By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — It’s no secret dogs love jumping in water. Some breeds, like Labradors, were bred to love the water so they could fetch waterfowl for their owners. That’s why the DockDogs competition held at Benson’s Pet Center over the weekend makes so much sense — it’s a dog competition dogs actually enjoy. Unlike some other dog competitions that involve hoop-jumping and extensive grooming, the DockDog competition seems natural and enjoyable for both the dogs and the owners involved.
DockDogs is the world’s “premier canine aquatics competition,” where dogs are judged on how well they jump into a long pool of water. Dogs run down a 40 foot long dock before jumping into a long pool of water. The pool, according to Christopher Hughes, the Marketing Director for Benson’s Pets, is 40 feet long by 20 feet wide. A giant blue ruler measures each foot clearly for spectators to estimate the dog’s jump in real time.
“Oh, the dogs love it!” said Hughes. “It’s a game for them. Most dogs jump after a personal favorite toy,” he added.
Vendors, food trucks and rescue groups like Forever Home Greyhound Rescue were set up in front of Benson’s throughout the weekend.
“The kids love to sit in the splash zone,” said Hughes.
Hughes estimated at least 50 dogs would jump each day of the two-day competition. Dogs had the chance to practice July 1 before qualifying trials began July 2. Finals were held July 3.
There are three different ways to measure the quality of a dog’s jump — by length, by speed and by height.
This is the first year Benson’s Pet Center has hosted a DockDogs competition, according to Hughes. As far as he knows, there had not been another DockDogs competition in the Capital Region.
Dogs and their owners traveled from near and far for this weekend’s competition in Clifton Park. Dogs travelled from Poughkeepsie, Waterford and Schenectady to take the plunge and paddle back to dry land. “Many people came from Massachusettes,” said Hughes. “A lady with seven dogs, [three competed] came from Long Island,” he added. Hughes estimated the average commute for pets and their owners was about two hours.
Any breed can participate, though Hughes said the competition is especially popular among Labradors. “You see a lot of Labs and a lot of collies,” he said. Poodles, golden retrievers, terriers and pitbulls were some of the dogs in attendance this weekend.
The world record for longest jump, according to Hughes, was a 31 foot jump by a whippet, a fast slender dog that resembles a small greyhound.
The shortest jump ever recorded was by an Engli sh Bulldog who fell off the jump. The dog made it just one inch off the dock, according to Hughes.
“You’re not allowed to push your dog in,” he pointed out. “DockDogs are big on trust [between owners and their pets],” he said.
Just like other types of dog shows and agility competitions, Hughes said there are certain dog owners who make a serious effort to train their dogs before unleashing them on the competition. Benson’s Pet Center works with two training groups affiliated with DockDogs — Hudson Valley DockDogs and Canine Aquatics Sports, both based in downstate New York.
It costs $30 to enter a dog in a DockDogs competition. Benson’s has been operating in Clifton Park since 1992 and now has six locations.