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By Emily Bontrager
Training dogs takes a lot of time, patience, and dedication. One local teen has taken her talent of training dogs and has succeeded multiple times at local fairs and other competitions.
Carlee Smith, 18, has shown dogs for many years. Carlee lives outside of Memphis, Missouri and her parents are Melissa and David Smith. She attends Scotland County R-1 school and will be a senior this year. After high school, Carlee plans to major in Animal Science and to continue her swimming career.
Over the years, Carlee has been very active in 4-H. She has shown a different variety of animals, including sheep, rabbits, horses, pigs and of course dogs.
When Carlee was around nine years old, she began showing dogs at the local fair. The first dog she showed was a Rat Terrier named Katie.
“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do at the fair and they said they had a dog show, so I started training Katie,” Carlee recalled.
“She was really smart, and I actually won the Missouri State Fair with her in 2018. I got first place in Obedience, so that was awesome.”
At the time, Carlee knew nothing about training dogs, but that did not stop her from trying her best. This year, she is showing two dogs, Bullet, an eight-year-old black Labrador and Dexter, a one-year-old Golden Retriever.
To help train a dog for a dog show, Carlee uses treats or toys to train the dog to listen to her commands.
“You just have to find out what the dog gets excited about and how they want to go about learning,” Carlee said.
Carlee works with her dogs separately, so they don’t get distracted when she is training them. Typically, she trains them once a day.
“I usually do about 10 minutes a day and you can do it multiple times a day, you just have to take breaks in between,” Carlee explained.
Each dog show is split up into different classes that each participant and their dog can compete in. Some dog shows may only have certain classes depending on how the show is set up.
Carlee competes in the classes of Obedience, Rally, Showmanship, and Agility. She also does the Grooming class and Knowledge class if the dog show has these classes.
“For Showmanship a judge is definitely looking for cleanliness. You want to dress up and you want to look clean and nice. You want your dogs to look clean and you want to keep the dog between you and the judge. Showmanship is more about you, but you still want your dog to be listening and doing what you are asking it to do,” Carlee explained.
“Obedience is more of listening. So, it’s like sit, stay, lay down, and stuff like that. In Agility, you run them through a course of jumps and stuff. In Rally, they have signs set up and you have to follow the signs.”
Carlee has competed at a lot of dog shows this year. She won High Point Dog with Dexter, 1st place in Showmanship, and 1st place in Obedience at the Scotland County Fair.
Carlee and her two dogs also traveled to the Macon County Fair, Moberly Fair, and the Mexico Fair in Missouri, where she competed and won many awards as well.
“We also went to the NEMO Fair and it was Dexter’s first show. He didn’t do great, but Bullet got 1st place in Obedience and 1st place in Agility,” Carlee said.
Each dog show awards prizes to the winners in each class. These prizes can include dog treats, dog toys, dog beds, plaques, ribbons, or trophies.
“It gets me excited to see a plaque because you can put that up on your wall and remember what you did,” Carlee said.
Since Carlee started showing at such a young age, she believes that dogs would be a great thing for kids to start showing when they enter 4-H. According to Carlee, showing dogs has made her more social and she believes that showing can help others get out of their comfort zones.
“I think dogs would be a great thing to start off with, especially if you have a small dog or a new puppy. It’s a great thing to get into because one, you are teaching your dog manners and to behave themselves and two, you are going to have fun,” Carlee said.
Carlee also has some advice for kids who are thinking about showing dogs in the future.
“Don’t get upset if your dog is not perfect on the first go around because that’s not how it works. It’s never going to be perfect on your first show. You just have to try and understand them and make them understand what you want them to do and reward them as much as you can as soon as they do,” Carlee said.
Besides going to dog shows, Carlee has also trained a few dogs for other people in the area. She hopes to continue training dogs because it is fun and she enjoys it, but she still wants to go to college after she graduates from high school.
Carlee would like to thank her mom for driving her to the dog shows and her dad for supporting her. She would also like to thank Amy Stott for taking her to the NEMO Fair this year to show. She also wants to thank everyone who comes to support her each year.
Carlee will be headed to the Missouri State Fair again this year to compete in the dog show. She is excited about this opportunity and is ready to show Dexter and Bullet again!