MERCED — The dogs are prepped, groomed and ready for the spotlight.
More than 600 pampered pups will strut their paws at the Merced County Fairgrounds this weekend for the Yosemite Kennel Club's 53rd annual dog show.
"You can meet the breeders, see all the different breeds and learn about all the different dogs," said Debbie Franklin, president of Yosemite Kennel Club and show chairwoman.
Judges will be looking carefully at 120 different breeds on display, Franklin added. "The dogs are judged on their conformation and how well they fit their breed standard," she said.
The conformation competition is based on the dog's appearance, temperament, structure and teeth.
Franklin said the dogs, some hailing from Oregon, Arizona, and Washington, also can compete in a rally or obedience category.
The rally competition is a course where dogs jump, turn and walk around cones, she said. The obedience round judges each dog's ability to follow orders similar to "sit" or "stay."
Showing off their tricks
On a sunny Friday afternoon, an impressively large Shetland sheepdog named Evan demonstrated some of those tricks.
Evan's great-uncle, Johnny, stood nearby glimmering with pride. He knows the feeling of accomplishment, after all, as he was once ranked top 10 in the country.
Franklin said the competition allows the dogs to gain points toward an American Kennel Club championship title, and then to progress toward national rankings. But they also can win local trophies, ribbons and some cash prizes.
There are about 700 entries, Franklin said, but the two-day show will allow participants double opportunities to win.
You might even catch a glimpse of Sprout, a 16-year-old Brussels Griffon, who travels with the show's master of ceremonies, Dick Vail.
"He's been everywhere with me," said Vail, who lives near Los Angeles but has hosted shows in the Bay Area and Reno. "He sits in my lap in the car now."
Show organizers said other dogs are not allowed inside until after the show ends. But after today's show, dogs that haven't been entered can participate in the lure coursing demo, which allows them to chase an object on a track.
A sheriff's K-9 demonstration will be held today around noon.
Both shows are free to attend, but there is a charge for parking. Organizers said there will be vendors offering grooming services and toys, as well as a barbecue lunch.
Shows begin at 8:30 a.m. today and Sunday at the Merced County Fairgrounds.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.