VAIL — Vail resident Benjamin Dale may soon consider taking these dog jumping competitions more seriously.
After finishing second overall at last year’s Eukanuba DockDogs Big Air event in Vail, Dale and his border collie, Flour, came back to win on Sunday.
“I didn’t expect to get first place,” he said of Flour’s winning jump in the distance competition, which sees dogs charging off an astro-turf platform into a pool of water. “Incredible.”
The DockDogs pro big air finals, one of the marquee events of the weekend-long GoPro Mountain Games, sees person-dog teams from hundreds of miles away who all travel to Vail to compete. For Dale, to be able to win a professional-level event without leaving his home town is a special experience.
“We haven’t gone out of the county yet,” he says.
But event manager Bob DeWire with DockDogs says perhaps Dale should consider it.
“This is a huge event, top-six in the nation for biggest events,” DeWire said on Sunday. “A win here could get you an invite to Worlds depending on what you’ve done or what other events you’re going to do.”
Since starting with 10 dogs as a filler act at an outdoor competition 13 years ago, DockDogs has grown into a league of its own, literally, with 10,000 active participants on three different continents participating in sanctioned events on a regular basis. The DockDogs World Championships takes place indoors in Iowa in November.
“That’s the big show, that’s what everybody’s shooting for,” said DeWire. “About 400 teams will qualify throughout the year to try to get on the road to Worlds.”
The GoPro Mountain Games saw DockDogs competitions happening all weekend at Golden Peak in Vail, with hundreds of spectators, both two legged and four, enjoying the action.
Kids lined the sides of the pool as the dog owners tossed toys into the water, the canines’ large splashes upon the crowds welcomed readily in the abundant sun. Shooting for the world record of 31 feet, teams worked their way through qualifying rounds starting on Friday and leading up to Sunday’s finals, where Flour’s first jump in the best-of-two format determined the match. It measured in at 27 feet 9 inches from the platform to the dog’s rear end, the standard by which the photo-finish comp is judged.
“Any one of these dogs can jump 28 feet,” said DeWire of the dogs in the pro finals. “It’s more a question of ‘Will they be able to do it here, now?’”
And in dealing with dogs, of course, there are other factors. Chief among these factors is the fact that the dogs are simply jumping for their toys and don’t understand they’re going for distance.
How many feet the dog “leaves on the dock,” or how early the dog jumps off the turf into the water, makes a big difference.
Dale said he was very pleased with Flour’s jump, which didn’t leave much on the dock.
“Actually, it’s her personal best,” he said.
Runner up went to Jon Langdon and his Belgian Malinois, Remy.
The 2013 DockDogs World Championships are scheduled for November 13-17 in Debuque, Iowa.