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4-H junior dog handlers learn show skills, opportunities

ALBUQUERQUE - Sit! Stay! Come!

Trainer Judy Hummel looks at a collar while explaining to 4-H junior dog handlers Traci Galamore, right, and Grace Vickers about the size of collar they should use during show competition. Hummel was among the canine enthusiasts who presented training at the eighth annual New Mexico State 4-H Dog School held in Albuquerque. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

At an annual school earlier this spring, 4-H members from five New Mexico counties learned the commands for handling their dog, whether on a walk or in a show competition.

Forty youth from Valencia, Torrance, Los Alamos, Sierra and Bernalillo counties participated in the eighth annual New Mexico State 4-H Dog School at the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Posse Arena in Albuquerque.

"Our goal is to teach kids to be responsible pet owners and to teach the dogs how to behave in public settings," said Linda Herrera, chair of the event planning committee. "Each year it is fun to watch the kids' dog handling skills improve as the weekend progresses."

Sessions during the school taught the 4-H members how to handle their dogs in show competition as well as agility trials. They picked up tips about canine obedience and grooming.

One aspect of teaching youth to be responsible pet owners is to ensure their dogs have good manners. DeeDee Brownstein presented the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen program in which the dog is taught how to act with strangers - human and canine.

"The kids had to be able to approach another person and their dog, and not have their dog be aggressive," said Herrera. "Once they are certified in this training, they can take their dogs to nursing homes to visit."

The 4-H members were also introduced to various working dogs - herding, hunting and special needs assistants.

"We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to see the different ways they can expand their dog's training," Herrera said.

Dog school activities included a Rally-O, where dog and handler completed a course with stations to demonstrate their handling skills, a Dog Bowl quiz contest and a Canine Knowledge Test. The final event was a dog show where the youth demonstrated skills they learned during the school.

Participant accumulated points during various activities and individual high points honors were presented in three age categories. High point individuals were:

* Novice, age 9 to 11: high point Shelby Herrera, reserve high point Casey Canon, both of Valencia County.

* Junior, age 12 to 13: high point Chance Canon, reserve high point Grace Vickers, both of Valencia County.

* Senior, age 15 to 19: high point Beth Finley, reserve high point Ashley Ronquillo, both of Valencia County.