Dogs, owners show off skills at agility trials

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Tom Martin of Clovis guides Kaiser, his white German shepherd, during Tuesday night’s Meet the Breeds dog trial at the Curry County Fair.

Kevin Wilson

Teeter-totters, tires and tubes awaited Tuesday’s canines, whether they were tiny or titanic.

Nearly a dozen dogs, mostly purebreds, were on display and in action at the Curry County Fair as the Clovis-Portales Kennel Club held its Meet the Breeds event.

The dogs, after being introduced, took their turns through an obstacle course set up at the Curry County Fairgrounds’ grass show area.

The local club also organizes the annual Stars and Stripes AKC show, which has been held twice at the nearby Curry County Events Center. However, that show is focused on competition and timing. Tuesday’s affair was more laid back, as the focus was exhibition and education.

“It’s a public service,” said Dee Durland, president of the Clovis-Portales Kennel Club. “The American Kennel Club encourages us to do public relations to show purebreds and promote dog sports.”

Jaqque Johnson, secretary for the club, added, “And responsible ownership.” She noted the importance of spaying and neutering pets.

All of the members brought their dog, or dogs, to run through a multi-faceted obstacle course. The mix of tasks — from jumping to weaving to just standing still — measures how well a dog takes cues from its handler (usually its owner).

“It’s good bonding time,” said Melissa Campbell, who was eyeing the course for Sarah, her 5-year-old heeler mix. “There’s good obedience with it, so that helps.”

In competitions, the dog never sees the course until they’re competing. It’s up to the handler to set the agenda.

“You’re strategizing, figuring out the best approach for your dog to take,” Campbell said. “It’s pretty straight-forward, but each dog needs a different approach, based on their breed and their size.”

Durland said dogs are timed differently according to breed and size. A dog such as Sarah would be expected to finish much faster than a Great Dane, which is taller than the tubing it must run through. Durland said the most popular dog in trials is usually a border collie, because they have a good mix of speed and size, and also have above average vision.