July 17, 2012
Are 'Dock Dog' Competitions Bad For a Gun Dog's Training?
By Chad Love
"Dock Dog" type competitions have been around for some time now, and while they're not as popular as other dog games (yet), it's definitely a growing sport.
From this story in the New York Times:
You can lead a dog to water, but can you make him jump? That was one of the questions at Summer Splash, a three-day event at Meyer’s Tails Up Farm, a dog training center an hour northwest of Chicago. More than 150 dogs competed — yes, competed — by leaping into a four-foot-deep pool from a dock two feet above the water. It was part of a growing sport called dock jumping, a laid-back pastime that does not have the high profile and histrionics of better-known events like Westminster. The premise behind dock jumping is simple: dogs jump into the water, and they are judged on how well they do. In this competition, a mutt is as welcome, if not more, than a purebred.
But according to the story, it's not just all about the jump. While the "Big Air" jumps are for distance, there are other categories as well, including "extreme vertical", "speed retrieve" and the all-around "Iron Dog" title.
While there isn't any direct correlation between hunting and dock dog events, a surprising number of hunting breeds, mostly retrievers and spaniels, have done well in the various contests. Of course, there are some valid concerns about the bad habits that gundogs can pick up from dock dog competitions, mainly isues having to do with breaking and steadiness. It can be done, however. A few years ago I did a story for my state magazine on a pair of Chesapeake Bay retrievers from Oklahoma that, at the time, were doing very well on the dock dogs circuit. Both dogs were also gundogs who spent most of the fall in a duck blind with zero issues.
There's nothing like a dramatic water entry, and of the retrievers I've owned, all but one have had decent jump, but one in particular I think could have legitimately competed in the big air and speed retrieve contests. What about you? Have you had or currently have a dog that might make a respectable showing in competition? The reporter who wrote this New York Times piece is a friend of mine who owns an American water spaniel with some definite ups.