Every Dog Has His Day At Dockdogs In Bel Air

August 03, 2009|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Terri Kieffer playfully taunted Alvin, her beloved 9-month-old yellow Lab, to jump into the pool ahead.

"You want to get it?" the Emmitsburg resident shouted at her dog as she held up a blue chew toy.

"Now get it!" she yelled as she flicked it into the pool.

Alvin ran down the 40-foot dock and leaped a good 14 feet into the pool, making a gigantic splash. Several hundred onlookers clapped enthusiastically Sunday during the Dockdogs competition at the Harford County Farm Fair in Bel Air.

Close to 200 dogs competed from Thursday to Sunday at Dockdogs, which is a track and field-like event for dogs.

Dockdogs is the international governing body that oversees events that test a dog's ability to jump as far as possible into a pool, retrieve items from the pool in a timed event and jump as high as possible. There are three divisions: amateur, semi-professional and professional. Contestants are grouped based on experience and past results. All breeds are welcome. The only stipulation is that the dog must be at least 6 months old.

Twenty dogs competed in the first Dockdogs competition 10 years ago, according to event manager Bob Dewire. This year, more than 9,000 dogs competed in various events held throughout the United States, and in Canada and Great Britain. Next year, events will be offered for the first time in Germany, Australia and Japan.

"People spend more money on their dogs per year than they do their children," Dewire said, referring to the growing popularity of the sport.

Prizes range from $25 to $100 for the top finishers. Owners said they compete for the positive effects on their animals and the family-like atmosphere that the competition fosters.

"Meeting people is as much fun as jumping the dogs," said Steve Sozio of Baltimore, whose dog Twister, a 2-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, competed in the Dogs and Logs world championships in Stillwater, Minn.

Angie Jones uses her experience as a former high school track coach to prepare her two dogs for competition. Jones' dogs practice jumping off docks. They practice strength training by pulling weighted sleds, and they will even swim into a head wind to build endurance.

Dockdogs is strictly a friendly competition, Jones stressed. In fact, poor sportsmanship and animal abuse are rare and frowned upon, she said.

"Hopefully you won't see harsh fanatical soccer moms," said Jones, who lives in Hanover, Pa. "If we do see that, someone will talk to them. We try to keep a fun, family atmosphere."

Dockdogs competitors said that they prefer this type of competition to traditional dog shows.

"They accept everybody here," Kieffer said. "They cheer for you just the same. There is no pretentious attitude. The world record dog owners will come up and talk to you and coach you."

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