|Juniors and Canine Health
By Emily Meyer
Over the past ten years of training, competing, and living with my two Vizslas, I have really come to appreciate their many talents, quirks, and strengths. In the midst of enjoying their many good qualities, I try not to take for granted that the reason my dogs are able to play hard, jog with me daily, and participate in conformation, hunt tests, and other events is that they are healthy. With years of work and perseverance, I have been able to intertwine my passion for purebred dogs, AKC events, and canine health.
I began showing in Juniors at the age of fifteen with my puppy Ruger. Although I had learned a lot about Vizslas, pedigrees, and AKC events from reading, I was basically starting from scratch; no one in my family had any experience with purebred dog competition. I found that I could learn and improve myself the most by carefully watching other Junior handlers or professional handlers and incorporating skills I observed into my own handling. My time as a Junior went very quickly, but I learned so much! Still, school and studying had to remain my top priority because I had big dreams to follow.
As a college student at Duke University, my love of dogs played out in veterinary summer jobs and training and competing with my youngster, Colt. Although my conformation focus moved from the Juniors ring to the breed ring, my goal was the same: to make my dog look the best he could while being a courteous and knowledgeable competitor. Colt and I also earned a Junior Hunter title. Hunt tests are fun events because the dogs absolutely love running the course and finding birds. Colt spent about a month with a professional field trainer where he got to point a lot of birds and be introduced to gunfire; although, the Junior Hunter level does not require much prior training--the dogs were bred to know what to do! So, handling Colt at the Junior level meant letting him lead the way and not over-handling him. I flushed his birds and fired the blank pistol, and he was off and hunting again!
Now that I have finished college, I am very fortunate to be able to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. I am in my second year of veterinary school at North Carolina State University, and I couldn’t be happier.
This is the perfect career for animal lovers who like to think analytically, solve problems, and teach the public about canine health and behavior. If you’re interested in veterinary medicine, the most important things you can do are to make the best grades you possibly can and get lots of experience hours in veterinary medicine prior to applying (don’t wait, because even hours accumulated in high school count!). Many times pre-vet students begin by working in a kennel associated with an animal hospital, and as a junior handler, you already have valuable dog knowledge and experience to recommend you.
Even if a career in veterinary medicine isn’t for you, I believe all Juniors should try to start learning about health issues in their breed(s). It’s up to us as future owners and breeders to ensure that our dogs will continue to be able to see and hear clearly, run the conformation ring, the agility course, or the bird field without pain, and have strong hearts to power long, healthy lives. It’s up to us to test our breeding dogs carefully for inherited health conditions. Take a minute to appreciate how much you have been able to do with your dogs because they are healthy.
As a vet student, I manage to show Colt occasionally, belong to the Vizsla Club of America and the Vizsla Club of the Carolinas, and will be showing a Brittany pup this fall. I know that I will be involved in the sport of purebred dogs on many levels in the future. My personal goal is to someday breed my own litters of structurally correct, impeccably healthy dogs with strong hunting ability and classic Vizsla temperament. In addition to continuing to compete in shows and hunt tests, I look forward to promoting the health of purebred dogs at the local and national breed club levels. Because of my veterinary education, I feel that this is something that I will be very qualified to do, as well as part of my responsibility to the dog world as someone given the opportunity to study veterinary medicine. Juniors gave me a strong foundation on which to build a career focused on canine health.