April 21 was a big day for 10 aspiring junior dog handlers. After four weeks of training, the group of kids finally competed in their first dog show. From the youngest trainee at six years old to the oldest at 16, the young dog handlers did it all with a breed some people think isn’t suited for children.
Bully breeds have a bad reputation for being aggressive and dangerous, but organizations and businesses in Chicago are determined to set the record straight. Local breeders and dog training businesses sponsor a program called Don’t Bully Me or My Bully that gives kids in Chicago the chance to learn more about dogs and bully dogs the chance to shine in the winner’s circle.
Run by long-time bully owner Hakim Brimah, Don’t Bully Me or My Bully is a free program open to all children interested in learning more about showing dogs and the bully breeds. Brimah envisioned a way for both the community and the entire bully breed to benefit through fun and positive experiences. The program is supported through sponsors, and the kids have the opportunity to earn hands-on experience with show dogs. As the first program of its kind in Chicago, it’s already making an impact.
Every Saturday for the past four weeks, the handlers-in-training met with professional dog trainers, handlers, and bully breeders to learn discipline, responsibility, and the skills needed to successfully take care of and show a dog. They learned the correct way to greet animals, what to do if a stranger approaches their dog, and how to handle themselves in a competition. When the lessons were over, it was finally time to use what they learned.
The dog show took place at Razzmatazz in the McKinley Park neighborhood, and the Don’t Bully Me or My Bully kids stood next to both older kids and adults all competing for prizes. The youngest handlers at the show paraded their bully dogs through the ring and showed off everything they learned. At the end of the day, several of the kids went home with ribbons representing their hard work.
With their first competition being a success, the group of ambitious kids is now on their way to greater heights. They’ll continue their training to become junior handlers, and the program hopes to send them to more competitions out of state and possibly even out of the country. They want to spread the message that kids and bully breeds make great partnerships.
Featured image screenshot via ABC7 Chicago