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Dogs and owners test their bonds

March 02, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Citizens are expected to know history and government.

But when they're dogs, civility counts more than civics.

To be a Canine Good Citizen, a standard established by the American Kennel Club, a dog must accept friendly strangers, sit politely for petting, remain confident despite distractions and walk through a crowd without jumping on anyone, among other things.

The Mason & Dixon Kennel Club put dogs through their paces Sunday during a day of obedience, agility and fun at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike.

Cici, a standard poodle whose registered name is Unique Vanilla Cream Candy, completed her Canine Good Citizen test, to the satisfaction of her owner, Joan Rauschenberger.

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Rauschenberger, who lives in the Mercersburg, Pa., area, bought Cici from Linda Green, a student achievement specialist at Salem Avenue Elementary School.

In last month's Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City, another dog who belonged to Green, Ch. Unique Anticipation, won an award of merit, or honorable mention, in the standard poodle breed judging.

On Sunday, Green was accompanied by another standard poodle, Ch. Unique Ringmaster, a 2-year-old called Troy.

Like Cici, Troy demonstrated acceptable citizenship skills.

Other owners and dogs were at the Ag Center to practice advanced skills.

Carolyn Lathrop of Cumberland, Md., led Fern, an Irish water spaniel, through a utility obedience session.

Utility is the highest of three rungs of obedience, after novice, the lowest level, and open, an intermediate level.

Dogs at the utility level of obedience can't be flustered by distractions and must heed hand commands.

Another test was scent discrimination, in which a group of similar items was placed on the ground. The dog had to retrieve the only one bearing the owner's scent.

Northern Virginia resident Melissa Stagnaro saw good results from her 8-year-old mixed breed Latte in a utility obedience trial.

She said she took small steps in training Latte, who doesn't like to be wrong.

As a puppy, Miley, an Australian shepherd who came from a rescue group, had no patience, said her owner, Nancy Bensley of Frostburg, Md.

Now, Miley has conquered novice obedience.

Sunday was her first attempt at open obedience, in which more skills are expected and the leash comes off. Bensley said she was nervous on Miley's behalf.

Other planned activities included an agility obstacle course; Rally, a combination of agility and obedience; and flyball, a form of relay racing for dogs.

The previous day, the kennel club held an all-breed match at the Ag Center.

Lilli Sutton, 11, of Sharpsburg, won an award as best junior handler. She came back Sunday with her dog, Dusty, a whippet, to try his hand at flyball.

The kennel club holds other events and practice sessions throughout the year. Lilli said Dusty goes to class twice a week.

"Training never stops," Stagnaro said.

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