Owners, handlers and show officials praise local setting

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FARMINGTON — Hundreds of dogs are competing this weekend during the Durango Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show at McGee Park.

This is the second year the annual show has been held here after it was moved from its previous home at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds in Cortez, Colo. Owners, handlers and show officials praised the McGee Park location. The show started Thursday and will continue through Sunday.

Barbara Schwartz, the assistant show chairwoman, said after switching venues to McGee Park last year, the Durango Kennel Club — the Durango, Colo., based affiliate of the American Kennel Club — saw a 75 percent increase in entries. Schwartz attributed that increase to the setting, as well as Farmington's proximity to Albuquerque. By being closer to Albuquerque, she said, the show was able to attract people who participated in dog shows in Albuquerque the preceding week.

Jan Owen, the show chairwoman, said the herding group tends to be the largest of the seven breed groups in the Four Corners area because many people use the herding breeds as working dogs, as well as show dogs. This year, 45 Shetland sheepdogs competed in the show, making it the most-represented dog breed, Owen said.

"It's always fun to have a large entry of one breed," she said.

Only pedigreed purebred dogs registered with the American Kennel Club are eligible to participate.

"You're always trying to improve the breed," she said.

While the dogs that are judged in the show must be purebreds, mixed-breed and nonregistered dogs compete in obedience, agility and rally trials, as well as the barn hunt.

Obedience and rally are similar events, but obedience involves a set pattern of commands, and owners are not permitted to talk to their dogs in the ring, Owen said. That is different from the rally ring, where the owners can talk to their dogs.

"Every time you do a rally course, it's different," she said.

The barn hunt is a newer event that is not standard in AKC shows. In the barn hunt, there are tubes that are empty, contain rat litter and bedding, or have rats in them. The dog has to find the rats in a set amount of time.

Patrice Chevalier, of Denver, competed with her soft-coated wheaten terrier Gladys in the barn hunt. She said the hardest part is communicating with the dog and understanding Gladys' signals.

"I make her paw for the rat," she explained.

Like many of the other dog owners, Chevalier was impressed by McGee Park.

"We think this is the most amazing show site," she said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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