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Kids and Leonbergers go together like peanut butter and jelly!  If you love playing with your dog, you might really enjoy showing your dog too!  The Leonberger Club of America and the American Kennel Club (AKC) have special programs for kids to show their dogs.  These programs are called “Junior Handling” in the LCA and “Junior Showmanship” in the AKC.   There’s a lot to learn about showing your dog, and this course will help you understand the basics of junior handling—from getting yourself and your dog ready for your first show to bringing home a ribbon!


Junior handling is a competition, and like any kind of competition whether it’s a soccer game or an art contest, the most important thing to remember is to ALWAYS show good sportsmanship.  Win or lose, good  sportsmanship  is always expected.  Remember, when you enter a  ring  with your Leonberger, you’re representing yourself, your family and the breed.  So just what does good sportsmanship look like?

Good Sportsmanship includes:

  • Congratulating the winner
  • Showing respect for fellow competitors and their dogs
  • Respecting the judge’s decision
  • Taking responsibility for your dog—grooming, training, feeding and clean-up.

Bad Sportsmanship might look like:

  • Making negative comments or remarks about fellow competitors, their dogs, or the judge
  • Throwing ribbons or gifts on the steward’s table or floor as you leave the ring
  • Crowding the handler in front of you or making it difficult for others to show their dogs

It’s important to always remember that showing your dog is about building a bond together, not about how many ribbons you bring home.  It should be fun, and should always be a positive experience, no matter what age or skill level you are.


You’ve decided to start training your dog for junior showmanship! You know how to be a good sport, and you’re ready to begin working with your dog so that you can enter your first show. Just like with any sport, showing dogs requires practice. Would you join a softball team without knowing on which hand to wear your glove? Of course not. Junior handling is the same—you need to understand the basics of what you’ll be asked to do in the ring. You’re in luck—Leonberger University can help!

First, you should make sure you and your dog are in shape. Can you both run? If your dog has a health problem that makes moving fast or standing for a long time difficult or uncomfortable, it’s not fair to ask them to do something that makes them hurt. Junior handlers and their dogs are athletes, so you’ll be better off if you’re both up to the challenge.

Second, does your dog like to be around other dogs? Dog shows are noisy, crowded and HOT. Most dogs do just fine once they get used to this, but some dogs just don’t like to be at shows. It’s a good idea to take your dog to a show first, just to watch. That way you can see how he handles the noise and excitement. Also, you can see a show in action, and watch others in the ring. It’s a good way to learn what showing is like, and get an idea of what you’ll be doing soon.
It’s time to start training!


To start training your dog for the Juniors ring, you’ll need:


  • A show collar
  • A show lead
  • Tasty treats (dog treats, not cupcakes!) In dog showing, this is called “bait.”
  • A willing friend

You can start training with any collar, but it’s best to start with the collar and leash you’ll use in the show ring so that both you and your dog get used to them. Check example of one sort of show collar and leash.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to put a show collar on a dog. In this video, Molly shows how to put a show collar on her dog, Danika. Molly’s show lead is attached to her collar, so it’s all one piece. Some leads have snaps and are separate from the collars. Both are fine, as long as they fit the dog.

Part 3 - IN THE RING

When you’re in the ring, the judge will want to see your dog moving from the front, sides, and rear. To do this, the judge will stand in one place and ask you to move your dog in a specific pattern. There are several patterns that the judge might make you follow, so it’s important that you have practiced them all before you go in the ring. You don’t know which pattern the judge might ask you to follow, and he might ask you to do more than one! It’s important to spend time practicing each of these common patterns with your dog so that when the judge asks you to “Show me an L pattern, please,” you’ll know just what to do.

Some of the most common patterns are:

Triangle left

L left

Down back

Double Down Back


Some Practice Worksheets:
Down and Back
Double Down and Back
Triangle Left
"L" to the Left


Part 4 - SHOW DAY


Once you have done a lot of practicing, it’s time to put your skills to the test and enter a junior showmanship class at a local dog show! If you are at least nine years old and want to enter an AKC show, you must have an AKC Juniors number. It’s free, but since the AKC keeps track of each junior handler’s wins, they have to know a little bit about you. You can go to this website and sign up:
The AKC will send you a “Junior Handler Number” which you’ll have to use when you sign up for a dog show. Be sure to read all the rules for Junior Handlers here on the AKC website:

DressWhen you go to a dog show, you’ll see handlers of all ages in the ring dressed in all sorts of ways. Some will be wearing long pants, some shorter skirts, some a suit jacket and tie, and some a sweater and turtleneck. If you spend time watching the junior showmanship rings (and you should!) pay close attention to what the juniors are wearing. They will no doubt all be dressed well and look like miniature versions of the adults showing in the other rings. Most of the girls will wear a skirt and top, with tights or panty hose. Skirts should not be too long and flowy, as they will interfere with the judge’s view of the dog. They should not be too short, either, as short, tight skirts don’t allow you to run easily, and they don’t look professional. The boys will all be wearing dress pants or khakis, with a dress shirt and tie.

It’s a good idea to choose your clothing wisely, so that it will complement the beautiful, rich colors of our Leonbergers. Also, try to avoid really loud, busy patterns such as big florals or polka dots because they will be distracting to the judge and take away from the professional picture of dog and junior you want the judge to remember.Otter Pops

Since you’ll be running around the ring with your Leonberger, perhaps the most important part of your show wardrobe should be comfortable, sturdy girlsshoes. Girls should wear dress shoes that are flat and will not slip off. You don’t want to run out of your shoes as you’re gaiting your dog around the ring! Boys should wear dress shoes. Just like your clothing, your footwear should look professional and appropriate for your clothes and age. Your hair should be neatly contained in barrettes, a braid, ponytail or bun. A handler whose hair is flying all around will have trouble seeing where she’s going and bending over to stack her dog. Also, unkempt hair presents a messy, careless picture to the judge. . Look at the Leonberger juniors in these pictures. Notice their shoes, hair and solid-color suits.


Just as it’s important for the junior handler to appear neat, clean and professional in the show ring, it’s also important for your Leonberger. Your dog should be bathed before the show, and his coat should be brushed and all dead, loose hair be removed. The feathers should be neatly combed. [pic of dog on grooming table] When you go to a dog show, you’ll see lots of people with their poodles and other breeds up on grooming tables, brushing, combing and trimming hair. DO NOT EVER, EVER TRIM YOUR LEONBERGER’S COAT! It’s okay to let a grownup or a groomer trim the long hairs between their toes, but the Leonberger Breed Standard, which is the document that describes just exactly what a Leonberger dog should look and act like, states that, “Natural appearance of the coat is essential to breed type. Therefore, except for neatening of the feet, Leonbergers are to be presented naturally, with no alteration of the coat, to include sculpting, trimming of whiskers, or any other alterations whatsoever. NO RIBBON SHALL BE AWARDED TO A DOG WHOSE COAT APPEARS TO BE ALTERED, AND JUDGES ARE TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF WITHOLDING OF RIBBONS IF THERE IS ANY DOUBT.” ……..

You should read the complete Leonberger Standard. There is even a course on LeoU about the standard.
Also, make sure that your Leo’s toenails are trimmed. It’s uncomfortable for a dog to move with long toenails, and keeping them short and tidy is part of good grooming. It’s a good idea to have your parents or a groomer trim your Leonberger’s toenails regularly, so that they’re kept short and neat. Letting them grow long and then trimming them short right before a show can be painful and can make them bleed. Check out the Leonberger Owner’s Guide for information on grooming and nails.


Okay. You’ve practiced, sent in your entry fee, bathed your Leonberger, brushed him, and trimmed his nails. All that’s left is to pack the car and head to the show!
But what should you pack? Here’s a checklist of handy items you should always keep in your dog show bag:

• Show collar and lead
• Bait
• Water and water bowl
• Copies of up-to-date rabies certificate and dog license
• Elastic bands (to hold your number)
• Poop bags
• Band aids
• Grooming tools (brushes, etc. for last-minute touch-ups before your class)
• Extra collar and leash
• Healthy snacks for you—granola, fruit, etc. and water
• Rain poncho
• Pen
• Dog first aid kit

You will also want to bring a sturdy crate for your dog and a folding chair for you so that you can both rest and relax before your class. Be sure to get to the show at least an hour early. Dog shows are crowded, confusing places and you want time to find your ring and give you and your dog time to get used to the surroundings.



It’s time to enter the ring for your first class! You and your dog have practiced and are both looking your best. NOW what happens?

You should get to the ring about five or ten minutes early and pick up your number, if you don’t already have it. It’s important to numberknow that you ALWAYS wear your number on your left arm, above the elbow, secured with an elastic band or in a number holder. Your number is the same one your dog is assigned in the Show Catalog. Here, Hannah Baber and her pal Yoshi show how to wear a dog show number. number

Here’s how a junior showmanship class will unfold:
First, the Ring Steward will call the class into the ring by reading off the catalog numbers in order. Make sure you have your dog’s favorite bait and are in the correct order when you go into the ring! Also, leave space between your dog and the dog in front of you. Don’t crowd! Set your dog up, and make sure he’s stacked and paying attention to you.

Next, the judge might ask all the dogs to gait around the ring, staying in line. But be careful! The dog in front of you might be much smaller and slower than your dog! Be sure to wait and leave enough space so you can move your dog at a trot without running up behind the dog in front of you.

Entering the Ring

After you go around the ring, the judge will stop the group. When this happens, immediately set your dog up by stacking his feet and getting his attention. The judge will be watching, and you want to show him how beautiful your dog is! Also, always remember to smile and make eye contact with the judge. That shows him or her that you are confident and know what to do, and also that you’re having fun with your dog!

At this point, the judge might split the class, or re-arrange the line according to size, with bigger, faster dogs in the front and smaller, slower-moving dogs at the end of the line. Just pay attention and move where he asks, setting your dog up again quickly.

Now the judge is ready to start examining each individual dog. Be alert! When the judge is going over the dog in front of you, be ready to move up and take your place when he’s ready to look at your dog.

Here’s where that stacking and gaiting practice you did will pay off! The judge will start at your dog’s head, looking at the expression, eyes, teeth, shoulders and front legs. Then the judge will examine the back, rear legs and tail of your dog. Your dog should stay still during the examination. It’s a good thing you practiced that “stay!” command!

Judging Your Dog

Next, the judge will ask you to do a pattern. Sometimes the pattern will be just a simple “Down and Back” or sometimes it will be a more complex pattern like an “L to the Left” or a “Triangle.” If you’ve studied the patterns here in the Leonberger University Junior Showmanship course and then watched the junior handlers who have gone ahead of you, you’ll be confident and able to execute the pattern. Don’t forget the courtesy turn before you start off on the pattern! Also, it’s really important to keep your dog on the mats! Use them as a guide to help you gait in a straight line, with the dog in the middle of the mat where the judge can see him. You’ll end up back in front of the judge, with your dog standing and watching you. Then the judge will thank you and send you back around the ring to take your place at the end of the line while the judge moves on to the next competitor.

Taking a Courtesy Turn

Moving Your Dog

When the judge has examined each junior and their dog, he will usually send the whole group around the ring again. Remember to make eye contact with the judge, and keep your dog in the middle of the mat. It’s your final opportunity to show off your beautiful dog! When you stop, quickly stack your dog and watch the judge.

Now the moment you’ve been waiting for—the judge’s decision! Sometimes he’ll pull out four competitors. This is called “making a cut.” He might dismiss the rest of the class, thanking them for coming. Hopefully you’ll be one of the juniors who made the cut and are still in the ring! If you are, that means the judge thinks you did a good job handling and presenting your dog. It also means he’s considering you for a placement in the class! Be alert and don’t stop showing your dog! Use your bait to keep your dog’s interest. The judge will thank you for coming and announce his winner, as well as the second, third and fourth place winners. If you’re not the first place winner, be sure to shake the hand and congratulate the winner. This shows excellent sportsmanship and is good manners.

Line Up


If you won first place, you must stay outside the ring and wait for the “Best Junior” competition. After all the Junior Showmanship classes have been completed, the winner of each class then goes back in to compete against the other winners for the “Best Junior” ribbon. “Best Junior” classes are run just like a regular Junior Showmanship class. However, unlike a regular Junior Showmanship class, only ONE ribbon is awarded. Hopefully, that ribbon goes to YOU!

But if you don’t win, don’t give up! Keep practicing, and try again at a future show. ALL kids who work with their dogs are winners, no matter what a judge says!

At most dog shows, photographers are there to take pictures of the class BOBwinners. You can have your picture taken even if you don’t win, and it’s a fun way to remember your dog show. Ask your parents first, as you must purchase the pictures if you want to keep them. Here’s an example of a show photograph:

Some things the judge will be looking for are:
• Do you and your dog look neat, clean and professional?
• Are you and your dog working as a team?
• Is your dog looking at you, interested in you, and wanting to please you?
• Do you have your dog under control at all times?
• Are you moving your dog well?
• Are you and your dog relaxed and smiling?
• Are you displaying good sportsmanship?

Congratulations! Your first show is behind you, and you’re now a junior handler! You and your dog have lots more adventures ahead of you, whether in the ring, in your backyard, or with lots of friends at Leonberger picnic. Don’t stop with just junior showmanship. There are lots of ways to compete with your Leonberger—obedience, Rally-O, drafting, agility, and so many more. Check back here, at Leonberger University, for more informative classes about fun events you can share with your Leonberger. And don’t forget, it’s all about having fun!