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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Elk Tip Topper 4-H club member Kendrick Bickett, 11, leads his dog "Jesse" over the A-frame obstacle during practice for the upcoming dog show at the Nobles County Fairgrounds in Worthington.

Regional 4-H Dog Show kicks off Fair Week Monday

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- The 2011 edition of the Nobles County Fair may not officially start until Thursday, but for the nearly 25 members in the county 4-H program's dog project, Monday's Regional 4-H Dog Show ought to be considered the kick-off to Fair Week in Worthington.

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Days before cattle trailers arrive filled with livestock, large implements are brought in for display and the dog agility course becomes a parking lot, 4-H members from Nobles, Rock, Pipestone, Murray and Jackson counties will bring their pint-sized Poodles and lanky Labradors to the fairgrounds for a full day of competition.

Because the Midway rides aren't set up and the eat stands haven't opened yet, attendance at the dog show has been rather lacking in recent years.

Dog project members are hoping to change that, and invite the public to come out and watch them work with their pets.

Competition will get under way at about 9 a.m. Monday with the agility contest -- a veritable obstacle course for canines. Approximately 30 4-H members and their dogs will compete in the contests.

Bryan Doeden, a member of the Elk Tip Toppers 4-H Club and a five-year participant in the dog project, said the course will feature everything from weaving poles to a barrel and chute maneuver. Dogs will be coaxed to jump through a tire, scale A-frame dog walks and leap over poles.

The afternoon will include both the dog obedience and showmanship contests.

For Doeden, the agility course is his favorite -- and most likely the favorite of his female Labrador Retriever, Raven.

"This is a very active competition. Especially for dogs like Raven -- who is a little overweight -- it's kind of useful," Doeden said. "It teaches discipline and it's just helpful for living with your dog. It teaches basic commands so they know what you want them to do."

4-H members in the dog project gather at the fairgrounds every Thursday night in Worthington, starting in late June and continuing until the week of the Nobles County Fair.

There, an agility course is set up for members to work with their dogs.

For members like 12-year-old Mason Cornelius, the practice gives his Labrador Retriever Jack and opportunity to get used to being around other dogs.

Jack, at about two and a half years old, still has a lot of work ahead of him when it comes to obedience -- a fact evidenced by his reaction to every little pooch within eyesight during Thursday night's practice.

"I thought it would be good for Jack," said Cornelius of his decision to join the dog project. "At home, he doesn't listen very well. He gets excited with other dogs around."

Cornelius acquired Jack as a two-month-old puppy, and suggested that 4-H'ers probably shouldn't start out with such a young animal in the dog project.

"You want an older dog -- they listen better," he said.

Still, Jack did a few things on command Thursday night, like sit, lay down and stay.

"He needs to learn there are other dogs. You need to get used to it -- who cares," he said, trying to get the point across to the dog sitting at his feet. "He needs to learn to behave."

While Cornelius and Jack have a lot of years of practice ahead of them, 16-year-old Megan Blanchard of the Elk Tip Toppers 4-H Club is one of the more experienced dog project participants. She will have two dogs in Monday's competition -- Snickers and Layla, both Labrador Retrievers.

Snickers competes in agility and obedience while Layla struts her stuff in the obedience and showmanship classes.

As a seven-year member of the dog project, Blanchard said she likes working with the dogs and learning new things together in the project.

"My favorite is agility," she said. "My dog really loves it, so it's fun just to see her having fun."

4-H parents Doug and Cathy Steinmetz provide the agility course equipment for Thursday night practices and help to lead the program locally.

Monday's Regional Dog Show will be set up on the grassy area just south of Pioneer Village, where the agility competition will be conducted.

In the afternoon, the contests move inside the ice arena for the dog obedience and showmanship classes.

The show is free and open to the public, and it is recommended to bring a lawn chair.

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