I would firstly like to thank Emer Wright & James Newman for the honour of inviting me to judge at this event.
I know how utterly nerve wracking these competitions can be and I thought all the competitors coped very well and did the best they could. Of course, a few mistakes did occur due to the nerves and this was where I was able to split the competition and make my decisions.
When I judge handling, I am looking for a natural handler, one that shows their dog off and not themselves. I like the handler to have a good rapport with their dog and get the very best out of their dog they can.
One thing I did notice was that a lot of handlers seem to drop leads on the floor or let leads dangle. It is always safer to have the lead securely in your hand and it is much more aesthetically pleasing to see it wrapped up neatly in your hand, instead of dangling all over the place. Showing teeth is also a little messy, please remember to be careful opening your dogs mouth and not to let your head get in the way when presenting the teeth.
I was very impressed with how all the handlers coped with their ‘swap’ dogs and interested to note how this did separate the competition.
I was delighted with my final four and wish them all the very best for the future.
Alas, there could only be one winner and I found my overall winner in Sarah Cushley handling a Saluki. From the moment Sarah entered the ring I knew she was going to be the one to beat. Sarah really is a cracking handler and just the type I look for when judging. She showed her dog just like she would in the show ring but not forgetting the basic handling rules. She is the style of handler I admire, natural and quiet, nothing fussy or over the top. Sarah always had her dog stood correctly and foursquare. She calmly and neatly showed me the teeth without any fuss. Her pattern work was excellent with tight corners and straight lines and using the ring to its full advantage. The rapport with her dog was obvious and you could see Sarah and her dog had quite a bond. For her swap dog I chose a Tibetan Spaniel for Sarah, quite different to the Saluki but she showed him to perfection and moved at just the correct pace for him and stood him to advantage. My deciding factor for Sarah to become my overall winner was how well she coped handling two very boisterous Australian Shepherds. Without any practice at all with them, she showed them both to advantage and just had the edge over Kelly here. A handler who I would let handle one of my dogs any day.
Sarah really is an impressive handler and I had no hesitation in awarding her the title of ‘Irish Junior Handler of the Year’ I am sure she has a very bright future and I wish her all the best in the International Handling Finals at Crufts. Good luck!!
2nd was Kelly O’Donoghue, not a flashy handler in any way and one you could maybe miss but for me Kelly really ticked all the boxes and I could not deny her the Runner Up spot. She is a very natural handler, quiet but confident in the showing of her Wire Fox Terrier. She is an incredibly polite girl and has a super rapport with her dog. She stacked her dog well on the table and showed me the teeth cleanly and with no fuss. She moved at the correct pace for her dog making neat lines and constantly quietly encouraging her dog showing the great relationship they have. Kelly always paid close attention to where I was without over staring and never got in between me and her dog. Her swap dog was a mischievous Pug who really made Kelly work but I thought she showed the Pug brilliantly and never stopped talking and encouraging her charge. When pulled into my final two I just felt Sarah had the edge & had a little more confidence over Kelly showing the two Australian Shepherds but nevertheless Kelly put in an excellent effort and showed them the best she could. Like Sarah, I would let Kelly handle one of my dogs without any hesitation. Well done!
3rd spot went to Aoife Garry handling a Tibetan Spaniel. Aoife is a lovely polite and unfussy handler who always got the best from her dog. She presented the dog correctly to me on the table with the dog stood four square at all times. She showed me the teeth cleanly and without any fuss and didn’t obstruct my view. Her pattern work was clean and precise, and she went at the right pace for her dog, encouraging him all the way. She was always aware of where I was in the ring & never went in between me or her dog. For her swap dog she was given a Saluki, she coped very well with this dog being so different from her original one. She stood him well at all times and moved at just the right pace for him. Just be a little careful however that when showing a smart moving/flashier dog, you don’t become the main focus, let the dog do the talking. Nevertheless, Aoife is another excellent handler who is going to have a great future in dogs and I was delighted to award her 3rd position. Very well done!
4th went to Amy Flanagan handing a Beagle. Dressed in a beautiful Purple suit that complimented her dog and swap dog perfectly. She stacked her dog well at all times, making sure he was stood four square. She presented the teeth effortlessly and gently. She moved around the ring at one with her dog, at the perfect speed and presented good straight lines, just be careful not to detract away from your dog when moving, as at times I was conscious I was watching you and not the dog. Amy’s attention was always with her dog but she kept a good eye on me and where I was within the ring. She handled a Golden Retriever for her swap dog and this was where she really impressed. A young, strong Goldie but Amy really managed to show him to advantage, going at the just the right speed when moving him and standing him perfectly, creating a lovely picture of them both. Amy finished off a lovely quartet of fantastic handlers, all of which should have a wonderful career in dogs. Good luck!
Judge: Kirsty Miller