Go ahead and jump, the song said over the loudspeaker.
But not all the canines who participated in the DockDogs jumping contest Saturday at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center were heeding Van Halen’s or their masters’ commands to leap into the pool.
Dakota, for instance, ran much of the length of the dock before halting at the edge of the water.
The 1-year-old golden retriever was just a little nervous, explained her master, Bonners Ferry resident Austin Crane, 14, after Dakota’s first attempt.
“Normally, she goes right away,” said Crane, who is training Dakota to be his duck and grouse hunting assistant. “She’s just got to get used to all the dogs.”
About 200 canines will compete in the contest, which appears to be the main attraction of this year’s Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show. A few hundred people crowded around the pool for three competitions on Saturday.
Buzz, the Chesapeake Bay retriever from Amboy, Wash., competes in dog shows and DockDogs. Buzz prefers jumping to obedience, says his master, Dee Morasco. (Despite his weight of 110 pounds, Buzz barely missed qualifying for the finals on his first jump.)
“He just loves to do it,” Morasco said. “He likes this better.”
There was a wide range of ability among the contestants, most of whom were water-loving retrievers like Buzz.
All breeds are allowed, no matter the size.
In fact, there were few limitations keeping dogs from jumping. The only canines asked not to participate (or be near the males waiting their turns, for that matter) are females in heat.
Most of the dogs and masters who came to Big Horn were from the Inland Northwest and trying it for the first time.
“We just want the local people to bring their dogs out,” said Randy Woods, DockDogs operations manager. “That’s what it’s all about, family and fun with the family pet.”
DockDogs, which was started five years ago, is kind of like the NASCAR of canine athletics. It creates the rules and holds events across the country.
Woods was in the stands Saturday watching slow motion video on his laptop to judge where each dog’s rear made entry into the pool.
The dogs with the 12 longest leaps will compete today in the finals. By the end of Saturday, the top dozen jumps were over 18 feet. (Woods said the record for the longest canine jump in an indoor setting is 24 feet, 7 inches.)
Carl Lewis, of Kirkland, started taking Gunner, his 2-year-old black Labrador, to jumping events last year. Gunner pulled sleds with weight this winter for training and has lost a few pounds.
Saturday, however, Gunner was slowing down at the edge of the dock, making for shorter jumps.
“Some days they want to jump, and some days it’s not their thing,” Lewis said. “It’s just like people, we all have our days.”