HELENA — On Wednesday morning, 18 trainers and 19 dogs competed in 4-H dog agility at the Last Chance Stampede and Fair, with a variety of dogs competing. While there are certain breeds that are sought after for competitions like this, a handful of competitors showed it really doesn't matter what kind of dog it is, the training and patience put in that makes a difference.
"Some dogs are more show dogs than agility dogs, but you can do anything with your dog if you just work with them," said Emma Chiti with her five-year-old Newfoundland named Sophie. "She's always been such a happy, excited dog. She loves me and I love her and I guess that really helps our bond."
Many of the competitors at Wednesday's competition are Lewis and Clark County 4H members, and for Mariah Olson there's no shortage of things she's working on as part of the club. Olson said she trains with three dogs, competes in archery and air rifle and takes care of livestock. When asked how she has time to train her dogs, she said it's about making it fun not just for her, but for the dogs as well.
"It's a lot of just kind of playing around at home there. You tell one to heel, one to stay, and you just kind of work around with all of them," said Olson sitting with her dog Lariat. "It seems like I really bond more with my dogs, when I actually get to work with them."
4-H has various dog competitions including obedience and showmanship competitions, and even though some of the dogs like Tux, a vallhund, are better suited to some competitions, Tux's owner David Mohler said he wanted to get Tux into the competition to break him out of his shell a little bit.
"I joined agility because I thought it would be fun for Tux to do it," said Mohler. "Naturally he's a show dog, so it's got him out of his zone a little bit."
Though the animals and their owners may have a working relationship, most of the competitors see their four-legged friends as family.
"I definitely think that my relationship with Dixie is stronger," said Carly LaChere. "She's family, which is like a lot closer than I'm ever going to get with any of my friends at school or anything."