Heidi Schroeder grew up around dogs. Her mom, Denise Schroeder, raised collies on a farm near Nevis, including Mason, who was featured in the 2005 “Lassie” movie. She also showed dogs, often bringing Heidi along.

Schroeder has two children and lives on a farm eight miles from where she grew up, her love of dogs as strong as ever.

Schroeder first showed dogs as a fourth grader at the Hubbard County Fair.

“The educational, fun environment of 4-H and getting to know people, it was a great starting point for me,” she said. “That led to showing in the United Kennel Club (UKC).”

When Schroeder moved back to the area seven years ago, she started raising poodles, adding that most people do not realize the breed is a good fit for life in Minnesota.

“They are a very versatile breed,” she said. “They love swimming and hunting upland game and retrieving birds. My fiance is from North Dakota, so he takes them hunting, too. They’re a family-friendly dog. If you get them clipped regularly, they’re no more maintenance than any other dog, and they don’t shed.”

Schroeder and her fiance, Preston Tolstad, have two children. Paisley is 3 and Phaelyn is 4. In addition to their four poodles, they also have a Lab.

“We’ll always have animals,” she said. “I want my kids to be in 4-H too. They already have ponies to ride, and we also have goats. I was in dog shows when I was pregnant, so they were born into it. They have been going to dog shows with me since they were in strollers.”

Preparing to show

Schroeder said she was drawn to poodles because she loves grooming and has a shop at her home. “With their coat, it’s all about shaping,” she said. “Grooming is a big part of showing poodles, because they have to be in a specific cut for their age.”

Getting ready for a show takes a lot of time and effort.

“It’s hours and hours of training and grooming,” she said. “Poodles get groomed every two weeks, starting at 8 weeks old.”

She said male dogs usually show better than females because of their fuller coats.

Schroeder entered her male poodle, Jabot, and her mom’s one-year-old male collie, Sharpie, in conformation competition at the recent UKC show in Bemidji.

Jabot, who is black with tan eyebrows, was in a “puppy cut.” Getting him ready for his first show was a two-hour process, not counting bathing and blow drying, another two-hour process. “I did that part the night before,” she added. “The morning of the show I finished up with hand scissoring his entire coat.”

Sharpie’s grooming was done by Denise. He already has points in the American Kennel Club and is working towards his championship.

“Mom likes everything about the show, except being in the ring,” said Heidi.

Preparing to be in shows starts early. “Puppies learn to stand on their own in a correct stance that shows off their build,” she said. It’s a lot of practice and repetition. It’s a game to them, with lots of treats and toys.”

In the ring

Dogs are judged on a variety of factors. First, they are judged in their breed by males and females. If they are selected as best male or female, they then go on to be judged in their breed as a whole. Dogs selected as the best of their breed go on to compete in best of class, which for poodles is gun dog and includes all sporting breeds.

Finally, a dog is selected as best of show. Points are accumulated by a ranking system. Schroeder said she participates in shows because she enjoys the friendly competition.“There’s no monetary payout,” she added.

Because of the time it takes to prepare for a show, she is focusing on showing just two poodles at the present time, Jabot and his sister, Jiselle. Both are 9 months old.

The Paul Bunyan Dog Training Club in Bemidji put on the UKC show last weekend at the Beltrami County fairgrounds.

“They do an excellent job with getting the community involved and inviting new people, she said.

“It’s a fun show. UKC is a little more beginner friendly and relaxed. It’s a really good opportunity for people who are looking at getting into showing. You’re not allowed to use products on the dog’s coat, so the dog is more in a natural state.”

In addition to their coat, dogs are judged on structure, movement and conformation to the breed standard. Participants may also opt to show in obedience or agility.

For the Bemidji show, the Schroeders got to the fairgrounds around 8 a.m. for their late morning appearance. “At some shows, we have to be there at 6 a.m.,” she said. “You set up grooming tables and crates and then get your dogs ready. You have to wear professional dress clothes, but you do get to wear comfortable shoes so you can run with your dog in the ring.”

Schroeder participates in shows in Minnesota and neighboring states. “You run into the same people at every show,” she said.

Shows are usually an all-day affair. “If it’s in the Cities, we’ll usually get a hotel room that’s dog friendly, stay and make a weekend of it,” she said. “My mom often goes, and sometimes my fiance.”

She said time in the ring flies by quickly. “It’s really only a couple of minutes,” she said. “Then depending on what ranking you get, you may be called back in the ring four or five times.”