4-H’ers show off animal-training skills at dog and pet show

A cluster of well-behaved dogs sat, stood and strutted for an audience of judges and parents at the 4-H’s annual pet and dog show Saturday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Kyleigh Leslie, 12, has been doing the event for five years now. Leslie and her dog Pip, a chocolate Labrador, have trained for the event 15 minutes daily, except on really hot days. They would practice walking, sitting and staying calm. Over the years, Kyleigh has watched Pip’s behavior improve dramatically. She attributes this to the yearly show.

“She was extremely over-hyper (when we started),” Kyleigh said.

Pip is much calmer now, and he enjoys being in the ring.

At the show, dogs were judged for obedience, showmanship and agility. A variety of breeds were represented, including mixed breeds.

“In 4-H it’s not about breeds, but about their ability to listen to and take commands,” said Mark Flory, K-State Extension 4-H agent, who helped organize the event. “This is the showcase for the work and training they’ve done throughout the year.”

There were 12 participants, ages 7 to 18.

Flory was pleased with the turnout for the day, which also included a cat and hand pet show (snakes, gerbils, guinea pigs).

The event’s success was largely due to the local leaders who have helped 4-H members train their dogs, Flory said.

One such leader is John Berg, who participated in the event when he was a boy, showing an Australian shepherd named Scandal. Berg now serves as a 4-H leader.

Fewer kids participate now than when Berg was young, he said. But the numbers are growing again.

To prepare for the event, Berg and 4-H members meet Wednesdays for an hour to work on obedience and showmanship.

Bailey Hiersche, 14, and Dixie, a purebred border collie, are among them.

“It’s a good way to train your dog and teach it very good social skills,” Hiersche said.