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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:

  1. Showmanship. Dogs are groomed and presented for judging as in AKC Conformation.
  2. Obedience. Dogs perform heeling, stays and recalls on demand as in AKC Obedience.
  3. Rally. This is similar to obedience but the performance items are laid out in a course as in AKC Rally.
  4. Agility. Dogs jump over and run through obstacle son a timed course as in AKC Agility.
  5. 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:

There are 3 jumpers classes. Unlike Jumpers in AKC, there are no weaves in these classes.

Class advancement is mandated for the following year if the dog and handler complete a competition course with one fault.