Bright and early Saturday morning, 4-Hers and their four-legged friends were spruced up and ready for show at the annual Barton County Fair 4-H Dog Show at Expo 3. Dog and owner teams competed in four areas: obedience, showmanship, agility and rally. With many contestants members of Barton County 4-H’s newest project club, several teams competed in multiple events.
New dog club making its mark
Michelle Mayer is the county-wide volunteer dog project leader. She and daughter Isabelle, showing standard poodles Willow and Ash Saturday, attend dog shows in several states. She as been offering training sessions on Monday nights since the club started in November, Berny Unruh, the Cottonwood Extension District 4-H and youth agent said.
There are 15 members in the club, and 10 of them competed Saturday. In addition, Rice County is attempting to get their dog project revamped, and a few members from that county competed Saturday at Barton County. Those contestants were scored separately, and were awarded ribbons and standings separately too.
Like the horse club and the shooting sports club, the dog club includes members that also belong to community clubs they’ve grown up in 4-H with. As a project club, not only do they hold several meeting where they train dogs, but six times a year, they also hold business meetings where they practice parliamentary procedure and each member is expected to make a project presentation at least once a year, Unruh said. Community service projects for this club will also be dog oriented.
Members of the dog club have been working out at the 4-H grounds, creating a competition space in the old livestock barn, where later this summer they plant to have another competition that will allow contestants to qualify for State Fair if they are unable to qualify this week at the Barton County Fair.
All the work is paying off in the ring. Already, Nicole Rziha and her shiba inu, Loki, have gone from mere beginners in the ring last year, to Reserve Champion in Intermediate Showmanship on Saturday, with the judge remarking the two have natural talent.
Judge with real-life experience
Judging this year was Sue Schleuning, Sterling. She has been judging 4-H Dog Shows for eight years, and judged Barton County five years ago. She was a dog project leader for 15 years in Rice and McPherson counties, and has shown dogs in American Kennel Club competitions nationwide since the 1980s.
She started out showing an unregistered mixed breed in fun matches back then, and her involvement naturally progressed from there, she said. She’s learned plenty about the characteristics of several breeds of dog, and encouraged contestants to
Performance isn’t breed specific.
Schleuning’s biggest year was in 1991, when she was showing the number one female Australian cattle dog in the United States. She had owned the dog’s mother, chosen the father, and the puppies were born in her living room.
“She was 100 percent mine, and she went best female at nationals that year,” she said. As far as confirmation goes, that was her once in a lifetime dog. But, in her heart, there is still one that star show dog can’t match.
“Everyone who has done this for any length of time has had one really good dog that they will never forget, and it becomes the standard by which they measure all others,” she said.
For her, it was her very first dog that she showed in AKC.
“It will be very hard to find one to beat her,” she said. “She was just a little ranch bred cattle dog.”
And, while Schleuning loves judging, she’s always had a teaching heart. She find teaching 4-Hers exciting, she said. She wants to help them get better, sharing the secrets of what judges are looking for in the ring, and offering tips on how they can improve their performance if they put in the effort.
“I try to help everyone understand that, tomorrow is a different day,” she said. “I could probably have all the same dogs, and the scores would be totally different. This is just one day. If kids can understand that, they can keep reaching for that trophy.”
The Barton County Fair Dog Show is a qualifying event for the Kansas State Fair. Teams that qualify have the opportunity to go on to compete Saturday morning, Sept. 15 at Bison Arena at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.
At the end of the day, 10 contestants had qualified in the showmanship event.
Schleuning was encouraging, but also offered some constructive criticism.
“Showmanship is the art of presentation,” she said. “Make yourself the image of one unit with the dog.”
The other three events, obedience, agility and rally are more difficult, with performance off-leash a requirement.
Isabelle Mayer qualified with her two standard poodles, Willow and Ash, in obedience and agility. Noah Deines qualified in rally with his Australian shepherd, Lexi. Mayer received the Champion designation in obedience, while Noah Deines received the Reserve Champion title.
Grand Champion Overall was determined by adding up the overall high score in all four areas. Blake Deines, with Bandit, his Australian shepherd, was the winner. Reserve Grand Champion overall is Sean Hames with his Australian shepherd, Ledger.
Complete results can be found at the Wall of Champions at Expo 2 during the fair, and will be published in the Tribune after the fair.