Big Air. Extreme Vertical. Speed Retrieve. If you think these sound like the names of action sports competitions, you’re totally right. Except these are action sports for dogs. Welcome to DockDogs, the fastest growing canine-oriented water sport. If you have yet to experience the excitement of a DockDog competition, you’re missing out. But fear not! The following nine facts will tell you everything you need to know about your next favorite spectator sport.
These Dogs Can Jump Far
The Big Air competition is essentially long jump for dogs. The set up consists of a 40’ dock leading up to a large tank of water. The dog’s handler tosses a toy into the tank and the dog takes a heroic leap. The dog who leaps the furthest wins (the measuring point is where the base of the dog’s tail hits the water—no unfair advantage for long-tailed pups). The record for longest jump is shared by two dogs, Cochiti and Taz, both of whom cleared a distance of 31’! (The human long jump record is a mere 26’8”).
These Dogs Can Jump High
The Extreme Vertical competition is high jump for dogs. A dummy (called the bumper) dangles in the air above the water. The dog jumps from the dock and attempts to grab, or at least knock down, the bumper. The handler sets how high the bumper is placed (at least 5 feet)—but if the dog misses the target twice in a row, they are eliminated. A dog named Bo holds the Extreme Vertical record—he jumped 8’5 feet in the air! (Human high jump record? 8’ and a quarter inch).
These Dogs Can Move
The Speed Retrieve competition is the sprint for dogs. The dog must run a 20’ length of the dock, jump into the tank and swim to a bumper that is hung at the other end of the tank. The clock stops when the dog has retrieved the bumper. Speedy canine Remi holds the record for this category, with an impressive time of 4.442 seconds. (Unfortunately, there is no human record for Speed Retrieve… yet).
Everyone is Welcome
Dogs of all breeds and sizes are welcome to participate in DockDogs. Though there is an age minimum of six months old, you’re bound to see all kinds of canines making a splash.
Further, Anyone Can Enter
First timers are welcome, and belonging to a local club is not a requirement. To keep it fair, there are different categories (think weight classes in wrestling), from Novice (for pups who clear 1’ to 9’11 in the Big Air) to Super Elite (who clear over 25’!)
No Pushing Allowed
The dog’s handler is not permitted to push the dog off the dock. The pups must hop in on their own free will.
For the Overachiever Retriever
The Iron Dog Challenge is for the dog who has the best overall combined score in all three disciplines: Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve. Iron Dogs are said to be the “boldest, best and most daring dogs”.
Kind of a Big Deal…
DockDogs has aired on ESPN, was named a top three float in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade and has been featured on the Late Show with David Letterman. More than 200 DockDogs events take place annually, with some events drawing thousands of spectators. No word on whether autographs are permitted after the competitions.
It’s Catching on Around the World
DockDogs started in the USA and has more than 25 local clubs across the states, but it can also be found in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. With expos, festivals and fairs, DockDogs events are popping up just about everywhere, so keep your eye out for a local event. And get your dog out practicing—he or she might be the future Iron Dog America!