4-H Dog Project
Minnesota 4-H is operated out of the University of Minnesota county extension offices. Youth from kindergarten to one year past high school can participate. There are many 4-H projects including crafts & fine arts, photography, shop, gardening, horse and dog. In the dog project there are 5 areas:
- Showmanship. Dogs are groomed and presented for judging as in AKC Conformation.
- Obedience. Dogs perform heeling, stays and recalls on demand as in AKC Obedience.
- Rally. This is similar to obedience but the performance items are laid out in a course as in AKC Rally.
- Agility. Dogs jump over and run through obstacle son a timed course as in AKC Agility.
- Dog bowl. This is a quiz competition with teams answering questions about dogs, their care and dog project events.
In 4-H Dog Showmanship is similar to Junior Showmanship in AKC conformation in that it not only judged on the dog and its performance but also on the handler’s performance. A key difference between these competitions is that in 4-H and handler’s knowledge is a component of the scoring. The judge may as the handler questions concerning the history of the dog’s breed, the anatomical parts of the dog, and best care practices, e.g., vaccination schedules and diseases. Handling is more complicated than in AKC with triangle, “L”, and “T” patterns added to the usual down and back. There are 2 levels – Novice (for handlers who have never earned a blue ribbon at county or state show) and Open.
Doug Ohlendorf teaches Showmanship for Wright County 4-H.
Obedience is one of the foundational dog project activities. There 11 classes for dogs of all abilities. Exercises include heeling, sits/downs, recalls drops, stays and retrieving. In a completion exercise the judge will verbally direct a group of dogs and their handlers to perform through a predetermined series of commands.. Dogs and handlers are judged on how well they perform the ordered maneuvers. Completion of some obedience training is required for participation in rally and agility.
Rally can be thought of as a combination of obedience and agility. There are 2 age-based classes (Junior and Senior) as well as 4 levels – Pre-Novice, Novice, Pre-Advanced and Advanced. A course contains from 8 (Pre-Novice) to 22 command signs. The complexity of the commands also increase at higher levels. Examples of Pre-Novice command signs are Fast Pace, Halt-Sit, and Down and Stop. An examples of an Advanced command signs is Halt-Leave Dog-2 Steps-Call to Heel-Forward. All courses are designed to be completed in 1.5 to 2 minutes.
This includes standard and jumpers as well as several agility games such as relay, gamblers and snooker. The obstacles are standard with several small differences. The dog walk is 36” above the ground. Jump heights are 4” less than those used by the American Kennel Club.
There are 4 standard classes:
- Beginner class has 10 obstacles in course – A-frame, Pause table, tunnel, chute and 6 jumps. In this class a leash is on the dog during the run and the handler must hold onto the leash except when going through a tunnel. The A-frame is set to 4’ 6” height. There are no weaves. Standard course time is 60 seconds.
- Elementary class has same 10 obstacles in the course as beginner. No leash on dog. A-frame is set to 5’ 0”. There are no weaves. Standard course time is 60 seconds.
- Intermediate class has 12-14 obstacles with dog walk, tire, long jump and 6 weaves added. Standard course time is 75 seconds. Intermediate is comparable to AKC Novice class.
- Senior class adds the teeter obstacle. A course has 13-15 obstacles. A-frame is set to 5’ 6” height. Standard course time is set to 2 yards per second.
There are 3 jumpers classes. Unlike Jumpers in AKC, there are no weaves in these classes.
- Jumpers 1 uses single jumps and can include up to 3 tunnels. The course design is simple with 10-13 obstacles. Dog may be shown on leash. Maximum approach angle to a jump is 45°. Standard course time is 50 seconds.
- Jumpers 2 adds a tire and there are 13-16 obstacles in a course. Dogs are shown off leash. Course is more complicated (pinwheel allowed with 2-3 crosses). 2-4 required handler side changes are required. Maximum approach angle to a jump is 90° but one 135° approach is permitted. Standard course time is 2.5 yards per second.
- Jumpers 3 adds double jumps and has a course of 16-20 obstacles. Course can include serpentines and threadles Standard course time is 3-3.25 yards/second (jump height dependent. An approach angle of 270° is permitted for one obstacle.
Class advancement is mandated for the following year if the dog and handler complete a competition course with one fault.