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Most weekends you can find 15-year-old Sicily Coniglio from Roscoe, Illinois, at dog shows.

Sicily comes from a family involved in the dog world and has been involved with dogs since she was a young child. “I was practically born in a grooming salon watching My mother groom and do seminars” Sicily explained.

Her passion for showing dogs began early and Sicily first started showing in UKC shows. She first got started in showing dogs when her mother (Melissa Coniglio of Adorn Poodles), who breeds and shows Standard Poodles, began taking her to shows. At seven — when she saw other kids in the ring — Sicily knew she wanted to get involved, and she did with the encouragement and support of her mother and their handling mentors.

While Sicily has been involved in UKC shows since age seven, she didn’t make the jump to AKC until early this year. Although she hasn’t been competing in AKC Junior Showmanship for very long, she’s already made quite a name for herself in the ring. “I have only been an AKC Junior since January 2020 but I moved up to Open in two shows. That means a lot to me. I have worked very hard dedicating everything to this year.”

Drawing and Showing

The pandemic hasn’t stopped Sicily and her dogs, who have been back in the ring doing what they love most. Sicily regularly shows her family’s owned and bred Standard Poodles, and will soon begin showing her co-owned Bichon Frise, Swan, and co-owned Doberman Pinscher, Amora.

In her free time, Sicily puts her artistic talents to use and creates digitally designed show advertisements for other juniors as well as adults. Sicily has been drawing since she was seven, the same age she began showing dogs. “I started drawing our Standard Poodles and eventually built a passion for other breeds. Art is something that helps set my mind free” Sicily explained.

Sicily is also involved in co-breeding Standard Poodles puppies with her mom. “I have been helping raise and welp Standard Poodles with my mother my whole life.” Sicily noted that the experience has been an invaluable learning experience.

Finding Support Through Mentorship

Like many Junior Handlers, Sicily attributes much of her success to the support and guidance she has received from adult mentors in the dog world. From her mom who has taught her about breeding, grooming, and showing to handlers she has mentored under.

Sicily is currently assisting 2020 Westminster Winners Paul and Chrystal Clas and has previously assisted professional handler Lindsay Gorder. Sicily hopes that one day she will be following in their footsteps. “My show goals are big, especially with my foundation Bichon and prospect Doberman. It is my dream to attend The Westminster Dog Show and The AKC National Championship! My biggest goal is to platinum Champion a dog” Sicily says.

Currently, Sicily competes in Junior Showmanship and Conformation, but she also has plans to begin training and competing in AKC sports like Agility as well as Fast CAT with her dogs in the near future.

Sicily is a big believer in mentorship and encourages adults to support juniors in their local area by spreading knowledge of dog sports and the dog world. She also encourages them to welcome juniors into their breed by sharing their expertise and knowledge with the next generation of breeders and handlers who will continue to further the breed and dog sports in general.

“There is a Place For You”

For kids and teens curious — but maybe nervous — about getting involved in dog sports, Sicily encourages you to “go for it!” It can feel overwhelming to think about starting something new, but regardless of if you are born into a dog show family, or get involved on your own, there is a place for you in AKC sports.

“Showing dogs really has no age limit,” Sicily says. “And it’s never too late or too early to get involved in the sport. Age shouldn’t limit your success.”

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: Madison Schlagel
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