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Diving and Flying Dogs

Canine athletes compete in Flying Disc Dogs Open and Ultimate Air Dock Diving

Frank Montgomery’s Australian shepherd Jagger leaps for a Frisbee in a Disc Dogs competition.
     The two swimming pools at Hog Dog Productions Farm in Millersville are the scene of intense canine competition.
     The field was packed at last weekend’s canine dock diving and Frisbee event at the 33-acre farm. Forty-eight dogs leapt into dock diving in the competition pool and 65 pups into Frisbee competition.
     “The dogs compete for placement and titles, as well as the chance to go to the national championships,” said Hog Dog Productions owner Lee Carr.
     “The best moment had to be Bryan Beadling and his eight-year-old German shorthair pointer Lemoncello,” Carr said. “Cello had been diagnosed with an almost always fatal heart disease. She recovered, and this was her first time allowed back into competition for dock diving. She jumped as strong as ever. The amount of happiness in this dog’s face and the support from the crowd was overwhelming.”
     Ultimate Air Dock Diving encompasses four kinds of competition: Splash is distance jumping — measured where the base of the tail hits the water. Chase is a timed event for the fastest swimmer. Catch It is distance jumping combined with the ability to catch the toy. Fetch It challenges the dog to retrieve a bumper hanging over the water and moved farther away after each success.
     “For a dog to be a winner, it’s usually a combination of both nature and nurture,” Carr said. “Your dog may have the natural ability to track a disc or swim but without training may never excel.”
     Discdogathon is a whole other sport. The weekend Flying Disc Dogs Open was a world qualifier for the top team in each of the five games. “Each of those teams will receive an invitation to the world championship,” said Frank Montgomery of the Mid-Atlantic Disc Dog Club.
     Dogs challenged themselves in distance, accuracy, obstacle course, time trial and pairs event — when two throwers throw for the same dog — as well as the ever-popular freestyle routine — disc-dogging to music. 
     Montgomery competed with all five of his dogs, four Australian shepherds and one Jack Russell terrier mix. “All of them have been introduced to the Disc Dog Sport at a young age by just getting familiar with the disc and having fun with their human companion,” Montgomery said.
     Breed, organizer Carr explained, has only a little to do with whether or not the dog will become a champ. “Many small dogs and mountain-breed dogs do not like the water and are not particularly athletic,” he said. “But there are always exceptions to the rule.” 
    One of those exceptions is Montgomery’s Gracie Lou. Weighing in at just 20 pounds, Gracie Lou’s “small stature has been easy on her,” Montgomery said. Weighing less has helped her to continue to participate; she is now semi-retired.
     Australian shepherds Bil Boy Blu, is, Montgomery said “crazy about the sport. He loses his mind when playing.”
      The sport has brought national attention to some of Montgomery’s pups. Chicklet was a guest on Live with Kelly and Ryan.  
     Labradors are common competitors in dock-diving competitions.
     Sharon Rodgers enjoyed dock diving competitively with her Labs, both rescued from Lab Rescue of the Labrador Retriever Club of Potomac. “Neither were champions, but they loved doing it,” Rodgers says. Her dog Thunder jumped 24 feet two inches for six years. Sammy, now mostly retired, jumped 21 feet three inches.
     If you think your dog may be a secret diving or Frisbee pro, consider getting her into the sport. To learn more about dock diving, visit www.ultimateairdogs.com and to find out about disc dogs, go to www.mad-dogs.com.
      The Ultimate Air Dog Games take place September in Missouri and the Discdogathon championships the same month in Tennessee.