Dogged Determination

Eau Claire draws national competitors with Dock Dog competitions

Rayna DeJongh, photos by Nicole Wellens

Every year, Scheels in Eau Claire becomes host to “Dog Town.” This tiny town features numerous canine amenities, from battery-powered fans, aluminum shade netting and EZ-up tents to crate pads and covers, heaters and doggy jackets. This is all to host a special breed of competitors: the canines of DockDogs.

DockDogs is an independent organization that governs the international standards, records and results of dog jumping canine aquatic competitions. Associated with companies like Scheels, DockDogs has clubs and facilities located around the world, including Eau Claire. Annually, Scheels Eau Claire hosts canine competitions, such as the Scheels Hunting Expo and the Scheels Outdoor Expo.

These competitions entail more than just retrieving. DockDogs has competitions for three disciplines: Big Air, Speed Retrieve, and Extreme Vertical. Big Air is all about the distance a dog can jump. Using high-speed cameras, participants are judged based on the moment their tail hits the water. For Speed Retrieve, participants are judged on how fast they can retrieve a dummy at the end of a 20-foot dock and a 38-foot pool. Results are measured in seconds. Finally, Extreme Vertical measures how high a participant can jump while retrieving a dummy. Height is measured from the dummy to the surface of a dock and is increased by two inches as the participant progresses throughout the rounds. Any dog over six months old can compete in DockDogs and is placed in competition with dogs of similar abilities.

In the fall of 2014, Twin Cities couple Chuck and Lindsay Rogers brought home their first puppy: Mya, a 16-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy. From day one, Mya wasn’t your average dog. Other than her high-energy personality, she had an obsessive fascination with water. Hoping to satisfy Mya’s need for exercise, Chuck and Lindsay began to spend their free time tossing dog toys into their backyard pond. What started out as innocent puppy plops into the water, soon turned into 5- to 10-foot leaps from shore.

Remembering a Canine Aquatics Competition, DockDogs, from a television network in the early 2000s, Chuck did what any information-seeker would do – he Googled it. Not only were the competitions ongoing, they were remotely local.

In July 2015, Mya competed in her first DockDogs competition at Rivertown Days in Hastings, Minnesota. After a few dabbles with the dock, Mya became increasingly more comfortable retrieving toys from the body of a competitive pool.

Now, Mya isn’t the only one interested in DockDogs. Chuck and Lindsay have since adopted two rescue dogs, Ryker and Lexi, who also share a love for competing aquatically. The couple and their dogs now spend their summer months competing in dock jumping competitions, typically attending eight to 12 events a year. “We’ve driven about 5,000 miles and visited about six or seven different states the last two summers,” Chuck said.

According to Chuck and Lindsay Rogers, the performance of their dogs is a minor concern compared to their comfort and satisfaction. “The dogs know no difference in terms of how far or high they jumped, or how fast they swam,” Chuck said. “We just try to keep it fun for them. Sometimes our dogs won’t want to jump for a variety of reasons and we just have to respect that, and pull them from competition if necessary.”

Along with a healthy lifestyle and daily training routine, these competitive canines require a balance between excitement and impulse. A dog that goes crazy for their favorite toy, while maintaining obedience, is an ideal competitor, according to Rogers.

An owner’s top priority should be the mentality of their canine, along with their comfort. “Dog Towns” are a common sight to see at canine aquatic competitions.

As Chuck and Lindsay Rogers continue to participate in DockDogs, with the loving help of Mya, Lexi, and Ryker, they hope to encourage a healthy and happy lifestyle for their three dogs while participating in a community of dog lovers. “At the end of the day these dogs are our pets, some of them came from less-than-desirable conditions, and I want them to know what it’s like to be a part of a household where they are loved,” Chuck said. “If my dogs can live long and healthy lives, while continuing to participate in sports, that would be a great accomplishment.”

To learn more about the Rogers family story, visit facebook.com/TeamYellowMania. For more information on DockDogs in Wisconsin, visit facebook.com/WIDockDogs.

Pet Project is sponsored by:

Chilson Automotive
Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Cadott