Playing with the big dogs: Junior handler invited to AKC

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By Special to the Monitor

Jennifer Necker, a Piñon Elementary School fourth-grader, has made good on a promise that she would one day show a dog at the American Kennel Club National Championship Dog Show. Necker, a member of the Los Alamos Dog Obedience Club and the English Setter Association of America, will be showing an English Setter at the show in Long Beach, Calif., Saturday.

Necker has been showing her 3-year-old English Setter, Owen, for a little more than a year in the breed ring and began showing in Junior Showmanship events in April. AKC’s Junior Showmanship events are open to children ages 9 -18 and are designed to provide children with the opportunity to develop their dog handling skills, learn about good sportsmanship and learn about dogs and dog shows.

Juniors are judged on their ability to present, or handle, their dogs within the same formats and guidelines as those who compete in the breed ring. The quality of their presentation, not the dog, is judged. Juniors are encouraged to develop their handling abilities, dress appropriately, conduct themselves in a proper manner and present their dog in a well-groomed condition.

Junior handlers compete in classes according to age and ability, starting as novice handlers and then achieving open class status after three wins with competition.

All junior handlers with a minimum of five open class wins and a B or better grade average in school receive invitations to the National Championship. Each year approximately 150 children from across the country attend the event.

Since turning 9-years- old in March, Necker compiled the three novice wins as well as six open junior class wins (9-11 years olds) before the Invitational qualifying cut off date in early October.

Along the way, Necker continued showing Owen in breed, garnering a fourth place in Sporting Group in Flagstaff, Ariz., earlier this summer. On Sept. 18, at the Coronado Kennel Club show in Rio Rancho, Necker showed Owen to an amazing Best in Sporting Group, placing them in the Best in Show ring. The same weekend, she garnered a Best Junior Handler award, naming her the best child handler in the show.

Necker’s success in the ring and love of dogs has blossomed into other opportunities as she is handling other English Setters as well as an Australian Shepherd.

After qualifying for the AKC National Championships this year, Necker now aspires to show on the green carpet at Westminster Kennel Club.