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Training goes to the dogs

Staff writer

Lauren and Lisa Geis of Durham are busy preparing for Saturday’s dog show in Hillsboro. They and their dogs will compete in showmanship, obedience, and agility.

They also will be on hand July 29, the opening night of the fair, to demonstrate their dogs’ abilities to maneuver obstacles.

Lauren said dog showmanship is common among Marion County 4-Hers, but agility competitions were introduced just three years ago, with three participants. This year, more than 25 are expected to compete.

4-H dog projects are coordinated countywide, led by Melody Peugh of Peabody. Participants meet every week at the fairgrounds to develop training skills. Obstacle equipment is available year-round in the commercial building.

“Sometimes we go to help others who are learning,” Lauren said.

There are three levels of competition, but so far, everyone in the county is competing on level one, Lauren said. Depending on how well they score, they can advance to the state fair.

The 14-year-old is competing with a border collie-mix dog, Duchess, purchased from a Wichita animal shelter. Her 12-year-old sister is competing with Einstein, a Welsh corgi.

The dogs are started “on lead,” attached to a lease. After they are well trained, they can compete “off lead.” Lauren intends to enter Duchess off lead, as this is her third year. Ein will compete on lead.

The obstacle course for the judging contest is set up by the judge and includes 14 procedures. The girls said difficult parts for the dogs include walking on a high plank, going through a tunnel that is covered with a flap at the exit, and walking up, then down, on a teeter-totter. Dogs are allowed as much time as needed to complete the course.

The sisters have been 4-H members since each was seven years old. They belong to Tampa Triple Ts 4-H Club.

Their projects involve mostly animals.

“I think they’ve done every livestock project there is at some time in their careers,” their mother, Debbie, said.

Lauren began by showing horses, which she still does. They also have shown beef cattle, goats, swine, sheep, and chickens.

The girls both have a collection of blue and purple ribbons. Both have been champion showmen and overall champions and advanced to the state fair in showmanship. Lauren competed twice at state in obedience.

“They’ve had their share of white and red ribbons, too,” Debbie said, “but they’ve learned a lot.”

Both girls hope eventually to compete at the state fair in dog agility.

Last modified July 23, 2009

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