Nine-year-old Emily Merck and her dog, Sparky, have spent the last few weeks getting ready for Ward County's 4-H Achievement Days.
"(We) practiced a lot," said Emily, who lives near Granville.
Emily and Sparky attended a series of free training sessions at Ambush Kennels that helped her learn how to show her dog. Sparky, a female Blue Heeler and Australian Kelpie cross, also learned basic obedience training. Emily said she thinks her dog is better at following her commands.
Emily was one of dozens of kids from 19 4-H clubs across Ward County who are participating in the 4-H Achievement Days at the State Fair Center this week. The "Cloverbuds" are ages 5 to 7, while older 4-H competitors are 8 to 18.
Tuesday morning was the time to show off not only pet dogs but other small pet animals, like cats, rabbits and chickens.
One young owner of a Lop-Eared Rabbit, who was showing at the 4-H Achievement Days for the first time, said he spent a lot of time beforehand getting the bunny used to being handled. That can be trickier than it looks since the rabbit might be scared by all of the other animals in an unfamiliar place, he said. He said his rabbit looked big, but it was small compared with other examples of the breed.
On Tuesday morning, young 4-H members fed horses hay or wrestled with chickens and rabbits who weren't always inclined to cooperate. One chicken cackled at his owner in a way that sounded like he was laughing at her.
Micky Zurcher, the 4-H Youth Development Coordinator, said 4-H is a great experience for the kids, who get the chance to try a lot of different things and make new friends.
"It's a hands-on experience," she said.
Kids raise and show animals, sew, grow plants or food crops and show off other projects that they have worked on throughout the year.
Ward County is one of the only states that has a show category for pets, said Zurcher. Yesterday and today, the 4-H members showed beef, swine, goats and sheep. On Monday, they showed horses. All events are open to the public.
Kids in other categories are competing for the opportunity to show their animals and projects at the North Dakota State Fair next month. Those who earn a blue ribbon or above are eligible to compete.