4-H students train dogs for state fair competition

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

“Right turn, left turn, about turn, halt …”

The trainer gives commands to 4-H dog owners as they instruct their dogs to heel, sit, and come, among others.

Trainer Leslie Milleson is working with four 4-H students who will be going to the Ohio State Fair to be in the dog obedience competition.

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“I teach the kids how to train their dogs,” Milleson said. “I do train dogs professionally myself for people, but the idea of this class is that I’m teaching the kids how to train their dogs by repetition, praise, enthusiasm.”

She has been working with the 4-H students since April training for county and state fairs.

The met one hour a week for 10 weeks and then had two practice sessions each week until the county fair. After the fair, Milleson works with those going to state level twice a week until the state fair in August.

“I learn from them,” Milleson. “It’s just so much fun being around them and trying to get them to understand the concept, then seeing them do it is just so rewarding.”

The Huddle family, of Ironton, has been working with dogs for about 13 years. Kaitlin, 19, and Kelsey Huddle, 15, both have Old English Sheepdogs they are training.

Kaitlin’s dog, Nikki, is going to state for the second time. Last year, they placed fifth overall with competition from all over the state.

She is training Nikki to jump, sit when given the command and she’s training to pick up a dumbbell and take it to her.

The Huddle family has eight dogs at home.

“It teaches life skills,” mother Teresa Huddle said. “What they’ve learned in dog obedience, they’ve applied it in other stages in life. It’s really educational and therapeutic too.”

Brandon Lang, 14, of Chesapeake, works with his dog, Brandy, a seven-year-old Shetland Sheepdog. He has been working with her since she was a puppy.

Brianna Schneider, 15, trains with Maggie, a nine-year-old half wire terrier, half Jack Russell dog.

“After we get done with state fair, all the kids are going to be Canine Good Citizenship tested,” Milleson said. “The certification is done through the American Kennel Club. We’re going to have an independent tester come in and test all the kids with their dogs so that will give them one leg up towards the Pet Pal certification so that they can go into nursing homes as pet therapy.”