The Head, Heart, Health and Hands of 4-H Fair Dog Shows
4-H dog club members have perfected their skills in grooming, mastered the obedience measures and worked alongside their canine companions to hone their showmanship and presentation skills. All of this practice and preparation has taken place for months and even years for some of the dogs, children and teens participating in the high point of the dog club’s year – - The 4-H Fair Dog Show!
What makes it a show?
The dog show is not just a chance to put a dog and his handler is training skills to the test; it is also a demonstration and an all out showcase of the year’s endeavors. Dogs and youth from numerous clubs and communities come together to demonstrate their achievements and also learn from one another, grow and become even better. 4-H fair dog shows allow for public and community involvement and sharing of accomplishments, while a little friendly competition creates an excellent opportunity for members to develop good sportsmanship.
The role of the dog
It does not matter if the dog is a purebred or all-American mutt. The 4-H dog show emphasizes the abilities of the individual exhibitor and not just the ancestry of the dog. A good 4-H dog is well mannered, well trained and eager to please his handler. He enjoys the obedience and show activities as much as do the youth involved in the programs. He is ultimately just elated to be spending time with people he loves while doing activities he enjoys… and when there are treats served it is all the better! Sure, he is working, practicing, and serving as a tool in the growth of young individuals, but he is also celebrating and highlighting his achievements when he enters the ring.
The role of the youth handler
Discipline, determination and responsibility are just a few of the traits that are essential to caring for and training a dog. From picking up after their pet, to feeding and grooming chores, the youth handler should be involved in – or in charge of – all of the 4-H dog’s care. While demonstrating responsibility through the act of these chores, the youth handler often develops other traits. As youth build a bond with their dog and continue to achieve new skills together, it encourages feelings of self-worth, confidence, self-esteem, and improved communication skills. Particularly in the ring, youth have the chance to practice presentation skills and demonstrate good sportsmanship.
Bringing it together in the ring
Once dog and handler enter the ring together all those honed skills, determination, and nervous jitters combine to complement the basic objective of 4-H work, the overall development of youth. All areas of the competition demonstrate the skills of the 4-H member. The 4-H dog looks his best thanks to the youth’s grooming. He behaves and obeys accordingly, thanks to his youth handler’s persistent training and guidance. And when he leaves the ring, his tail wags because he is proud to have taken on that show ring with his human companion.
Caleb Grant is a breeder, dog trainer and freelance writer. Caleb works with wireless dog fence expert Susan Wright, DMV to write articles highlighting the proper care of dogs.