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Practicing Your “Ta-Da”: Tips from a Young Dog Show Exhibitor

By Karissa Groves, age 14

Hi! I’m Karissa Groves, and I love dogs, all sorts of dogs—but I really love Bloodhounds! About four years ago, I went to a dog show with my grandma. When I saw kids there showing dogs, I asked her if I could start showing too.

I especially like big dogs, but my grandma thought it would be better if I started showing with a smaller dog I could have better control of.

The first dog I ever showed was a Border Collie owned by a friend of my grandmother. It was so much fun, and we even won Best of Opposite Sex (which I did not quite understand, but it was a ribbon—yay!). Then another friend of my grandma’s offered me a mini wirehaired Dachshund to show. His name was Sherman, but I called him Shermie or “the Shermanator.”

Shermie and I just clicked! We accomplished so much together: Junior first-place wins, Best in Junior Showmanship, Best of Breed, multiple Hound Group placements, and even an Award of Merit at the famous Eukanuba dog show in Orlando, Florida.

I learned a lot about dog shows and handling while showing Sherman. All of the Dachshund people are really supportive of juniors showing their breed. Since starting showing I have also helped with and shown about a dozen other breeds as well.

I wanted to show one of my family’s Bloodhounds, so after my grandma’s professional handler got a new job as an AKC field representative and could no longer show, I finally got the chance with my Bloodhound, Sebastian.

For three years I had watched the Bloodhound breed ring, the Hound Group ring, and many professional handlers. I knew showing Bloodhounds would be a challenge, but I was really excited about this opportunity.

The first time I showed Sebastian in Junior Showmanship (or Juniors, for short), was in September 2013. Unfortunately it did not go so well. He is a very emotional dog, and he was extremely uncomfortable with the judge. However, I got him through it. This experience made me determined to do better the next time.

Showing a Bloodhound in Juniors is both good and not so good. Some Junior Showmanship judges are not really hound-type judges, nor especially fond of Bloodhounds. Also, many judges expect you to free-stack your dog, which most Bloodhounds don’t typically do. I am happy to say that we have practiced it, and now, I can get all of my Bloodhounds to do this (most of the time).

The first few times I showed a Bloodhound in the breed ring, we won Best of Breed, because I do have a really nice Bloodhound to show. The Bloodhound breed ring is much more difficult than the Dachshund breed ring because it is filled with the most respected professional handlers in our area, so it is really tough for a junior to win, even with a good-quality dog.

In Junior Showmanship, we try to win, and we try to do better and better, but we also try to have good sportsmanship, and we encourage others. Once at a show, one younger junior was very upset and crying. I took my time to speak with her and told her to please keep trying. I have seen her since then, and she is doing much better.

At a dog show I went to in Missouri, I met Savanna, another junior who had just started showing her Bloodhound. I gave her some tips about showing the breed in Junior Showmanship. In fact, between a few of us we put on a mini “juniors seminar” at the show. We all practiced with our dogs, and I think it helped Savanna. It was fun!

Bloodhounds are not for everyone, and really not for every junior. I think you need to know the breed and understand that they are really sensitive, so they are going to have days where something or someone might upset them. Also, I think you need to be physically strong to show a Bloodhound (or any big dog). Please don’t give a junior an untrained or inexperienced Bloodhound (or any dog) to try to show.

A few tips for juniors: You need to practice. Practice things like free-stacking and getting your “ta-da” figured out. The “ta-da” is what I call the way I try to finish my overall presentation of the dog to the judge. Also, do not forget eye contact and a little smiling when you are in the ring.

In the breed ring, it is my dream that judges will give dogs shown by a junior more of a look, and not just put up the most “known” dog or handler—although that’s how it goes sometimes. Professional handlers are out showing each weekend and are very well known, while I am just a kid who is going to school and doing other activities, like gymnastics, and who shows about once a month (if I am lucky).

If you ever see a Bloodhound in the Junior Showmanship ring, please support them. If you ever see a junior (with any breed) in the breed or group ring, please support him or her. Remember, as everyone says, juniors are the future of the sport.

Thank you to all of the judges who have rewarded me and my beautiful Bloodhound Sebastian.

Oh, and I have to say thanks to my “mamaw and papaw” (my grandma and grandpa), who make my dog-showing hobby possible!

Go, juniors with Bloodhounds!

—Karissa Groves, Junior Member, The American Bloodhound Club (AKC Gazette, February 2015)

All photos courtesy Karissa Marlene Groves

Portraits of Karissa and Sebastian at top of article taken by Bailee Rodgers


Read more articles from the AKC Gazette here, and learn more about Bloodhounds here.

Want to learn more about Junior Showmanship, or about how young people can get started in careers in dogs? Visit the Junior Showmanship Resource Center.
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