Calgary

Dogs from across Canada to compete for dock diving championship in Blackfalds, Alta.

Dogs from across Canada will be competing in a sport called dock diving, which is active in locations around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States.

All breeds and sizes welcome in canine sport, organizer says

In dock diving, the lap dog division is for those that measure under 16 inches (40 centimetres) at the withers — from the ground to the top of the shoulder — while the open division is for bigger dogs who exceed 16 inches. (Victoria Scott Photography)

Dogs from across Canada will sprint down a pool deck and launch like Superman into a pool in Blackfalds, Alta., this weekend, and not just for fun.

They will be competing for the national championship in a sport for dogs called dock diving, which is active internationally in locations that include the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Pools and facilities are built specifically for the sport, and there are eight in Canada.

The event in Blackfalds, a town of 9,000 just north of Red Deer, is being held at a canine sports facility called Prairie Dog Sports Inc. 

It's being hosted by North America Diving Dogs, an organization that works to promote dock diving facilities and the sport across North America.

But how, exactly, do the canine athletes feel about all of this running, jumping and splashing?

"It is so much fun. It is the best thing you could do with your dog," Megan-Rai Ferguson, who runs the Canadian division of the organization, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.

All dogs welcome

According to Ferguson, dock diving is comprised of three events.

There is distance jumping, where a dog runs down the dock and is judged on how far it can leap.

There are air retrieves, where a dog attempts to snatch a prize suspended in the air.

And there is the hydro dash, a speed event where a dog must retrieve a toy and quickly return it to its owner.

Megan-Rai Ferguson's dog, a border terrier named Wilson, will be competing this weekend. (Megan-Rai Ferguson)

The dogs are classed in two divisions by size, Ferguson said.

The lap dog division is for those that measure under 16 inches at the withers — from the ground to the top of the shoulder — while the open division is for dogs who exceed 16 inches (40 centimetres).

And from Great Danes to Yorkies, three-legged dogs to blind or deaf dogs, any pup can compete.

"It's for purebreds, it's for mixed breeds. It's for everybody who just wants to come out and have some fun with their dog," Ferguson said.

Loves the water, loves to jump

Ferguson's own dog, a border terrier named Wilson, will be competing this weekend.

At just about 13 inches (33 cm) at the shoulder, and with a personal-best jump of 18 feet (5.5 metres), Wilson is a natural who hasn't needed much coaching — though Ferguson said she relishes in encouraging her.

"[Wilson] loves the water and she loves to jump, so with her, I haven't done much training," Ferguson said.

"It's a very loud sport. You know, it's a lot of the, like, 'Get it, get it. Get it, get the toy,' and it drives her right up."

Typically, Ferguson said, dogs would qualify for dock diving championships and then meet in Florida for the main event.

This year, with COVID-19, the situation is different. Dogs will compete in different locations, and scores will be totalled for the same championship.

And the world record holders of dock diving — including Sounders, a whippet with a distance jump of over 36 feet (11 metres), and Marbles, a Canadian mixed-breed in the lap division with a distance-jump of 27 feet (10.4 metres) — will be competing for the titles, too.

'It's for purebreds, it's for mixed breeds — it's for everybody who just wants to come out and have some fun with their dog,' Ferguson said. (Megan-Rai Ferguson)

Another competitor is Spitfire, an American whippet who has broken 21 world records and has his own Facebook page, and was the subject of an ESPN documentary.

But ferocious competitors aside, Ferguson said the primarily goal is to have fun.

"It's really a great sport to get involved in … and it's a great way to spend your day," she said.

A live stream of the event hosted in Blackfalds this weekend will be featured on the North American Diving Dogs' Facebook page.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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