Teaching dogs a few new tricks

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By Kirsten Laskey

Los Alamos loves its dogs. Their faces are seen on computer desktops, their photos are preserved in glass frames and their images are printed on calendars.

You can see them and their owners trotting down Los Alamos’ sidewalks or zooming around one of the townsite’s dog parks.

The locals’ love for canines is historic. The Los Alamos Dog Obedience Club was adopted when some of the first residents arrived in town. Marsha Boggs, chairwoman of the LADOC’s obedience trial, said it wasn’t long after people moved to Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project that dog owners started meeting to train their dogs.

The local club is 57 years old, she said.

Another long tradition is the obedience trial and rally competition, known as the Labor Day Weekend American Kennel Club Obedience Trial. The event, which is also 57 years old, will be held again at 9 a.m. at the Overlook Sports Complex on Dara Jones field.

The event, which is geared toward pure bred dogs, will include obedience trails and a rally trial.

The trials will include several classes: novice, utility and open. In these particular trials, the dogs are displaying their skills in heeling, retrieving dumbbells, jumping high jumps, jumping over bars, doing broad jumps and participating in scent discrimination exercises.

It’s a chance to earn AKC titles, Boggs said. Winners are determined for each of the classes; however, there will also be a high end trial or highest score and a high combined, which is the highest score of the utility and open classes combined.

The rally competition adheres to less-strict rules and is made to be more fun for dogs and their owners who are new to                              competitions.

During the rally competition, a course will be set up with signage directing which exercises will need to be performed. The exercises depend on the level that a dog is in, Boggs said.

These exercises include obeying commands such as sit and lay down, as well as weaving between cones.

Saturday’s event is the first part of a three-day cluster. The other two trials will be held in Albuquerque. Boggs said the local dog obedience club enjoys hosting the trials because it allows Los Alamos dog owners to train their dogs and compete in trials right in their own hometown. They do not need to leave the Hill.

The experience of participating in competitions is valuable. “It’s fun to develop the relationship with your dog,” Boggs said. “It gives your dog something fun to do. It gives you something fun to do.”

She added, “It’s a sport to do with your dog.”

There will be 58 dogs competing in this year’s trial. In the past, the dogs and their owners have come from as far as California and Wisconsin.

The competition is also enjoyable to spectators. “It’s fun to watch the dogs and see the potential, if you want to train your own dog or if you just want to enjoy watching well-trained animals,” Bogg said.