More than a dozen barking guests are making waves in Statesboro this weekend — a lot of them, in fact.
A pack of Golden Retrievers, Chocolate Labs, and even a hound or two have all converged, owners in-tow, to participate in a regional dock-jumping competition hosted by the national organization “dockdogs.”
The two-day event, dubbed Anderson’s Spring Fling, is being held throughout Friday and Saturday on the lawn of Anderson’s General Store on U.S. Highway 80 East.
As can often be seen on popular television networks like ESPN and The Outdoor Channel, canine competitors are taking turns launching themselves from a 40-foot dock and into a pool to catch and retrieve their favorite toy.
They do so while owners watch to see which of the best friends can jump the highest and farthest.
Dockdogs is making its debut in Statesboro and is introducing the sport to anyone with a notion to stop by at the free event.
“Dockdogs is the fun sport of you with your dog, jumping off a dock. It is something we all grew up doing in lakes and ponds around the state,” said Steve Mize, who competes with his dog, Willow, and serves as an announcer at regional events. “It is just me and my dog. It’s fun. It is a real family atmosphere here and everyone can participate. Everyone gets ribbons and everyone goes home with a happy dog. My dog has never once asked me what place she has finished. She just has a great time.”
According to Mize, regular members of the organization have traveled from around the state and country to participate in a variety of skills competitions this weekend.
Individuals who comprise the “Dixie Dogs,” the Georgia Chapter of dockdogs, have come from as far as Dublin, Augusta, Decatur, and Athens to take part, he said. The event has also drawn out-of-state participants.
Even locals are getting in on the action.
“We have got folks that have just driven by, saw the dock and stopped by to compete or learn,” Mize said.
Once action ramps up at the dock — Friday, competitions were held every two hours, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until 5 p.m. — dogs and handlers have a range of activities to choose from.
Dogs vie to see who can leap the farthest, bolting from a stall position near the start of the dock and springing off at the last second in the Big Air Wave competitions — footage is marked on the pool’s side and results are measured with a camera.
They also compete for bragging rights in Extreme Vertical — an event that features participants trying to reach a toy suspended more than four feet in the air, eight feet from the dock.
A third competition, Speed Retrieve, tests how quickly dogs can move from the dock’s edge to a toy suspended the end of the pool.
One by one, dogs and their owners take their turn, each leaving the dock with a smiling face or wagging tail.
“You’ll never get rich at this, but what a great way to spend an afternoon playing with your dog,” said Matt Bohn, who along with his dog, Flyer, traveled from Dayton, Ohio to enjoy the weekend. “We have had a great time down here.”
Bohn says he, like others at Anderson’s, love participating for the fun and comradery events like the Spring Fling offer.
“We travel all over the country for events. We go all over. We’ve been as far west as Iowa, as far north as Michigan and as far south as Florida,” he said. “We just enjoy being around the people. Everyone is out here to have a good time with their dogs. Everyone out here cheers for everyone else even though we’re against each other.”
Because a significant portion of the national organizations members are already registered for a national points-earning event elsewhere this weekend, the Statesboro competition presents a unique opportunity for dogs and owners still learning the ropes.
Many individuals took time Friday to teach their canine partner how to compete in dock-jumping activities and enter multiple competitions.
Georgia Southern University student Drake Smallwood put his one-year-old Black Lab, Flint, to the test.
“I happened to know the Anderson’s here, and they told me about the event,” Smallwood said. “My dog is really athletic but he has never done this before.”
“I just wanted to come out here and see how (Flint) would do,” he said. “I am enjoying myself and we are having a lot of fun.”
Bohn, whose pup, Flyer, took home ribbons for standout performance in all categories, said the sport is more accessible than most people think.
“It is really easy to train your dog for this,” he said. “Any dog that likes the water and likes toys can do this. It does take a little effort though. I have been doing this for three years now. I love it.”
Mize said anyone who is interested in doing so, may participate and enter into any competition.
Dogs are placed into one of six categories based on size, he said.
Though, only ten walk-up spots are available per Wave and cost $30 per team.
Still, people are welcome to watch from bleachers all day at no cost.
Saturday, the event will showcase five competitions — Speed Retrieve at 9:30 a.m., Big Air Wave competitions at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and finals for both categories at 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
For more information about dockdogs, people can visit the group’s website at www.dockdogs.com.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.