Benton Franklin Fair

DockDogs splash down at county fair (w/ gallery)

KENNEWICK -- Celtie is so excited to jump into the water that the Labrador retriever makes loud human-sounding screaming noises.

And even after competing in the DockDogs competition at the Benton Franklin County Fair & Rodeo in Kennewick, Celtie seems and sounds eager to go again.

But the dogs need to rest, said Maddie Mills, 13, of Kennewick.

Maddie's family has spent all week at the fair at the DockDogs competition with their three dogs. Colleen Mills, Maddie's mom, said they have arrived about 9 a.m. and stay until the last 6 p.m. competition is over.

DockDogs started about 11 years ago as a fill-in sport on ESPN, said Mills, a receptionist for Meadow Hills Veterinary Center, which sponsors the DockDogs event at the fair.

After seeing it on TV, the Mills family went to Spokane to watch a competition four years ago.

That was all it took to get them hooked.

Mills' dogs will compete in the big air, or long jump, competition during the fair. That's when a dog gets a running start of up to 40 feet and jumps off the dock into the pool. Where the dog's rear end lands in the water determines the length of the jump.

Other competitions include extreme vertical, where a toy is held suspended over the 4-foot-deep water for the dog to knock down, and the speed retrieve, where a dog is timed on how long it takes to get to a toy at the end of the 40-foot-long pool.

Of the family's three dogs, Celtie has jumped the farthest at 15 feet 2 inches, Mills said.

But 6-year-old Ziggy and 8-month-old Rowan, both Chesapeake Bay retrievers, enjoy the jumping just as much, even if they don't hold the family record for long jumps.

Ziggy was so excited last year to jump that he pulled Maddie about 10 feet, which she said made everyone but her laugh.

During the competition, it isn't unusual to see one of the dogs just jump into the water from the ground, Mills said, and every once and a while, one of the handlers falls in, which is a disqualification.

Maddie said she is hooked on DockDogs because it is as much fun for her as it is for the dog. The handlers have to get the dogs excited to jump and go after the toy, she explained.

It really helps if the dog has a strong toy drive, Mills said, because with the sport, dogs aren't pushed or forced. The dog has to want to jump, and the toy can be the incentive.

Any size, shape or breed of dog can jump in the events, Mills said. Last year, a Jack Russell terrier beat Celtie in the long jump contest.

There are six skill levels, so dogs can compete with others of similar abilities, she said. Because dogs are jumping into water and are not interacting with others during the event, there are few problems.

This February, Mills started DockDogs of the Tri-Cities, a local club that holds weekly practices at the Columbia Point marina. Up to 10 members attend regularly, and there is always someone available to help beginners.

Beginners are welcome to come to the competitions at the fair today. Registration and practice is at 9 a.m. There will be big air competitions at noon and 2 p.m., a speed retrieve contest at 4 p.m. with finals at 6 p.m. and big air jumps at 6:30 p.m.

For more information about DockDogs of the Tri-Cities, including practice times, go to www.dockdogsofthe tricities.com or visit the group on Facebook.

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