Smoky Mountain DockDogs from Knoxville, TN shares info on dock diving!
There is just something about the snuggles and slobbery kisses from a dog that you think of as your family member that sparks a connection, and that connection becomes even deeper and more rich when you connect and work with your dog to perform a task or compete together. You may be wondering what that even means, since you may consider going to the dog park, going for a stroll through the woods or a hike your bonding time. Bonding time is great regardless, but this bond deepens when you participate in a competitive sport like dock diving with you canine companion.
Ok, I know, I know, you probably are like “what in the world is dock diving?” I will tell you that I had no clue until I had the chance to interview Lisa Hudgens, President of Smoky Mountain DockDogs. Enjoy this read and be inspired!
Q: What is Smoky Mountain DockDogs?
A: Smoky Mountain DockDogs is an affiliate of DockDogs Worldwide, which host events, training and information on this sport in the US, Canada and Europe. We are local to Knoxville, TN and are the first affiliate in Tennessee since 2010!
Q: How did you find yourself being a fanatic for dock dog sports?
A: Honestly, I was a cat person forever until 12 years ago when I got my black lab, Susie. We lived near a lake, and when we walked, we would go to the lake where Susie loved to jump off of the dock. Around that time, ironically I saw a guy named Trent Steele on the local news who was starting a dock diving club in the area, and was telling people about the orientation. I saw that and said, “I have to go!” This many years later, here I am, president of the Smoky Mountain Dockdogs, Southeast Regional Rep for the Worldwide organization!
Q:You mentioned that your dog loved to jump off the dock.Can any dog dock dive? How do you know if a dog is right for dock diving? Are there specific personality traits that you can spot?
A: Yes, if your dog enjoys the water and likes to swim out where they cannot touch and also has a drive for toys, then they would most likely love dock diving.
Q: How old does a dog have to be in order to start dock diving?
A: Dogs can start at 6 months.
Q: So once you confirm that your dog loves the water and has a drive for toys, you start to get interested in dock diving. How do you start?
A: Pick one of your dogs favorite toys and reserve it only for the dock. This creates excitement and even more drive for the toy once you get there. As a handler, through practice, you create a sequence and language that your dogs knows. It is a deep connection that cannot be imitated by anyone else.
Q: When they start to compete, do the dogs have rituals that they do before the dive? How do the dogs prepare or how do you prepare the dogs for the event?
A: This is different for every handler and every dog. Dogs do create their own rituals, and handlers contribute to those rituals with what is best for the dog based on their needs and behavior. For example, my lab gets very excited, but only on the dock. A lot of handlers, when they get to the event, will practice with their dogs. However, knowing my dog, I know that it is beneficial for her to save the energy and excitement that she has for the actual dive, so we do not practice. When we finally start to get towards the dock, she gets what we call the “quiver.” She is so physically excited that she quivers, and we channel this all into her dive.
Q: Are there any specific funny or memorable rituals that you have seen from other dogs?
A: Some dogs have that one toy that is the “dock toy,” and other dogs have multiple toys and like to rotate. The handlers of the dogs that like to rotate will sometimes lay the toys out on the dock before the dive and ask their dog to choose which toy they want to use, and the dog will choose! It is amazing.
Q: That really shows the intelligence of the dog! They are engaged in the process and sport and are actively and intelligently choosing their “destiny.” It seems like this sport is really healthy for dogs but also the handlers. It makes me think about martial arts and how marital arts is a confidence builder for young people and people of all ages. Would you say that is true about dock diving?
A: YES! I would completely agree that this sport builds confidence, specifically in young people. We have a youth program for ages 7-16, and if the young person does not own a dog, they can borrow an experienced dog. It is so cool to watch, because the experienced dog actually teaches the young person about the sport. I have even seen people with disabilities work with dogs on the dock!
Q: Personally, what health benefits or positive life changes have you experienced from being involved in this sport?
A: This sport has broadened my horizons! I have met so many people and traveled all over the world. I am shy by nature, but this sport has made me more comfortable talking with people I don’t know and going to places I have never been before. I have even branched out and started trying new sports like nose work and agility! Overall dock diving has changed my life in so many positive ways!
Q: What can someone expect from an event? Maybe they do not have a dog or want to pursue being a handler, but they want to go watch; What can they expect from a dock diving event?
A: At the beginning there will be several qualifying rounds where all types of dogs will jump together. After this, there will be classes established. Some TV dock diving measure distance by the nose, but we always measure by the base of the tail so that longer dogs do not have am advantage over shorter dogs. In addition to the dock diving there are a couple of other events like, the speed retrievals and vertical jump. Every aspect of the events is entertaining!
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Kaylee, Pet Treater Pack Member