A cacophony of barking and maybe even some snarling might be expected at a gathering of 22 dogs. But not so the 4-H Dog Show at the Wayne County 4-H Fair.
Only an occasional “woof” or excited yelp accompanied the firm commands of young dog handlers in the show.
Lindsey Finney said she brings her dog to the weekly gathering of the Tailwaggers Dog Obedience 4-H Club for the socialization. “I like coming to be around other dogs,” she said, as her border collie, Summer, stretched out across her lap and licked at Lindsey’s grandmother, Kathy Finney, sitting next to her.
Lindsey wants to become a dog trainer, like Sophia Mull, a former neighbor who has her own training business. She started helping Mull and fell in love with Summer. She is now training her “in anticipation of bigger things.”
The Tailwaggers club has been around for more than 20 years. Hollie LaBoyteaux, who joined as a child about 19 years ago, and Shannon Rivas share leadership duties.
“I hope the kids get the bonding (with their dogs), fun and the knowledge of how to handle a dog,” said LaBoyteaux, noting that club members in the show are 7 to 17 years old. “We are very kid-dog hands on; we are a big believer in kids doing this themselves versus taking it to a trainer.”
Rivas has been in the program 10 years, serving as co-leader for two. This year, a daughter, Mariana Rivas, showed a bloodhound-chocolate lab mix. She likes bonding by spending time with him and making him learn to be obedient. A senior at Richmond High School this coming year, she wants to become a veterinary assistant, like her mother.
Her brother, Dominic Rivas, likes teaching his dog to “heel, sit and listen” so “they learn how to obey you and they can be off leash.”
First-year club member Aubrey Pope came to show her 11-month-old Corgi, named Cora, a lively pup who found it hard not to wriggle on Aubrey’s lap and sniff at passers-by.
“I wanted to try something new,” 10-year-old Aubrey said about why she joined the Tailwaggers. “I want to make sure that she doesn’t be mean to other people.” Her sister, Sydney, 5, also works with the dog.
In Sunday’s show, Robert Myers of Tipton evaluated the dogs on agility, showmanship and obedience, following the dogs and their handlers around a large open area inside the First Bank Richmond Expo Center. He carefully explained the rules in each category beforehand to the 4-H exhibitors and afterwards critiqued the dogs and their handlers.
Winners received a variety of prizes, including trophies, dog toys and grooming supplies, LaBoyteaux said.
And, as Aubrey Pope said, they might even end up with a dog like hers who will lay down and shake hands.
A version of this article appeared in the June 21 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.