Tails a-wagging and ears alert, the region’s top dogs were on their best behavior over the weekend.

They were participants in the Paul Bunyan Dog Training Association’s (PBDTA) 10th annual dog show in Bemidji. This was a United Kennel Club-licensed, all-breed event. It was held at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds.

Tracy Parthun of Becida began working with dogs when her kids were in 4-H, around 2000. She does therapy dog training with the PBDTA as well.

Parthun described a UKC show as “much friendlier” than an American Kennel Club contest, “as there are no paid professional handlers showing dogs. The owners and/or friends show their own dogs.”

Her Golden retriever, Skye, is a performance-breed dog. “So she’s bred to hunt, do agility and rally obedience, but she’s a therapy dog, too,” Parthun said.

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She also competed with her corgi, Caleb.

Tracy Parthun of Becida competed with her corgi, named Caleb, at the rally obedience portion of the dog show.
Tracy Parthun of Becida competed with her corgi, named Caleb, at the rally obedience portion of the dog show. Shannon Geisen/Enterprise Sept. 2021

Parthun explained that “Rally obedience is a fun, timed performance event where the dogs walk a numbered course with various obedience exercises on each of the signs or stations. The beginning, level 1 course is on leash, and then each advancing level adds more challenging signs and is performed off leash. Whoever has the fastest time with the least amount of faults is the overall winner of each level. In order to earn a title in rally obedience, you have to score a 70 out of 100 points in three different shows.”

Skye earned her level 2 title, while Caleb earned his level 1 title at the event.

Skye and Caleb pose with their numerous ribbons and new titles.
Skye and Caleb pose with their numerous ribbons and new titles. Contributed/Tracy Parthun Sept. 2021

Alison Critchfield competed in the highest level of rally competition, along with the conformation show.

Parthun explained, “Conformation is a competition with other dogs of your same breed to see which dog meets the breed standards the closest, with everyone in the family participating – from the youngest junior handlers all the way up to the senior owners.”

She noted that Critchfield has the No.1- and No.2-rated dogs of her breed in the U.S.

Critchfield specializes in Anatolian shepherds.

“It’s a livestock guardian dog,” Critchfield said. “They were developed in Turkey. The best guesstimate is they are a 2,000-plus-year-old breed.”

She said the Anatolian is bred to take on “large-scale predators, like the coyote, wolves and mountain lions. You typically want them working in packs because of this.”

Critchfield lives on a family farm in the Lake Plantagenet area, just south of the Hubbard and Beltrami county lines.

As a young girl, she met a Laporte couple that owned a pair of Anatolian shepherds and “fell in love with the breed.”

When Critchfield had livestock of her own – and lost one goat to a serious coyote attack – she purchased her first Analotian puppy in 2013.

Critchfield said she likes the “relationship-building” while training for the rally obedience event, plus “the challenge of working with a dog that’s not known for obedience. These are very independent dogs.”

She likes the conformation show “because I actively breed and I want other people’s opinions on my breeding stock.”

Critchfield is the only registered breeder of Anatolian shepherds in Minnesota.

The top dog from eight UKC-designated groups – guardian dogs, gun dogs, scent hounds, sight hounds, northern breeds, herding dogs, terrier dogs and companion dogs – also compete against each other for Best Dog and Reserve Best Dog in Show.

Critchfield’s dog, Aslan, won Reserve Best in Show on Saturday. Ember earned a Reserve Best in Show on Sunday.

Critchfield's shepherds performed well at the Bemidji dog show. Aslan finished his Championship, and earned a Reserve Best in Show. Ember earned a Reserve Best in Show as well. Pending confirmation by UKC, both Ember and Singer finished their Grand Champion titles!. Little earned her Rally Obedience 1 title. Laddie and Drummer each won their puppy class under different judges, and Laddie earned a Novice Puppy Best in Show.
Critchfield's shepherds performed well at the Bemidji dog show. Aslan finished his Championship, and earned a Reserve Best in Show. Ember earned a Reserve Best in Show as well. Pending confirmation by UKC, both Ember and Singer finished their Grand Champion titles!. Little earned her Rally Obedience 1 title. Laddie and Drummer each won their puppy class under different judges, and Laddie earned a Novice Puppy Best in Show.Contributed/Alison Critchfield Sept. 2021

Angie Walther of Park Rapids brought her lure coursing “fun run” to the show to let dogs try the sport.

Angie Walther set up a lure coursing fun run at the Bemidji show. Dogs clearly enjoyed chasing the lure (a plastic bag) along a zig-zag path.
Angie Walther set up a lure coursing fun run at the Bemidji show. Dogs clearly enjoyed chasing the lure (a plastic bag) along a zig-zag path. Shannon Geisen/Enterprise Sept. 2021

Through a battery-operated string and pulley system, Walther controls a plastic bag attached to a lure that whizzes past the dog on a specially designed course.

It engages the dog’s prey drive, she said. “Once they have that drive, they become obsessed.”

Lure coursing usually appeals to sight hounds, like whippets, salukis and greyhounds, but any dog can have fun – even Walther’s dachshund heartily races after the lure.

Lure coursing has become a competitive event with titles, Walther said. “It’s sanctioned and it’s timed.”