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Dogs, fans enjoy weekend dog show

Papillon puppy Fannie takes off after a toy thrown by Rachel Laraway, 7, of Northfield on Sunday at the periphery of the Pioneer Valley Kennel Club's dog show Sunday on the Greenfield Community College lawn. 
(Recorder Chris Curtis)

Papillon puppy Fannie takes off after a toy thrown by Rachel Laraway, 7, of Northfield on Sunday at the periphery of the Pioneer Valley Kennel Club's dog show Sunday on the Greenfield Community College lawn. (Recorder Chris Curtis) Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — Nancy and Allan Duke have been showing dogs for 25 or 26 years and Allan said his palms still sweat with nerves when their dogs are being judged.

Sunday afternoon, their competition on the Greenfield Community College lawn over, none of that tension was visible as the Connecticut couple passed the leashes of their playful miniature puppies to two unknown children. Allan Duke said he would trust this particular breed, Papillons, with an infant.

This weekend was the first time the puppies had been on a leash, let alone in a competition, Nancy Duke said, and they had done better than hoped. The “conformation” portion of the weekend’s Pioneer Valley Kennel Club all-breed dog show obedience and rally trials judged dogs on their display of the various traits associated with their breed.

“It helps socialize them,” Allan Duke said of starting the dogs young.

“As you can see they’re really shy,” Nancy Duke joked, indicating 3-month-old Papillons Fannia and Echo as they jumped up and down on and around strangers, with a fair number of the 30 or so people left in the field near the end of Sunday’s events watching their antics.

Rachel Laraway, 7, of Northfield, was throwing a ragged squeaky toy to Fannie. Rachel had previously shown her family’s dog, Luna, a 90-pound mastiff, mother Kathy Laraway said. Kathy and Ed Laraway suspected part of Rachel’s attraction to the miniature dog might have been it’s more manageable size for a 45-pound person.

Rachel Laraway wasn’t the only younger person involved in the competition, which does not separate handlers by age.

Jennifer Cash, 13, of Cape Cod, showed Labrador retriever Chance, age 1¾, and took the highest score in the obedience trial.

“For obedience he has to ‘sit’ and ‘down’ and ‘come’ and ‘stand’ and walk on-leash and off-leash,” Cash said, Chance dutifully sitting and lying down as he picked those words out of conversation.

Cash said she has had him since he was born and trains him partly through a canine-geared 4-H Club.

“When he was really little, I taught him to sit before most dogs learn to sit, so he grew up being trained,” Cash said. Cash said she grew up with dogs; her mother showed dogs and she always wanted to participate.

For those whose dogs do not sit when they hear the word, or when they are begged or bribed to do so, event chairwoman Sheila Blanker of Northfield demonstrated the. proper training technique with Siberian husky Sparkles: First, find a treat the dog really likes. Then, show the dog the treat, hold it in front of their nose and move it back over their head. The dog’s attention will follow. “Because their head is up it naturally forces their rear to go down, and then we say ‘good dog,’ give them the treat, repeat it a couple of times and that’s it,” Blanker said. The Pioneer Valley Kennel Club has two shows planned in September, in Westfield on Sept. 13 and 14 and Bernardston Sept. 21. The second is a test of tracking dogs.

Details can be found online at:

www.pioneervalleykennelclub.com.

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