Jul 30, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterWhile the regular neighborhood dog may bark late into the night, other pooches are trained to speak only when ordered.
That trick, along with many others, was tested Monday morning during the dog agility show at Sunset Park as part of the 100th Fremont County Fair and Rodeo.
The competition was divided into "open" and 4-H divisions, with contestants competing in agility, dog sizes, showmanship and regular show.
The furry friends who participated came in different shapes and sizes and were quick to greet each other with a sniff or a long stare down. Many pet owners and handlers said they trained their dogs at home with obstacle courses they built themselves.
Piper Stark, 12, said her dog Dixie, 2, a white and tan Corgi, received training from a professional dog trainer, just to make sure Dixie performed well -- and the practice paid off. Dixie was entered in the level-two dog agility competition and won first place after running through a collapsed tunnel, jumping over poles, executing the teeter-totter and strutting on a table for a few seconds so judges could see her best poses.
Monday marked the first agility competition for a 1-year-old male multi-colored poodle named Bo, who usually is only involved in show events.
Bo mastered a dominant stance on a table while judges examine his fluffy, symmetrical figure. Having already been crowned champion show dog by the United Kennel Club, he knew how to stand still as a statute.
Other dog handlers recognized Bo as being one of the furriest poodles at the park and described him as a "fluff puff." Bo seemed to be having a good time as he patiently waited for his turn, craning his neck to sniff other dogs who passed by.
Bo's owners, Ted and Shirley Henderson from Riverton, show three other standard poodles -- April, Abby and Maira. Shirley said she trains the dogs at home.
"The poodle is a very intelligent dog," Ted said. "It can be trained into a hunting dog -- that's what it was originally for."
But for now, the Henderson's poodles are on the road looking to compete and win the top award. Judge Crystal Allison examined the animals' teeth, felt the black and white trimmed curly hair and directed the pet owners to have the dogs walk around so she could see their gait.
Some dogs weren't there to compete, but instead to learn proper socialization. Marta Amundson said she brought her Berger Picard --a French herding dog -- Zoe to the event for that reason.
Amundson said there's about 300 of Zoe's breed in the country, with one of the animals earning fame by playing the role of Winn Dixie in the 2005 film, "Because of Winn-Dixie."
As other dogs passed by Zoe, she showed some excitement and wagged her tail, but Amundson said Zoe grew up on a ranch and so I must be treated carefully in public.
Amundson said the first reaction of a human when approaching a dog is usually to place a hand close to the animal's nose or face. That action usually is frightening for the dog, however, so instead Amundson encourages people to give Zoe a pat on the side.
"I also want her to learn not to fear aggression," Amundson said.
Zoe sports a small vest that reads, "Do not pet," but Amundson showed that the dog is friendly once you get to know her. Amundson described the Picards as dogs that are very affectionate toward their owners, and she showed off the hug that Zoe gives her on a daily basis.
Fremont County Fair and Rodeo events will continue Tuesday evening with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Ram Rodeo "Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night" and benefit auction for the Fremont County Tough Enough to Help Cancer fund at 8 p.m. in the grand arena at the Fremont County Fairgrounds in Riverton.
Clarification: After this story was published, the family of Piper Stark said Stark trained her dog Dixie herself.
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