Dock-Dogs? Canine Olympics?
The Fastest Growing Sport on Four Legs?
Dock-Dogs were being advertised as the fastest growing sport on four legs, but my wife and I had never heard of it. It was nearing the end of the town fair, and we’d been curious about the Dock-Dogs adverts for days. What on earth was a Dock-Dog, and surely they weren’t going to throw the puppies down the 20 feet from the jetty into the river? That would be inhumane!
Being dog lovers we decided as we were going to town anyway, to make a small 5 minute detour to investigate what Docks and Dogs had in common.
We were relieved when we finally found the dock-dogs; relieved that the dogs were leaping into a type of above-ground swimming pool – voluntarily. We were also extremely chuffed to find out that getting in to see the dogs was free. According to the signs on the pool and the platform, dockdogs.com was the company’s website, and they were also available on facebook.
The basic premise of the sport, if it can be classed as a sport, is to see how far and how high dogs can jump into the water. There were four contests: Extreme Vertical, Speed Retrieval, Iron Dog and Big Air, and all of the contests were split into Novice, Senior and Professional. Apart from those differences, there were also Provincial, State, Country and World rankings.
But the contests and rankings didn’t matter; what mattered was the passionate fervour of the dogs. If they weren’t in the water they howled, yelped or barked to be allowed in. And as for the handlers keeping them in check on their leashes – that was a misnomer. The canines were in complete control of their supposed handlers. Not only did every competing canine howl to get in the water; every spectator’s dog barked to be allowed to play.
‘Give Dock-Dogs A Try". Each day at 4:00pm Dock-Dogs organizers will open the Dock up for the public to bring a new dog down and let them try out the events. Owners can sign up all day each day at the Dock-Dogs registration tent.’
That was what was advertised on local radio - and it was the most hilarious part of the day. Oh! Did I forget to mention that our 5-minute pop-in turned into a whole day of puppy frivolity?
The wooden platform that led up to the pool was 40 feet long, and it led up to a 40 feet long pool. At 4.00pm the novice dogs couldn’t wait to get up on that platform. The dog’s owner would try to get their dog to jump into the water and retrieve an object that was thrown in for them to retrieve. The object was known as the ‘Dummy.’
Some of the dogs started off with their tails wagging them. When their owners threw the dummy ahead of them, they sped off in hot pursuit, eager to retrieve it. It wasn’t until they were feet from the pool that they realised what they had let themselves in for. The dogs braked in differing manners; some sat back on their butts as they skidded to a halt, with their head turned sideways and their eyes closed – we can only imagine how singed their butts were. Others stiffened their front legs, and their butts rose up as they attempted to stop, wide eyed, before tumbling, butt over head, into the water. One skidding terrier didn’t quite make it, and just when it looked like it would stop before it toppled over, it skidded that extra inch and fell, howling, into the water. That particular dog gained the privilege of being logged in as the shortest jump at 1 inch.
The professional jumpers were awe inspiring; the longest jump was 26 feet, and what surprised us was that the jump was measured from when the canine left the platform until its butt hit the water, not the front paws. The jumps were measured by an electronic 60 frames to the second camera, and there wasn’t much chance of a mistake being made.
The MC announced that if the dog didn’t catch the dummy, or caught it and then dropped it, the dog didn’t have to retrieve it before they left the pool, but the dogs didn’t understand that. The dogs were retrievers, for goodness sake; that was their life. On the day we were there, among the professional contestants were a Belgian Shepherd Malinois (which I’d never heard of), a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, a Golden Retriever, a black Labrador and a Jack Russell. If they missed the dummy they swam around that pool looking for it either until they became exhausted or their owner threw a dummy in for them to fetch. Fetching was their life.
Another thing that had us grinning was the positioning of the spectators. All the adults who weren’t looking for candid photographs were well back from the pool. Hanging on to the pool were the children.
It took me back to the first time I went to a motorbike speedway race, where the bikes scream round a circular dirt track, and the spectators stood in ascending tiers around the track. When I got there I saw this huge empty space at the bottom corner; I couldn’t understand it, but I shrugged and made my way down to the edge of the track before the first race. It was during the first race that I realised why the space was there. I also realised that I didn’t like being showered with dirt – or eating it. But as I spat out the dirt, I did realise why the space had been left and why everybody else at the track was hooting with laughter.
And the children hanging on to the pool quickly realised why everybody at Dock-Dogs was laughing when the dunking dogs drenched them with water. Still, it was a hot day. If you ever see the event advertised, do yourself a humorous favour; go and see the dunking dock dogs – but sit well back.
And just think of the added bonus; there aren’t any ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs. This is an event that not only welcomes dogs but invites them to participate. Treat the pup to a day out