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Summer fun for dogs

When first getting started, try to go to an event on a warm summer day. The splash of the cool water and outdoor fun will be all the more enjoyable. © iStockphoto.com/Andraž Cerar When first getting started, try to go to an event on a warm summer day. The splash of the cool water and outdoor fun will be all the more enjoyable. © iStockphoto.com/Andraž Cerar

By Jennifer Viegas
 
Murphy, a chocolate Lab and pit bull mix who was rescued from an animal shelter, is now one of the country's top doggy dock divers.

Dock diving continues to grow in popularity as a sport for dogs. Competitions are held year-round, but summer is one of the best times of the year for the events. Whether your dog is an experienced flier or just learning to take off, your pet, like Murphy, could have what it takes to be a "Splash Dog."

Dog Dock Diving


Diane Lundquist, who adopted Murphy with Dr. Noel Grandrath, a California-based veterinarian, explains that most events involve a portable, aboveground pool filled with 30,000 gallons of water. Nearby is a 40-foot dock that is set up with a flatbed trailer. The competing dogs follow their favorite lure -- be it a ball, duck toy or other coveted object -- off the end of the dock before leaping into the pool.

A high-tech camera system records 64 frames per second and captures the dog's entry into the water to judge the distance of the jump. Distance is measured from the end of the dock to the point at which the base of the dog's tail enters the water. Dogs with the longest jumps, performed in what are known as "competition waves," earn both numerical and honorary rankings. Since Murphy has already performed a 22-foot leap, he's considered to be a "pro."

The longer of two jumps becomes the dog's score for the "wave." Through a group called Splash Dogs, the top 12 canine jumpers can then compete in a "pro final," while the next 12 dogs compete in an "open final." There are also finals for dogs with junior handlers (aged 16 and under) and "Lap Dogs," or dogs under a certain height so no participant feels left out.

Could Your Dog Dock Dive?


Lundquist and Grandrath observed that dogs who do well at the competitions usually:

  • love being in and around water
  • are good swimmers
  • have a high toy drive, with a desire to chase toys
  • are healthy and active
  • have a motivated owner or handler who also loves the sport
  • are at least 6 months of age

"While people are competitive and want their dogs to do well, it is also a friendly group," says Lundquist, who adds that no one is ever allowed to push or throw dogs into the water, and absolutely no abuse or negative behavior is tolerated. Everyone cheers each other's new bests, and newcomers are welcomed and given assistance in working with their dogs.

How to Get Involved


If you're interested and think your dog could be a jumping pro, consider taking these three steps:

  1. Join the SplashDogs.com mailing list. You will then receive information about dog dock diving events held all over the country.

  2. When first getting started, try to go to an event on a warm summer day. The splash of the cool water and outdoor fun will be all the more enjoyable.

  3. Beginners might consider participating, but not competing. This is allowed for a $20 practice fee. The payment permits owners to let their dogs jump into the pool in between the actual competition waves.

"The dogs love it," says Lundquist, who is already looking forward to the next Splash Dogs competition.

Copyright (c) 2010 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Dog Daily. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animal, health and other science-related topics.

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