A Kennel Club by and for Junior Handlers

The Greater Clark County Kennel Club in Washington is leading the way in making dog sports more age appropriate for young handlers. The club operates the nation’s first AKC Junior Club, a program in which junior handlers can host events and hold leadership positions.

The AKC Junior Club: Form and Function

The AKC Junior Club is the brainchild of Emily Barnhart, breeder and AKC judge.

The main objective of the AKC Junior Club is to support the development of well-rounded juniors in the canine world by exposing them to all aspects of dog training, showing and event organization. This will help children gain experience in all areas of the clubs, from running to training and competing.

Who can participate and how?

The AKC Junior Club will be youth led with the support of adult mentors from across the canine world, including trainers, groomers and breeders. These mentors will organize meetings, lead workshops and participate in other events. Teen mentors will also have the possibility at support younger members.

The AKC Junior Club will be open to children ages 5-18. In addition to the Junior Showmanship divisions (Junior, Intermediate and Senior), they will offer a non-competitive PeeWee component for children ages 5-9. The PeeWees will prepare the children for the competition.

The club will meet in small groups each week (with COVID protocols in place, for now), with specialized agility training opportunities that may become available. Monthly business meetings will align with the Greater Clark County Kennel Clubs.

“We also want to make sure we see where you have talent and allow you to explore different areas to see what type of activities or jobs you would like to do in the AKC world,” says Barnhart. “So we’re trying to get more future breeders, more club members to run shows and more administrators, but maybe they’re a great trainer and that will be their focus.”

The AKC Junior Club has a wide range of programming plans designed to support children and teens through five distinct components:

  1. Business talks: Youth will hold and manage their own club business meetings. “We’re going to have a young person as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer,” Barnhart says. “They are going to be looked after by adults from the club so they can learn about this job and how to run a club.”
  2. Junior director: A primaThe main focus of the club will be to help juniors get involved in the junior show. Children and teens will need their dogs to have AKC registration, but the club will also accept those with a Purebred Alternative List (PAL) or VSanine Ppartners.
  3. Companion/Performance: The club will provide training in different performance sports. Juniors can learn what excites them and their dogs. From there, they can eventually move on to more advanced training and competition.
  4. Knowledge: Dog training will be a central part of the program. Juniors will learn canine anatomy, breed identifications, and AKC history, among other topics. Barnhart explains that the Junior Club eventually hopes to develop a competitive quiz or knowledge-based event where children can answer questionss“and possibly make public presentations.”
  5. Volunteer: Juniors will volunteer at shows and other events hosted by the Greater Clark County Kennel Club, as well as community service in the larger as well.

In addition to regular meetings, there will be plenty of opportunities for juniors and their dogs to compete. “Our goal is for the kids to host their own games and host a junior showcase at the end of the year,” says Barnhart.

The junior showcase will grow and evolve based on the interests of the juniors involved in the program each year. For example, if more children are interested in agility, smaller trials will be held to allow members to practice.

A model for other clubs

Currently, the Greater Clark County AKC Junior Club is the first chapter of this junior model, but the hope is that this program can expand to kennel clubs across the country. If you or your kennel club would like to know more, contact Barnhart directly at [email protected].

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