Dog dive summer

Pooches compete in the 2017 Splashdown Double Header

BENNINGTON — Dogs and their owners traveled from near and far to jump and make a splash at the 2017 Splashdown Double Header.

Participants had an opportunity to compete through four different sessions, "Dueling Dogs," "Big Air," "Extreme Vertical," and "Speed Retrieve" for a chance to qualify for the 2017 DockDogs World Championship.

Those pooches who qualify will be traveling to Knoxville, Tenn. in October to compete in the world championship.

Owners threw toys into the water to entice their dog into a dive. Depending on the event, dogs were judged by their distance, height, and speed.

The competition was held by the Green Mountain DockDogs at the "Splashes N Wags canine aquatic facility" on Phyllis Lane. The location offers a place for dogs to get some exercise, have fun, and pick up new skills.

Splashes N Wags is one of nine facilities affiliated with the national DockDogs organization and was offered a chance to host this year's qualifiers.

"It's a sport that both the dog and handler have a passion for," said Mark Krause, member of Green Mountain DockDogs. "It's where humans and dogs come together."

She also believes that the sport can help bring people together.

Although dogs spend many hours training and mastering the sport, sometimes, they can get a little hesitant before making the big leap. Their trainers may need to talk their pooch into diving and sometimes a little applause from the crowd can help. Other times a dog just won't jump — it can be because of obedience, a lack of confidence, or even anxiety, said Beth Sausville, president of Green Mountain DockDogs.

A dog's level of excitement can impact performance, especially in events where timing is key. If a dog is too eager to chase after their toy, it can be difficult for competitors to get the desired results.

"Even your most well-behaved dog can get crazy," Sausville said.

The event drew participants come from as far away as Tennessee and Wisconsin, though many people were from the immediate area.

Chelsea Francoolino and her team traveled from Moodus, Conn. It was their second time competing in DockDogs with their dog Bailey. Francoolino also brought along another dog who acted as a cheerleader for the team. Bailey is obsessed with the sport, she said.

"It's been a lot of fun," Francoolino said. "Everyone is so friendly here."

Janet Lindsey traveled from Belchertown, MAss. This year marked the third summer that she and her pooch have been involved with the sport.

"It's so low key and everyone's kind," Lindsey said. "We've had a ton of fun."

Green Mountain DockDogs offers $10 "Newbie Classes" for beginners. Dog owners get a chance to see how the sport works. Sausville said that dogs usually end up jumping before the end of the first class; the class fee can be upgraded to a membership.

Green Mountain DockDogs was formed in January 2012. Its first event was held at Lake Paran in North Bennington. One year later, the group opened the pool at Splashes N Wags and have hosted events at the facility ever since.

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