4-H Dog Skillathon

An educational activity to test dog science knowledge and skills and gain experience in decision making to further 4-H member’s success with canines. The state level activity was initiated for the first time in 2011 during the NYS 4-H Dog Show in Syracuse, NY. The following description and resources are shared for planning county level skillathons. Activities generally consist of youth rotating through different stations.

  1. Objectives:
    • Encourage youth to share and test their knowledge and skills at a local or state Skillathon contest.
    • To provide youth the opportunity to expand their knowledge about dogs.
    • To recognize youth for their comprehension of different aspects of care and how dogs can benefit society.


  2. Eligibility:
    • All youth from different counties are eligible to participate. Dog ownership is not required.
    • Youth will be divided into 2 divisions depending on their own assessment of their skills.
    • The 2 divisions are Beginner (2 years or less in the 4-H dog program) and Advanced (over 2 years in the dog program).


  3. Format:
    Below are some topics that could be used for your skillathon stations. Format of questions can be matching games, multiple choice, short answers, etc. Questions can be asked with visual aids such as models, microscopic slides, pictures, etc. To simplify scoring, a point system divisible by 2 or 10 is suggested. For example, 10 stations x 10 points per station = 100 points. Each station should take less than 4 minutes to complete. Teen or adult facilitators at each station are helpful to keep things moving smoothly and keep score.

    • Animal Behavior, Care, Safety, and Restraint
      • How to properly restrain a dog
      • How to trim nails/ clean ears/ look for fleas
      • Maintain clean and sanitary conditions for dog
      • How to groom your dog and muzzle a dog
      • Identify equipment such as collars, leashes, and different grooming tools
      • Demonstrate knowledge of specific Canine Science vocabulary
      • Understand the body language of a dog


    • Health and Disease
      • Identify internal and external parasites
      • List characteristics of a healthy dog-normal body temp, pulse, respiration, etc.
      • Identify the external anatomy of your dog
      • Identify common canine diseases
      • Explain how diseases are transmitted and how they can be prevented
      • Identify toxins
      • Perform first aid for dogs


    • Breed Identification
      • Identify different breeds
      • Demonstrate understanding of the history, purpose, and nutritional needs of certain breeds
      • Identify different types of ears, tails, and coats
      • Understand show regulations for different breeds


    • Famous Dogs/Working Dogs/Dog Sports
      • Identify famous canines
      • Identify dogs with jobs such as guard dogs, sled dogs, service dogs, etc.
      • Match Fun Facts about dogs in general or certain breeds


    • Other Advance Topic Categories may include:
      • Nutrition and Feeds for different ages and stages
      • Housing, Facilities, and Training for different canine sports
      • Genetics, Reproduction, and Management of breeding animals
      • Records Management
      • New Technology such as GPS, electronic training apps etc.


  4. Contest Awards:
    • All participants receive recognition.
    • All participants who take the challenge receive ribbons, collectable dog pins, or other appropriate recognition.
    • High Scoring individuals may be given further recognition through a brief article on a 4-H website.


  5. Resources:
    American Animal Hospital Association
    AKC Dog Breeds
    American Rare Breed Association-Breed ID and show terms
    ASPCA Dog Care
    Companion Animal Health Resource Center: Baker Institute- Animal Health.
    Companion Animal Parasite Council
    Ohio State Learning Lab Kits
    Pet Education: Anatomy, Behavior & Diseases of Dogs and Puppies.
    The Merck Veterinary Manual
    Washington State University College: A to Z Index of Pet Health Topics
    Working Dogs

    Books:K-9 Structure and Terminology– Step-by-step guide that provides information on the anatomy of dogs and provides an understanding of how their body’s work as well. Gilbert, E. M., & Brown, T. R. (2001). K-9 structure & terminology (Second ed.). Wenatchee, Washington: Dogwise Publishing.

    PAWsitively Youth: A Guidebook about dogs for community Outreach Leaders -Topics addressed include safety, basic nutrition, anatomy and health care. Breeds of dogs, ethics and careers for people who work with dogs are also explored. Palmer, D., Wiesen, B., E. Noble (2008). Ithaca, NY: Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service. ISBN 978-1-933395-19-7

    The Complete Dog Book for Kids, Official Publication of the American Kennel Club, copyright 1996 and AKC’s Guide to Purebred Dogs poster. The complete dog book for kids. (1996). New York: Howell Book House.