Dog fanciers throughout the Kenai Peninsula and beyond are bathing, blow-drying and brushing their canine companions in preparation for the Kenai Kennel Club's annual mid-summer dog show Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Skyview High School in Soldotna.
"There are 464 dogs entered in the show," said Sherrie Petty, Kenai Kennel Club president.
She explained that, compared to the Lower 48, there aren't many dog shows in Alaska, so enthusiasts try to make it to every possible one. This usually equates to about one dog show every other month most of the year, with more in summer.
"This is the only show of the year that's local," Petty said. "It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. We don't have to travel, and our club is the only one that offers all three venues during a show."
Those venues are conformation, obedience and agility.
Conformation events are intended to evaluate breeding stock. A dog is evaluated for its overall appearance and structure, which is believed to be an indication of the dog's ability to produce quality puppies.
"The conformation will be in the morning," Petty said. "This is a good time for people to come who want to see a lot of different breeds that you wouldn't see on a regular basis, or while walking down the street."
Greater Swiss mountain dogs, Portuguese water dogs, Kuvaszoks and Borzoi are a few of the ornate breeds that will be in attendance.
Petty said there also will be plenty of the well-known breeds, such as golden retrievers, dachshunds, poodles and shepherds both Australian and German.
"This is a good opportunity for the general public to talk to the breeders and get information about purebred dogs, their individual temperaments and which ones would be good as pets," Petty said.
This also can is a good time for the public to talk with professional groomers to get tips on keeping dogs looking their best.
Obedience involves the dog and handler being judged as a team. There is a standard set of exercises that must be completed for each level of competition.
"Obedience demonstrates they're not just pretty. It demonstrates what they can do," Petty said.
Exercises range from sit and stay to fetching dumbbells and doing commands from a distance.
Agility takes this concept one step further. Dogs and handlers complete an obstacle course made up of jumps, an A-frame, dogwalk, weave poles, tunnels and other equipment.
"We're allowed 300 runs a day and have 250 scheduled, which equates to about two runs per dog per day," Petty said.
A fourth venue rally also is emerging in dog shows across the nation and will be featured at this year's show. It's a combination of agility and obedience that was created to promote a positive relationship between the dog and handler, Petty said.
Each team is judged on the execution of a single, continuous performance of numbered exercises on a course, uninterrupted by orders from the judge.
"Owners can talk and encourage their dog throughout the event," Petty said.
Animation and enthusiasm throughout the performance are encouraged, however, no physical contact between the dog and handler is allowed.
"It's just a fun event right now, but it will become a titled event through the (American Kennel Club) in January," Petty said.
This will allow dogs to be recognized for their accomplishments and earn points toward a championship, as is similar to the other events.
"The whole show should be a lot fun and a good family event," Petty said.
She added that the show is open to the public, but there will be a few guidelines for the safety of the dogs and show participants.
Spectators are asked to leave their dogs at home to avoid any problems or conflicts, Petty said. And no one should pet or feed a dog without first asking for permission from the owner.
Spectators should bring something to sit on and also be prepared for inclement weather. Events get under way at 9 a.m. each day and end by mid-afternoon.
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