Dog diving set to splash down this weekend in GCS

By Wesley LeBlanc Staff Writer
Posted 8/6/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Dog diving is a national sport that’s only just begun to dig its claws into Clay County. Spectators can get a taste of these splash-filled competitions on Saturday.

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Dog diving set to splash down this weekend in GCS

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Dog diving is a national sport that’s only just begun to dig its claws into Clay County. Spectators can get a taste of these splash-filled competitions on Saturday.

When you think of dog training, social, trick and swimming lessons might come to mind. Thanks to Green Cove Springs resident Lynne Wetherell, dog diving lessons are now available in the county. Anyone interested in the classes can see a demonstration this weekend.

“On Aug. 10 and Aug. 11, at 1730 Perry Rd., we’ll be using (Wetherell’s) regulation dog diving pool to host North Florida Air Dogs’ first dock diving competition,” dog-diving coach Tammi Montgomery said.

North Florida Air Dogs is a sub-company of Head Start Canine, a dog training and agility training company in Jacksonville. The company opened its doors on Feb. 24 and has been teaching dogs tricks, commands, how to swim and how to dive since.

Dog-diving uses a deck that’s 40 feet long and two feet high above a pool to launch them as far as they can. Distance is measured where the tail hits the water.

“It started in (2005) as an official sport,” Montgomery said. “Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Milt Wilcox started it with his black Labrador Sparky.”

The sport has since exploded within dog communities. Montgomery said it’s because it’s a fun sport for the dog and the owner, as well.

Montgomery, who owns eight Labradors and one German shepherd, has been competing with her dogs for three years and said it’s the best thing a dog owner can do to build a strong relationship and keep them active.

Montgomery has a 9-year-old Labrador that still competes today.

Montgomery said he teaches dogs to swim before they’re trained to jump off decks. Once a dog is comfortable in the water and able to stay afloat, training moves to the deck, which creates the greatest challenges for the trainer.

“So, for my dogs, there are two handlers,” Montgomery said. “There’s one handler holding the dog at one end of the deck, and then I stand at the deck by the pool, talking to my dog, getting them excited, enticing them with a toy.”

When it’s time, Montgomery launches the toy across the pool and the dog swiftly follows, jumping as far as it can. Some dogs are in the novice division, which means the dog can jump as far as 1 inch to 9 feet, 11 inches. Others are in the elite division, which means the dog can jump farther than 24 feet.

A whippet from Michigan named Slingshot set a Guinness World Record jump just a few weeks ago with a jump of 35 feet, 3 inches.

“It’s truly remarkable how far these dogs can jump but it all starts with great training and a great relationship,” Montgomery said.

While the sport takes place in the form of competition, the events are more like celebrations for dogs than they are hotly-anticipated events, Montgomery said.

“Winning is great but at the end of the day, this sport is about the enjoyment that the dog gets out of it,” he said.

“It’s all about getting them acclimated and making it fun for them because that’s what matters most. One of the reasons I got into it was for bonding with my dogs. Dogs don’t live forever and this is a fun way to make your dog happy.”

Those interested in attending North Florida Air Dogs’ first dog diving competition, the first splash is set to happen on Aug. 10 at 10 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. The following day, the competition continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is at 1730 Perry Rd. both days, and it’s free for spectators.

“We want to bring this sport to Clay County because not enough people know about it,” Montgomery said. “We want as many people as possible to come to our first competition so they can see just how much fun we have, so we encourage anyone that’s interested in the sport, or anyone who just wants to see some dogs have fun, to come out.”

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