By Elise Franco
Thousands of dogs from across the country will compete throughout the weekend for the coveted title of Best-in-Show.
Thursday marked the beginning of the Steel Valley Cluster’s four-day series of American Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Shows and Obedience Trials. Judging begins at 8 a.m. and concludes between 5 and 6 p.m. at Canfield Fairgrounds each day through Sunday.
The Steel Valley Cluster includes the Mahoning-Shenango Kennel Club, Columbiana County Kennel Club, Beaver County Kennel Club and Fort Steuben Kennel Association. Each club hosts one day during the four-day event.
The more than 25-year-old event, sponsored by Eukanuba, a company that specializes in dog-food nutrition, is open to the public. Admission is $5 per vehicle at the gate.
Howard Huber of Owosso, Mich., spent Thursday morning grooming Hobie, a 5-year-old large golden retriever that Huber would show later in the day.
Huber, Hobie’s handler, said he shows all dog breeds professionally.
“Goldens are very competitive, so as a breed the consistency in performance is not there,” he said. “But he has had some significant wins,” including an award of excellence at the Eukanuba National Dog Show last year.
Billy Huntington of Lexington, Ky., is handler for five dogs at this year’s show, including two Australian shepherds — Southern Comfort and Quinn.
“I like it because it’s outdoors and has nice big rings to move dogs like this,” he said. “It’s a lot of room to run for herding breeds.”
Gael Damron, show chairwoman for Thursday and Fort Steuben Kennel Association coordinator, said the number of entries and specific breeds varies each day. On Thursday, 1,630 dogs and 150 different breeds were registered to compete. Saturday has the highest number of entries, 2,472, and 158 breeds.
Damron said the cluster is one of the largest in the country.
“It’s iconic because of the size and the variety of events we have going,” she said. “That’s something to be said because of the competition we have in other areas.”
In addition to show, dogs can compete in obedience and rally trials, as well as a juniors division.