In agility tests, 4-H clubs have gone to the dogs

It takes years of training before a dog does well on the agility course.
CANFIELD -- Toby was being a typical 2-year-old.
Seizing an opportunity, he made a break for it, running as fast as he could on his short little legs toward the fence.
Like any 2-year-old, he wanted to explore. He wanted to have fun.
But this 2-year-old has four legs, not two. So he wasn't easy to catch.
From outside the North Ring at the Canfield Fair, Sherri Yuhas of Boardman watched as her 10-year-old daughter, Danielle, tried in vain to capture their runaway Welsh corgi. After a minute or two, he was finally nabbed.
In dog agility demonstrations, Toby's mad dash would have usually meant points off his score.
"But this is 4-H," Yuhas said, and judging is more lenient. "There aren't many disqualifications," she said.
It was only Toby's first year, too, at the demonstrations, which are put on by Mahoning County's two 4-H dog clubs, the Youngstown Tailwaggers and the Pampered Pups.
Lots of training
So Toby has a long way to go -- it takes years to train a dog to run an agility course, said Kim Thompson, 19, of Boardman, who has been training with Nemo, her border collie mix, for eight years.
At Thursday's demonstration, hosted by the Pampered Pups, Nemo was expected to do well.
"Border collies are fantastic at agility -- they usually fly through the course," said Yuhas, who is an adviser for the Tailwaggers.
But there were many breeds of dogs waiting their turn Thursday to compete. Corgis, golden retrievers, daschunds and mixed-breeds took their turns at the course that included tunnels, ramps and obstacles. Some leaped off ramps before coming to the end, which would be points off. Some had to be coaxed through tunnels, and one hapless pup leaped over a hurdle only to knock down the bar.
They were the first-year competitors, and they made some mistakes. But they're learning. And learning is what the clubs are about.
Pleased in the ring
Rachelle Fair, 12, of Canfield had recently finished her turn in the ring with Sander, her 2-year-old border collie, and she was pleased.
"I thought we would not do as good as we did," she said. "He was good."
"She was dying to do agility," said Rachelle's mother, Moira. "We heard about it for a year before we finally got her a dog."
For nine months, Rachelle has been a member of the Pampered Pups, training with Sander at the Youngstown All Breed Training Club in North Jackson.
Youngstown All Breed lets both 4-H clubs train at its building, Yuhas said. Besides agility, the clubs work on obedience. And for the kids who are in their first year with the club, the emphasis is on basic care.
Emily Rast, 10, of Greenford learned how to take care of her dog Kodiak Bear's health.
"I learned about different diseases, sicknesses they can get," she said as she sat under the Tailwaggers' tent down the street from the North Ring.
Matt Wolford, 14, of Poland has learned how to groom Blaze, his year-old cocker spaniel mix.
And Joshua Willis, 11, of Canfield has taught his golden retriever, Buster, to sit, stay and lay down.
The Pampered Pups will host another agility demonstration today at 5 p.m. at the North Ring.
The Tailwaggers will host a demonstration on Sunday at noon and again on Monday at 5 p.m., both at Coliseum No. 8.

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