MEDINA — What started as “filler sport” 10 years ago, is now a Medina County-based international phenomenon known as DockDogs.
With their owners’ coaxing, dogs take a running leap from a platform and plunge into a pool after a toy. There are classes in vertical and horizontal distance and speed.
The event has been a main attraction at the Medina County Fair this week with more than 30 competitions open to dogs of all sizes and breeds.
Dog owners Chet and Stephanie Prock are part of a local club of DockDogs enthusiasts called 3 Rivers Dock Dogs. They practiced jumping their yellow lab, Zoey, at the dock on Wednesday.
“She’s so excited, she doesn’t want you to keep her out of the water,” Chet Prock said. Zoey has won several DockDogs classes, including the speed retrieval this week.
DockDogs competition announcer Shawn Erb, of Clinton, Ohio, said he started jumping his yellow lab, Phoebe, named after Lisa Kudrow’s character on “Friends,” because she loves the water.
“That’s all we’re looking for — dogs with toy drive and water drive,” Erb said. “A dog with both of those in his brain, they just go nuts for it.”
The national DockDogs organization is celebrating its 10th year.
Erb said DockDogs originated as a filler sport for in-between events at the ESPN Great Outdoor games in 2000 and has since become a feature event around the world.
The world record for horizontal distance is 28 feet, 10 inches. Several dogs in Wednesday’s competition easily broke 20 feet.
But not all dogs are excited about the prospect of hurling themselves off the platform into water.
Erb said the No. 1 rule is the owners cannot push their dog into the water.
“If they’re not ready to hit the water, they can go into shock,” Erb said.
As a result, some dogs sit at the edge of the platform for awhile before agreeing to take the plunge. But that’s what practice is for.
Entry into one of the DockDogs competitions is $25 and includes unlimited practice runs during the week. Anyone can bring their dog to the fair and sign up.
Eddie Karban, of Liverpool Township, brought his 6-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Zeus to the dock Wednesday for his first-ever jump.
“He always jumps in the pond,” Karban said. “I wanted to see how far he’d jump.”
Zeus needed no coaxing. He dove off the dock paws-first for a score of about 10 feet.
The world headquarters for DockDogs, www.dockdogs.com, is 5690 Wolff Road, York Township.
Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.