From Pure Pedigrees To Mutts, Houston Dog Show Welcomes All Canines

The just-concluded Houston World Series of Dog Shows brought some top canine talent to the city. But it was not all about pure breeds and high-pedigree. There’s an open competition that any dog, of any breed — including mutts — can enter.


Ann Chandoha and Rae Rae
Ann Chandoha prepares to run the agility course with her dog Rae Rae.

Ann Chandoha is getting in some last minute training with her dog Rae Rae. The Marble Falls resident has been traveling to shows in Houston for about 15 years, and she’s been competing with multiple dogs since she was 70. Her three-year-old bearded collie is about to run through an agility course.

“The main thing is to trust your dog and to be consistent with your calls, and be happy because every feeling that you have runs from your hand to the leash,” Chandoha says.

This is one of the few events at the Houston World Series of Dog Shows that Rae Rae can take part in. Though she is a bearded collie, the pattern of her coat doesn’t meet the strict criteria set by the American Kennel Club.

“She doesn’t meet the breed standards because they have to have color from here all the way back,” Chandoha says.

She then points to the gray streak down Rae Rae’s back, which is interrupted by tufts of white fur. That keeps her from being eligible for some of the more exclusive events. But the annual “My Dog Can Do That!” competition is open to any breed. Chandoha says she’s spent hours practicing with Rae Rae every week.

“When you have a sport like this with your dog, or any kind of performance event, it just creates such a bond,” she says.

Rae Rae is one of more than 300 dogs taking part in the open competition. They each get four chances to run the course and improve their timing and score.

Penny Winegartner is with the Houston chapter of the American Kennel Club. She says the course is adaptable to any kind of dog.

Ann Chandoha and her dog Rae Rae

“That’s what makes agility fun,” Winegartner says. “We can have everything from Chihuahuas to Great Danes competing.”

Many of the dogs don’t fit a certain breed, so organizers have a methodic way of keeping score. Participants are classified by their level of skill — novice, middle or expert — and scored along with other dogs of similar size. Winegartner says the winners will qualify for national competitions.

“The dogs jump different jump heights due to their size at their shoulders,” she says. “Basically, now we can compete apples with apples, so it’s a more level field in competition.”

Ann Chandoha is hoping that her dog makes the cut. Soon, it’s time for the team to take on the agility course, and at first, Rae Rae is doing great. She runs alongside Chandoha, whizzing through tunnels and jumping over hurdles. But in a moment of confusion, Rae Rae completely misses one of the obstacles, a big wooden seesaw that she was supposed to climb over. An out-of-breath Chandoha clips on Rae Rae’s leash and walks her off the course.

“I said ‘walk it,’ which is her command to take it, and she just ran right past it,” Chandoha says. “Now, I have to watch the video. It may have been something I did. I don’t know.”

That mistake may prevent Rae Rae from advancing to nationals, but Chandoha says she’s still proud of her dog.

“She did everything beautifully, and I applaud that,” she says. “Her contacts were good, her weaves were good, she listened, but you know, things happen.”

Chandoha says Rae Rae has still earned some treats, and she’ll be back to compete next year.


Tomeka Weatherspoon

Tomeka Weatherspoon

Senior Producer

Tomeka Weatherspoon is an Emmy-award winning producer. She produces segments, the weekly television program Arts InSight, the short film showcase The Territory and a forthcoming digital series on innovation. Originally from the Midwest, Tomeka studied convergence journalism from the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. She has...

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