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AKC Canine Experience
Hundreds turn out for AKC Canine Experience to learn about dogs sports
Feb. 26, 2008 - Raleigh, N.C.

Elementary school student Kamryn Leonard is so dog crazy that sometimes her mother asks, "Can we please talk about something other than dogs?"

But on Saturday, Kamryn got to talk all dogs all day at the 2nd annual AKC Canine Experience (formerly called the AKC Education Match). She, her mother and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "Cooper" got up at 5 a.m. to drive from the N.C. coast to the event at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh that welcomed newcomers to and informed them about the wonderful world of purebred dogs they are eligible to participate in with their AKC-registered companions.

The Leonards weren't alone. About 500 other people turned out, most with their AKC-registered dogs, to learn how to take their first steps into a dog show, Obedience and Rally ring, how to run an agility course, how to properly groom their dogs, how to enter a dog show and much more.

Brian Hicks of Clayton brought his children, wife and black Labrador Retriever, "Max" to the event. He signed Max up for the AKC Canine Good Citizen 10-step basic obedience test and passed.

"It feels like an accomplishment," Hicks said. "He did really well. I was impressed."

Hicks also spent time in the handling ring with former professional handler Glenn Lycan, who currently serves as AKC Director of Case Management. Lycan taught class after class of budding enthusiasts the proper leads and collars to use for their particular dogs in the show ring and the three basic gaiting patterns, among many other basics and nuances of handling their dogs in a show ring.

"Talk to him. Talk to him," Lycan said encouraging Hicks as he "walked the line" in the show ring with his black Lab. "Remember, you've got time. You never have to rush. ...Great job!"

Hicks, who uses Max for duck retrieving, had never participated in an AKC event before Saturday.

"I've never done anything as far as showing. It's interesting to see how to do a dog show. In my opinion, Max is a very beautiful Lab, and it may be something we pursue," Hicks said. "We've had a good time. We'll be sure to come back for some more events."

Fifteen specialty dog clubs with 107 volunteers stood by their customized booths that featured charts, diagrams, official breed standards, photos and treats for both two and four-legged attendees. Club members answered questions and allowed the public to pet and get to know their dogs who came with them to represent their breeds.

"In general, we've had a lot of curiosity about the breed today," said Andy Modlin who staffed the Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever booth. "We're here to help people learn about the breed. There aren't a lot of Tollers around here."

"It's a fun breed to have, and we want to let people know about it. It's not for everybody, but it's a great breed for the right person," added Modlin standing near his 2-1/2-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who was happily playing with Modlin's son. "It's a very active, very intelligent breed. You need to provide them with activities, provide them with a job to do."

The morning educational portion of the AKC Canine Experience event was free and open to anyone with an interest in dogs. Programs showcased the spectrum of fun and competitive dog activities that AKC offers. Topics included grooming and handling for both children and adults, finding and joining a local dog club, dog show entry assistance and preparing to take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Demonstrations and run-throughs of AKC companion events such as Obedience, Rally and Agility were ongoing throughout the day, and area trainers were on hand discussed these activities with attendees.

Newcomers, as well as those who wanted to practice dog handling without competing for Championship points, entered a conformation match in the afternoon. A conformation dog show is the type of event often seen on television that is intended to evaluate how well a dog conforms to its breed standard as well as its quality as potential breeding stock.

"The AKC Canine Experience replaces intimidation with education and hands-on experience in the sport of purebred dogs," said AKC Public Education Director Larry Sorenson. "This fabulous event provided an opportunity for new owners to find out about local kennel clubs, meet their members and have an opportunity to ask seasoned exhibitors questions. This opportunity for the novice to have personal attention will pay dividends for both the new exhibitor and the clubs that participate."

Anyone interested in attending a local dog show, should check out the AKC Event Search.

Click on image larger view. Staff photos by Katie Rudolph and Jim Buchanan.