Obedience, agility, showmanship on display at annual dog show



Many 4-H’ers spend the months leading up to the annual Jackson County Fair preparing their projects for the seven-day event at the end of July.

At least one group, however, spends every day of the year living with their projects or having them nearby almost all of the time.

On Saturday, members of that group had the chance to show off their projects in what is one of the first official events of the fair each year — the 4-H Dog Show.

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“It’s an all-year project that teaches responsibility,” said Kara Rice, a 16-year-old member of the Waggin’ Pals 4-H Dog Club, a countywide group led by Carol Newberry and Bill, Elizabeth and Suzanne Steltenpohl.

Rice said the show also is about spending time and having fun with your dog.

Participants in the show and their canine companions gather at the fairgrounds on the second Saturday of July each year to compete in three categories — obedience, agility and showmanship.

4-H’ers may compete in one, two or all three categories. Those categories are further divided along skill/experience lines to level the playing field for competitors, similar to most 4-H projects.

The obedience category sees the dogs following a series of commands from the 4-H’er.

“I think we do pretty good at getting her to walk next to me,” Hannah Hackman, 13, said of her dog, Lola. “I think I need to work on getting her to follow the commands a little better.”

Agility is a competition in which each 4-H’er guides his or her dog through a course that requires nimble and fleet movements and the ability to follow commands.

“It’s fun,” Darren Beeler, 14, said of the event after he and his dog, Scruffy, were finished.

The final category is showmanship. Much like showmanship in other animal projects, the goal is to showcase each 4-H’ers knowledge and ability to control their animal.

“I feel like we do the best at showmanship,” Rice said of her dog, Lakota. “With (showmanship), we look like a team, and him being happy makes me happy.”

Claire Elliott, 10, said she also enjoyed the showmanship category because she gets to feed her dog, Ollie, treats as a reward for doing well.

“The kids think all of the events are fun, and they’re learning about their dogs at the same time,” Newberry said.

She said she started working with the program when her daughter, Emily Newberry, was a member.

“My daughter was a 10-year member, and she did the dog show both here and at the state fair all 10 years,” Newberry said. “What I love about the program is it’s year-round. When they’re done, the kids take their dogs home and start work for the next year.”

This sentiment wasn’t lost on the participants, who generally agreed that getting to take their dogs home and spending time with them is one of the great advantages of the program.

“I want to learn to teach him to stick near me so he doesn’t go bad places,” Elliott said.

Newberry said the dog project helps 4-H’ers learn life skills and how to take care of a dog.

Beeler shared some advice for any youth thinking about joining the club.

“I would say to new members, ‘Don’t get aggressive if your dog doesn’t obey, and don’t get upset,’” he said.

Some of the members participating in the project may have different backgrounds — Elliott shows cows, while Hackman does creative dramatics and gift wrapping, for instance — but the thing they all have in common is a love for their dogs and a method to show that love to others.

“Doing the dog show introduces you to different things, and you meet new people,” Hackman said.

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