4-H members waited excitedly outside of the show ring as their parents watched from the bleachers. They had spent months training for this day, practicing with their animal and teaching them how to walk, how to follow directions and how to behave in front of the judges. As the event finally started and contestants entered the ring, the 4-H members were not leading livestock animals, but instead they were leading the family dog.
The Stanislaus County Fair has a long history of introducing young 4-H and FFA members to the joys and responsibilities of raising animals. Part of the learning process of owning exhibit animals is to learn showmanship, how to walk the animal and pose it for the judges.
In the spirit of showmanship and proper animal handling, the Stanislaus County Fair includes a dog obedience and showmanship competition. 4-H members lead their dogs through a series of commands including sit, stay, walk and turn. The event is becoming more and more popular among younger 4-H members, including 7-year-old Robin Siefkin who showed his dog “Hudson.”
Kendra Huffman, Robin’s mom and community leader of Turlock Hoof and Horns 4-H club, said this was Robin’s second year competing in dog showmanship. Robin is in primary 4-H, so his options for showing animals are limited to small animals including rabbits, poultry, cavies and dogs.
“We had this dog, Robin wanted to enter the fair, it seemed like a good fit,” Huffman said.
Children as young as 5 years old can compete in the fair’s animal exhibits and competitions with smaller animals including rabbits, cavies and poultry. Older 4-H members can enter livestock animals. Most of these animals, however, require a barn or other specialized housing that is not typically allowed in a suburban neighborhood, costly feed and a lot of extra time commitment from exhibitors. Dogs offer a good option for 4-H students who don’t have access to a barn or who can’t make the lifetime commitment to a new pet. 4-H members are welcome to enter the dog they already own in the competition.
The dog obedience and showmanship competition is also a fun introduction to animal handling for younger and first-time 4-H members. Exhibitors also say that it is a good experience for the dogs as well. Sophie Aly entered her miniature dachshund “Molly” into the obedience and showmanship competition.
“Molly is less than a year old so I thought this would be a good experience for her,” Aly said.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.