Kenai Kennel Club member Lindsey Pabst demonstrates how obedient her dachshund named Flirt is during an open house event Saturday. The event was a way to kick off National Pet Week this week.
Photos by Joseph Robertia
Those who prefer to spend the day with a best friend with four legs, instead of two, were in luck as the Kenai Kennel Club held an open house Saturday.
The event was a way to kick off National Pet Week, which ran May 7-13. National Pet Week is a celebration of the relationships between humans and their pets and a way to honor pets for the companionship and joy they provide.
“There are a tremendous amount of dogs on the peninsula and our goal is to educate people on what it means to be responsible pet owners, and to show some of what’s available for pet owners to do with their dogs,” said Sherrie Petty, president of the Kenai Kennel Club.
From their facility in the C Plaza on the Kenai Spur Highway next to the Moose Lodge, kennel club members gave demonstrations throughout the day on some of the classes they offer to pet owners.
“We offer classes in conformation obedience, agility and rally, and all of these classes are for pure-breed and mixed-breed dogs, and can be for competition or just for fun,” Petty said.
An Australian shepherd navigates through plastic cones during a demonstration of rally at the Kenai Kennel Club open house even Saturday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Conformation is an event intended to evaluate a dog’s attributes, judging them against the standards set for that particular breed. The evaluation of a dog’s appearance and structure is believed to indicate if the dog should serve as breeding stock to produce quality puppies.
While conformation evaluates a dog’s appearance, obedience evaluates the dog’s knowledge and listening skills.
“A well-behaved dog is a pleasure to own and for others to be around,” Petty said.
During obedience, a human and their dog are judged as a team on how well the dog obeys basic commands or exercises, which range from sit, stay and heel, to fetching objects and doing commands from a distance.
Agility takes this concept one step further. Dogs and handlers complete a course of obstacles, such as jumps, an A-frame, weave poles, tunnels and other equipment.
“(My dog) loves it,” said Carletta Gemmell of Kenai, who recently began taking agility classes with her Australian shepherd named Opal.
“It wears her out. She goes home and sleeps afterward,” Gemmell said.
Rally is a combination of agility and obedience.
Laura Pabst's Chihuahua, named Panda, rests on her shoulder while Leslie Batchelder's dachshund, Stevie, naps under a magazine during a break between demonstrations at the Kenai Kennel Club's open house event Saturday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
“It’s really fun. It’s not really formal, so you can really get fired up and get the dog fired up,” said kennel club member Jane Dullum, who gave several rally demonstrations.
In rally, each team is judged on the execution of a continuous performance through numbered objectives or exercises on a course, uninterrupted by orders from the judge.
“Alaska is a very athletic state and it’s easy to do agility and these other sports indoors in winter,” Petty said.
This can keep dogs physically and mentally fit during the cold weather months, which is part of being a responsible pet owner, according to kennel club secretary Ronda Oglesby.
“Dogs can’t just be tied to trees in the backyard. They need to be integrated members of the family and society,” she said.
Petty listed several classes such as puppy kindergarten and the Canine Good Citizen program and informative material on pet socialization available through the kennel club that transforms dogs from barking, rowdy ruffians to quiet, well-mannered pets.
In addition to maintaining health and shaping behavior, being a responsible pet owner requires a pet’s safety be properly cared for, and the kennel club event also offered a microchipping clinic to increase the odds of owners being reunited with missing pets.
“If a pet gets lost or stolen, they have a better chance of being recovered,” Petty said in regard to pets with microchips.
The chips are a permanent form of identification, no bigger than a grain of rice, implanted beneath the surface of the skin between a pet’s shoulder blades.
There, the chip remains inactive until it is read with a scanner. The low radio frequency emitted by the scanner provides the microchip with the power necessary to transmit its unique alphanumeric code and identify the animal.
The implant procedure requires no special treatment or anesthetic and can be performed in seconds.
However, the chip alone is useless unless the pet’s owner registers their animal in the chip’s national database service.
“You have to remember to call in your contact information,” Petty said.
In addition to the demonstrations and the microchipping clinic, numerous pet-related prizes donated by local breeders, veterinarians and businesses were given out.
In all, Petty said that she believed the open house was a good community event.
“This shows people what they can do with their dogs. Whether they compete or not, everyone can have fun with their pets,” she said.
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