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Doggy Dock Jumping

Why I Love It and Why I’m Bound for ESPN
By Amos
Published: June 1, 2006
Throw me something…throwmesomething … OH PLEEESE …        

I can’t stand it any longer. I’m sitting like I’m supposed to. My body is quivering on high alert … The dock is like a runway calling me, calling me.

I’m waiting. My turn! My turn!



webdogjumping
Photo by dreamstime.com
My name is Amos. I’m a dark golden retriever, and I’m a newcomer to the “Big Air” dock jumping circuit. “Big Air” is a competition in which a 40-foot-long dock serves as a platform for us to get a running start and leap as far into the water as we can to catch an object thrown by a human. 
    
Oh boy! Here we go! 
   
My human slings the decoy as far out into the water as she can, then releases me. I spring forward, quickly gaining maximum run speed.
   
Up ahead, I focus on my take-off point at the edge of the dock. I hit the point and huck my body up into the air, lunging forward as far as my body will stretch. My ears stick straight out like flaps, and I’M AIRBORNE!
   
KEERRSPLASH! Get the decoy! Get the decoy! Oh the water feels SOOO good. Man, I musta nailed that one; my owner is going nuts on the dock, and some of the competition is giving me the evil eye (and smell).
   
Some think I’ll never amount to much because the most serious competitors are almost always Labrador retrievers (no surprise there, huh?) – like Little Morgan, who holds the world record for jumping at 26 feet, 6 inches. Others are impressed by my natural ability, but they have no idea how much training my owner, Nancy, and I have put in over the past year.

A star is born?
   
Nancy first heard about the doggy dock jumping at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games, and she thought I would be a natural.
   
You’ve heard the expression, “We all have our talents.” Well, I’m good at power bursts of speed. And my hunting instinct is so strong I’d much rather chase a Frisbee (or anything for that matter) than eat.
   
And water … well, I fell in at eight weeks of age, and ever since – the only thing I like more than chasing things on land is chasing things into the water. Nancy thinks I’m dumb because she can throw a rock off the dock into the water, and I’ll jump after it. She just doesn’t get it, though, ’cause it’s the thrill of the chase. (But my golden buddy Clayton actually dives and tries to retrieve the rock – now that’s DUMB.)

Televised doggy sports           

We dogs have been jumping off docks to retrieve objects forever, but in the past six years humans have made doggy dock jumping into highly organized events with local, regional and national competitions. An organization called DockDogs is the official governing body for the sport. They even use digital video stop-action technology to accurately measure the distance of a jump to within one inch! When our events are televised by ESPN, they draw a larger viewership than the X-Games. How cool is that? 
   
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Dogs all over the country are getting into dock jumping. Here, Arny Engman’s dog, Wally, leaps into Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota.
Photo by Arny Engman
How we learn
   
Chasing things has always been in my blood. But, I’ll admit, I did need a little training to fine-tune my abilities. One of the hardest things for me to learn was to stay focused with all of those dogs at the competitions. Honestly, I could just as easily have spent my entire time checking and sending pee-mail! 

My owner first began training me by getting me to chase the Frisbee while it was still in her hands. She kept holding the Frisbee higher and higher until I found myself jumping up for it. Then she took me to fairly shallow water and did the same thing so I could get used to the splashes.  
   
That got me all wound up, so the next part was hard for me. She made me sit and stay on the shore while she went out into the water. Sitting, by the way, is the key to getting to warp speed as fast as you can. A sitting position forces us to spring forward, allowing us to get to maximum speed sooner
so we’ll have more time to fine-tune our jump point.
   
I wanted that Frisbee so badly. She held the Frisbee high enough so that I had to jump both up and out into the water to get it. She made me sit farther and farther back on the shore. When she was convinced that I “got it” – which of course I did – we moved to a dock.

Fine-tuning the jump
   
Once we were at the dock, we did the same thing all over again. We began jumping just off the edge of the dock, and Nancy worked back on successive jumps until she had me positioned at the desired starting point (competitions allow us to start anywhere on the dock in front of the 40-foot mark). At first, she threw my Frisbee no farther than five feet from the dock. I figured she was worried that if she threw it too far, I wouldn’t think I could retrieve it. Not to worry, but I do understand her logic.
   
One thing Nancy did as I got better and better was to watch very closely my launch point. She wanted me to jump as close to the end of the dock as possible. If I started jumping too early, she moved up my starting position and then worked back again. This was a bit frustrating, but I’ll do anything for praise … and the opportunity to JUMP. With a bit of practice, I was jumping like a pro.

It’s our instinct
   
Right now, I’m just starting out, but I hope to be an elite jumper some day. “Elite” is the most accomplished level – with jumps greater than 23 feet.  
   
You know, dog dock jumping is a pretty amazing thing. Do you realize if humans were to jump the equivalent distances many of us dogs are achieving (based on our relative size), you’d have to do a long jump of around 40 feet? Your world record is way short of that (29 feet, 41/2 inches at this writing)!
   
I like this sport because any dog can participate in local competitions. My guess is that there will be more and more of us, particularly since DockDogs is offering a $30,000 prize to the first dog to jump more than 30 feet in a televised competition.
   
It’s not all the resulting doggy treats that attract me; it’s the thought of flying through the air and nailing the Frisbee. Like I said, it’s just our instinct – it’s the thrill of the chase. Now where’s Nancy? There she is! I’m waiting, waiting. Let’s go to the dock!  Bring the Frisbee! Gotta chase it!

Amos, a first-time contributor to Cabin Life, is a canine companion to frequent contributor Nancy Cain.
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