Ruff competition at the Steel Valley Cluster Presents AKC All-Breed Dog Show in Canfield

By Amanda Tonoli


Some of the best purebred canines in the country are competing this week at the Canfield Fairgrounds as the Steel Valley Cluster presents four AKC All-Breed Dog Shows.

More than 2,600 dogs spread out over the fairgrounds Thursday, waiting to be judged for the 25th anniversary of the Steel Valley Cluster.

The cluster consists of Mahoning-Shenango Kennel Club, Beaver County Kennel Club, Columbiana County Kennel Club and Fort Steuben Kennel Association. The show continues through Sunday at the fairgounds. A schedule is available at

Laure Dux of New York waited with her flat-coated retriever Ruby to dock dive for fun for the day. Dock diving is when a dog jumps as far as it can into a pool while a judge measures the distance.

Ruby competes in best-of-breed competitions and has won grand champion in America and Canada, and has competed in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2015.

The importance of best-of-breed competitions, Dux said, is to retain breed standards and “hold them to the letter of what they should be.”

“Designer dogs really aren’t designer dogs, and a purebred is a purebred, and they should be kept that way,” she said. “A designer dog is really just a standard mutt – it’s a mixed breed.”

Jim Henshaw, Austintown Senior Center director, said he likes coming to competition of the best-bred dogs in the country to compete for the best-bred dog overall.

“These are the most spoiled-rotten dogs you will ever see,” he said.

Gael Damron, event chairwoman, explained what dog shows are about and how to win them.

“It’s a chance for dogs to be presented to a judge who is supposed to know standard of that particular breed,” she said. “They’re awarded ribbons based on judge’s opinion of [the dog’s] quality that day through kind of a process of elimination.”

Damron owns nine dogs and has been competing in dog shows since she was 8, she said.

“It’s like any other sport out there,” she said. ”It’s a competition. It’s a chance to show off what you’ve had your hand in through breeding, training and more. It’s endless.”

A new addition to the show gave Damron the chills – a monetary prize will be given to the best junior handler – a handler between age 9 and 18.

“The greatest thing is our Best Junior Handler of the Steel Valley award because [the winner is] awarded a $1,000 scholarship, a plaque to display, a certificate and a letter designating that money for when and where they decide to go to school,” Damron said.

She said she was Best Junior Handler for years when she was younger. “I wish that was available when I was younger,” she said.

Damron said the Steel Valley Cluster funds half of the scholarship and Purina matches it.

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