One of the first Teton County Fair events was held bright and early July 20 on the south lawn of the fairgrounds, and it was one that put a familiar animal through its paces: dogs.

Ellen McKee, organizer of the event, has been involved with the Grand Teton Kennel Club since the early 1980s.

Though the canine agility course is set to American Kennel Club regulations, it’s a “show and go,” meaning people can run their dog more than once, and a bad performance won’t penalize them for other competitions.

“So it’s a really good practice,” McKee said.

The show is produced by the Grand Teton Kennel Club and K9 Athletes of the Tetons.

Dog agility show 'n' go trial

EZ the shetland sheep dog leaps through a hoop while running a trial with handler Allison Etnyre during the dog agility Show ‘n’ Go trial Saturday near the Teton County Fair Office.

Stine Richvoldsen, who hails from Norway but has lived in Jackson for 25 years, has always loved working with dogs.

“Their temperament fits with mine,” Richvoldsen said.

When she heard of the K9 Athletes of the Tetons agility class in January, her part border collie, part healer, part herding dog, Pippi, was just old enough to participate.

So she signed up and was “completely bit by the bug.”

Richvoldsen and Pippi participated in the show and go for the first time this year, where she led her dog through the standard novice and jumpers open course.

The course involves a series of jumps, poles to weave between, an open tunnel to run through, seesaw (or “teeter”), A-frame and dog walk, all of which the handlers convince their pups to maneuver with animated vocal instructions and gestures.

Dog agility show 'n' go trial

Stine Richvoldsen instructs her excited and talkative pup Pippi to to sit and stay on the table obstacle during the dog agility Show 'n' Go trial Saturday near the Teton County Fair Office.

“She’s just so happy to be out there,” Richvoldsen said. “And that’s priority No. 1.”

Carolyn Auge started the K9 Athletes of the Tetons 18 years ago with a few others interested in dog agility. Things have changed a lot since then, from the style of handling to the training methods to the increased competitiveness of the sport.

She showed Splash, who was bred for showing and is a mix of whippet, border collie, Jack Russell terrier, border terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier and Belgian malinois. He’s named Splash for the paintlike splotches on his fur.

Auge’s favorite part of working with dogs is watching them get the hang of agility and seeing them progress in their skills and understanding.

Working with dogs over the years, she has learned the different ways in which they can respond to stress factors on the course, and she tries to work with that.

Dog agility show 'n' go trial

Pippi loves on Tory Sanders during the dog agility Show 'n' Go trial Saturday near the Teton County Fair Office.

Though it’s impossible to say exactly what’s going through dogs’ minds while they run through the course, Auge hazarded a guess.

“It depends on their motivation,” she said. “I would say, if they’re really listening, then they’re saying ‘I gotta do this, I gotta do this.’”

Now there are also some that are like, ‘I don’t want to do this and I’m scared.’”

Essentially, the dog needs to feel at ease to run through the course and leave both the canine and its human counterpart satisfied.

“All I want is a dog that’s happy to be out here,” Auge said.

Contact Leonor Grave at leonor@jhnewsandguide.com.

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