For more than 100 years, 4-H has been helping youth learn by doing.
There’s nothing in the rules that says participants in any of the hundreds of projects or shows can’t have a little fun along their way to learning something new and earning a ribbon at the fair.
In fact, the leader of Jackson County’s Waggin’ Pals 4-H Dog Club encourages it. That club’s show was Saturday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds east of Brownstown.
“We always tell the kids one thing — have fun,” said Carol Newberry, who has been in charge of the club for eight years.
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“If you’re out here having fun, then your dog is going to learn, and they’re going to have fun,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing. This is one project where they learn and don’t even know they are learning.”
The dog show is the first 4-H show in the books for this year’s fair which begins July 24 and ends seven days later. It featured 12 4-Hers and 16 dogs as some club members showed more than one.
The 4-H Horse and Pony Show will be at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Some of the dogs such as Kara Rice’s Lakota looked like they knew what was expected of them when it was showtime.
In the obedience part of the show, Lakota sat patiently each time Rice was asked to make her stay before walking away to a spot several feet away. The dog is expected to lay patiently for a period of time before being called by its handler.
“This is my second year of working with him, but my sister worked with him two years before that,” Rice, a Seymour resident, said.
Although he may have looked like a show dog, Rice said the 4-year-old is really just a big baby.
“He likes to sit on your lap,” she said.
Izzie, a red heeler trained by Josie Dotts of Lawrence County, also obeyed when commanded to stay.
“This is my first year, but my sister has been working with her for years,” Dotts said.
McKayla Bailey’s dog struggled to get the obedience portion of the program right.
“Tucker gets distracted pretty easy,” Bailey said.
She has owned Tucker for about three years and works with him at club meetings and at home, she added.
He also might have had a little stage fright.
“I can usually get him to do stuff at home,” Bailey said.
Put him in front of judges and other people, and it doesn’t go quite as well, she added.
Judge Sue Pfrank of Bloomington said she and her mother and fellow judge, Carolyn Pfrank, look for one thing when it comes to judging a dog show.
“The teamwork is what we really, really like to see,” she said. “A lot of times it comes down to whether or not the dog follows the handler’s cues. We pretty much know when a trainer has not been practicing with the dog enough. We don’t blame the dog for that.”
The show is conducted a couple of weeks before the fair each year, because there’s nowhere else to have it and there isn’t space during the fair, Newberry said. Also, dogs are not allowed at the fairgrounds during the week of the fair unless they are service dogs.
“It’s about the only place we have, because we want an enclosed facility,” she said. The club begins meeting once a week shortly after spring break.
The club also can store its equipment at the fairgrounds, and there’s a third benefit to meeting there, because the dogs and their trainers have the chance to work out where the show is held.
“That helps a lot,” Newberry said.
Sam Hayes of Seymour said having a familiar place is helpful when it comes time to work with his shih tzu, Gracie.
“I’ve had her for five years,” he said. “She’s pretty easygoing and laid back. She doesn’t get distracted much.”
Unless other family members happen to be around, he said.
Bridget Marshall of Seymour said she became involved in the dog club four years ago, because she likes the idea of seeing how well her English springer spaniel gets along with other dogs.
“It’s good to be able to let other people see how well you’ve trained your dog,” she said.