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Rescue dogs, trainers compete in first ‘Golden Clicker Challenge’

Wednesday, Mar. 16 | By Staff

By Alexandra Bogdanovic

Times-Democrat Staff Writer

Susan Smith had her hands full on Saturday morning.

Minutes after she and Abby finished competing in the first round of the Golden Clicker Trainer Challenge, Smith scooped the energetic puppy into her arms.

Abby, a five-month-old, black and white Lab-whippet mix, squirmed and wriggled as she tried to assert her independence.

"She is very sound and noise sensitive," Smith said. "I am trying to desensitize her and calm her down just by holding her this way. She has [some issues] but they are very easily addressed. She is very responsive."

Abby was the youngest competitor in the first challenge event at Morningside Farm near The Plains.

In all, 11 dog and trainer teams participated in the challenge, which consisted of five rounds. In each round, judges scored the trainer based on the dog’s ability to demonstrate a basic obedience skills and tricks, such as laying down, coming when called, shake, roll over or play dead.

The dogs and trainer teams that accrued the most points competed for the "Golden Clicker Trophy" at the end of the day.

Sasha and her trainer, Paula Thomas, who represented the White Oak Animal Hospital in Fredericksburg, took the title. Tulip and trainer Cathy Hughes finished second.

"All of the trainers were invited to come," said event organizer Pam Rommelmeyer. "Some are professional trainers and some compete in AKC [American Kennel Club]- sanctioned rally and obedience."

All of the canine competitors are rescue dogs, Rommelmeyer said. As a result, they don’t usually get to work with trainers.
"With today’s training the transition to [their new homes] should be much more smooth," Rommelmeyer said.

Competition proceeds benefitted the Hair of the Dog Rescue group in Bealeton. The group saves dogs from "high-kill" shelters before they are euthanized, according to Megan Meadows.

"We are an all-breed rescue group, meaning we will take everything from chihuahuas to St. Bernards," Meadows said. "We try to get dogs with medical conditions or senior dogs."

A lot of dogs with chronic illnesses end up in the shelters when people can no longer afford to care for them, Meadows said. In some cases, people with older dogs surrender them so they can get puppies, she said.

The rescue dogs weren’t the only canines strutting their stuff at the Golden Clicker Trainer Challenge. Spectators were also treated to demonstrations by the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit and the ProTech Termite and Pest Control team.
The ProTech team uses canine inspectors Marlow and Roxy to find household pests including termites and bed bugs.

"Once Roxy finds the bed bugs, experienced ProTech technicians can be much more effective in their elimination using both bed bug specific chemicals and non-chemical methods such as hot air, steam, cold cryonite, mattress and pillow encasements and vacuum," the group’s brochure states.

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