dog shows in August 2016 with the encouragement of his parents, but he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “When my parents and I got our foundation bitch, I was thrown into the ring with only a day’s worth of practice,” he recalls.

Although Royal wasn’t sure about dog shows at first, like many people, it didn’t take long for him to feel the pull of the sport. “After showing the first day, I became more interested in it, and began going to handling practices,” he says. “After a few weeks of practice, I felt more comfortable and started showing more often.” And he hasn’t stopped since.

Biggest Accomplishments

Royal might only have been involved in showing for a few years, but he’s already had a lot of success with his dogs. “My proudest accomplishment was when Dyna, our bred-by bitch, won Owner Handled Group 1 and a Best in Show Owner Handled on a Friday of a four-day show,” he says. “This amazing accomplishment led me to two more Owner Handled Group 1s in a row that same weekend.” Those wins were particularly meaningful for him and his family, who breeds Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, because it bumped them up to #1 Owner Handled Wheaten Terrier for November 2020 through the present standings (January 31, 2021).

The other big moment that stands out in Royal’s show career is when his family’s foundation bitch, Charm, won Award of Merit at a national specialty in May 2018. “I was in 8th grade and was absolutely shocked to win at a specialty that soon in my show career.”

Building Strength and Confidence

Dog shows are a lot of fun, but they have also played an important role in Royal’s health, as well as helping him develop strength and confidence. “I had a few hip surgeries back in 2016 and 2017 and we started dog shows around that time,” he explains. “I had a limp, which was somewhat obvious, and dog shows helped me get rid of my limp, due to how much walking I was doing.” Four years later, he hasn’t had any problems with his hip.

“Dog shows also helped with some social anxiety I had,” he says. “As I made friends, I slowly began to be more social with people, which made talking to other people I don’t know well in the sport easier.” Royal credits his experience as a Junior Handler specifically with helping him to gain valuable confidence when talking to adults. “It has also taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to—if I want to win, I will work for it and win.”

Advice for Juniors

Getting started in showing dogs can feel overwhelming, especially for kids and teens who don’t come from show families. Royal encourages any interested kids to just go for it. He emphasizes the importance of researching the different dog sports and breeds you’re interested in, then finding a reputable breeder for getting a dog to show. It’s also important for adults to support juniors with getting involved in the sport. “If you want to mentor or support a junior, do it,” he says. “A junior who wants to win will want to have a mentor who can help them and support them.”

What’s Next?

Like most people, Royal is looking forward to life returning to “normal” after COVID—and he has big plans for his dogs. While his short-term focus is to get back to regular shows, in the long term he intends to focus on “keeping our bred-by bitch in the top 10 Owner-Handled and to eventually get into the Top 100 Owner-Handled overall.”

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.

Related article: Junior Handler Spotlight: Cassidy Hayes Shows Dogs From Toddler to Teen
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