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Dock Jumping

Dock jumping is a simple, yet exciting sport that has been exploding all over the country. UKC is excited to add it as another performance event, through Ultimate Air Dogs; yet another way to have fun with your dog! There are two different forms of jumping that UKC dogs will be able to obtain titles in: Ultimate Air or Distance Jumping, and Ultimate Vertical.

Ultimate Air is the basic form of competition that started dock jumping. Dogs run down the dock and handlers try to get them to fly as far as they can after a toy. It’s a thrilling, adrenaline-driven event that is a blast for handlers and crowds alike. Ultimate Vertical is a newer twist on the sport that started as a training tool to get more distance out of dogs. It’s a form of high jumping. A training bumper is held 8’ out over the water by an extender. A starting height is set and dogs must bring the bumper down (by either a knock or a catch) for that height to count, then the bumper is moved up two inches and the dog progresses until the next round. This repeats until there is only one dog still soaring, and crowd excitement builds the higher and higher the dogs fly.

(Ultimate Air)

(Ultimate Vertical)

The sport of dock jumping started in 1997 when Purina needed another sport to add to their Incredible Dog Challenge program. It increased in popularity in 2000 when ESPN added it to their lumberjack programming and developed the Great Outdoor Games that were popular for a period on ESPN. In the years since, the sport has grown exponentially.

Milt Wilcox, former pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who played in the 1984 World Series, is the founder of Ultimate Air Dogs. Milt was vacationing at his summer lake cottage in 2002 when he saw the Great Outdoor Games on ESPN, which at that time consisted mostly of black Labrador competitors. His black Labrador mix Sparky had been jumping off the dock for the whole vacation and Milt thought, 'my dog can do that!' He soon got into the sport and launched to the top. He and Sparky competed in 3 Great Outdoor Games, 1 Purina Incredible Dog Challenge Nationals, and a Super Retriever Series Crown Championship. In fact, Sparky was the first dog to be in all three in one season. Milt and Sparky have appeared on “Good Morning America,” ESPN’s “Cold Pizza,” and Sparky graced the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

(photo courtesy Leapin'Labs)

Milt loved the sport so much he founded Ultimate Air Dogs in 2005. What started as a grassroots Michigan organization has grown incredibly and holds several events a year all over the country. Milt founded UAD because of his love and passion for the sport. He wanted more people to be able to enjoy the fun time that it is to have with your dog. At any event Milt is working at, you’ll see him going non-stop all weekend, giving training tips to anyone who seeks his advice. He really takes the time to get to know newcomers and spends a lot of one on one time with competitors on the dock.

UKC/UAD Dock Jumping events are a great sport for all dog owners to get into for many reasons. First off, UAD events have very helpful and friendly staff and competitors. They’ll answer questions, help teach your dog to jump, or just hang out and chat—just good company all around. Many people get hooked on the sport for the social aspect and seem to gain a ‘dog’ family.

Also, while it was noted previously that this sport started with mostly labradors, any breed, any mix, any size dog can come play! The sport is no longer completely dominated by Gun Dogs, but many breeds are heavily involved. A good example would be the last Great Outdoor Games in 2005. Only the top dogs in the country got invited to go, and one of them, hanging with the big Labs, was a small 17 inch tall Australian Cattle Dog named Clementine who can blast out 23+ foot jumps.

The Clemicopter!

Another plus to dock jumping is that it’s probably one of the safest dog sports out there. There’s no real pressure on the joints, as the dogs are landing in water, which is especially good for older dogs. There’s also no training required to participate, unlike most other dog sports; you can just come out and try it with your dog. Some are very competitive and do lots of training and conditioning for their dogs. Others just see it as another way to have a fun time with their dogs and meet a lot of fellow dog lovers!

(photo courtesy Victoria Rak, www.tuffphoto.com)

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for an event today, see www.ultimateairdogs.net. Registration for UKC Dock Jumping events is conducted through Ultimate Air Dogs.

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