Using Preschool Children to Show Dogs in a Regular Conformation Show
The CKC has a Junior Handling Program where:
"The purpose of Junior Handling is to introduce and encourage youth to participate in the sport of purebred dogs, and to provide them with meaningful competition where they can learn, practice, and hone their skills and knowledge of the various breeds. Above all, it is an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of competing with those of a similar age."
In other words, Junior Handling is a activity where children can learn with other children of their same age as a confidence building activity.
The AKC discusses Pee Wee dog handling as follows:
"Although the word “judge” will be used, this is designed to be a learning and mentoring experience—no Junior will be “judged” but rather will be mentored with the age-appropriate amount of information to help prepare them for what they will be expected to know about AKC regular Junior Showmanship once they reach 9 years of age. Obviously, the older children can absorb more detail than the younger ones. The children will be mentored one child, their adult, and dog in the ring at a time. Each child will receive a participation ribbon or rosette to commemorate the experience. The club may select the color of the ribbon and may wish to add a small gift for the child or the dog to take home. It would be an added plus if the Judge were to be available for individual photographs with the show or club photographer which would serve as a memento and reminder to both the child and the adult of the fun experience and remind them to return again next year!"
The photos on the above article show all of the little ones receiving a ribbon. This is a participatory activity. Please note that the AKC is clear that children should be 9 years of age before they become involved in regular Junior Showmanship let alone regular Conformation Shows.
So here are my questions:
1. Should a Pee Wee be involved in a regular Conformation Show at any level - Baby Puppy, Class Dog or Special? I define Pee Wee (as per the AKC) as a child below the age of 9 years of age, but certainly between the ages of 4-6?
2. If a Breeder/Owner puts a very young child (for example: between the ages of 4-6) in the regular Conformation Ring, should the Show Secretary step in and request that a different handler be used?
3. Why would the CKC and or the AKC or any other Kennel Club for that matter sanction this practice?
4. Is dog showing only about the win? In other words, is the cuteness factor of using a preschooler worth a win regardless of the consequences to the child? If this is the case, then the Fancy is in even greater trouble than the research indicates it to be as it applies to the health of the purebred dog.
I leave you with the following to think about:
***As an educator with a deep understanding of child development, I can assure you that the research indicates that this type of pressure could be very damaging to a young child.
WHAT DO YOU THINK???