Saturday, July 27, 2013

CA State Fair Championship Series Dock Diving Competition

Photo by Josh Balon

On July 14th, I took Pi to the California State Fair to participate in the Splash Dogs dock diving competition. This was only his second dock diving event ever, and it was being held in a much more crowded environment with a lot of distractions so I wasn't sure how he would do.

It turns out I was the one who ended up having issues with stage fright. Pi gets very excited when he sees other dogs running off the dock, so once he knew what we were there for he was good to go. There were two "splashes" that day, not counting the finals competition, and Pi was entered in both.

For those who are not familiar with the sport of dock diving, each event is called a "splash" and depending on the number of dogs entered, each splash will consist of one or more "waves" or "heats" consisting of around 10 dogs per wave. Each dog is allowed up to two launches off the dock per splash, but only the longer of the two jumps is counted as your final score for placement at the end of the splash. There are five competition divisions: splash (0'1"-9'11"), junior (10'0"-14'11"), senior (15'0"-19'11"), pro (20'0"-22'11") and extreme (23' and above), so the distance the dog jumps will determine which division he/she gets ranked in for that splash. The distance jumped is measured by where the base of the dog's tail enters the water. At the very end of a series of splashes there is usually a finals competition. Only the top ten placing dogs from each splash/wave are allowed to jump in finals.

At his first Splash Dogs event in Hollister, Pi competed at the splash division level, with a long jump of 9'11", just one inch shy of the junior division. Well, this time around having had some prior experience, he was making jumps far outside of the splash division and into the junior division, the most competitive division of all.

Photos by Josh Balon

His first official jump off the dock was short, only 9'6", which was my fault because I only tossed his toy a short distance away from the edge of the dock. His second jump,and the one that was recorded for that splash was two feet longer, I threw the toy further and he jumped 11'8". What I discovered at that point was that Pi was jumping as far as I was throwing his toy. So, my strategy for the next splash was to see how far I could get him to jump based on how far I threw the toy. I had to be careful because his confidence is still building and I did not want to discourage him by throwing it too far.

The second splash started a few hours later and Pi drew the first wave for the second time. I got him riled up and excited about his toy as we entered the dock, and threw it at about 13 or 14 feet away from the dock, which is at the high end of the junior distance division. Sure enough, Pi jumped the furthest he has ever jumped, 14 feet 10 inches, putting him in first place in the junior division and securing him a spot in the finals later that day.

Photos by Josh Balon

The day was quite long, so I wasn't sure how Pi would do once finals came around. He was assigned the last jump in the junior division finals, probably because he had placed first in the preceding splash. I've never been very good at throwing, and I ended up tossing his toy quite a bit further than I should have, which caused Pi to hesitate before he jumped. Even for his second jump he wasn't able to top the 14 footer he had before, and with the lead dog jumping at over 15 feet, Pi had to settle for a fourth place finish in the finals with a jump of 12'6".

Even though he couldn't pull off a longer jump in the finals I could not have been prouder and happier with him that day. We both have a lot more to learn and perfect, and hopefully we will have that opportunity before the summer's end. It is my hope that the weather will stay warm enough that Pi can jump in the Splash Dogs Nationals in Reno this September.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Swimming, swimming, and more swimming

Ever since Pi learned how to swim, I've been working hard to try and get the other hounds to swim as well.

I've succeeded in getting Gil to jump into the pool for food; not the best motivator for this kind of activity, but I'm hoping eventually he will start jumping in for the sheer joy of playing in the water.

Pi's sister Patti is also making progress, although not as quickly as her brother and father. She did very well her first time in the pool; there was very little panicking (although the pictures may be deceiving), and even when she was allowed to get out of the pool she remained interested in the water and stayed close to the pool's edge.

She's been showing interest in jumping for food, but still needs some encouragement. Hopefully she will follow Gil's lead, and then eventually start coming in for toys. Patti loves her toys, which is something she and Pi have in common, and will play fetch with a frisbee. These are all good signs that she will eventually learn to retrieve from the water.

Hattie the Greyhound, on the other hand, would just rather be a land shark :-)

"Save me!"

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dock Diving

As mentioned in my last post, Pi has spent most of the summer learning how to swim. He had always been curious about the water, but was never much of a swimmer. Temperatures in the California central valley can reach high triple digits in the summertime, making it nearly impossible to exercise the dogs even in the evening on some days. As such, I decided it would be a great idea to teach the dogs how to swim since a good friend of mine happens to have a swimming pool.

It only took Pi a few days to learn how to swim, and only a few days after that to get enough confidence to start jumping in the pool on his own. He now swims very proficiently and without a life jacket. Because he was such a fast learner I thought it might a good idea to see if he would be at all interested in learning how to jump off of a dock. I have a lot of friends who enjoy the sport with their dogs, and since the Magyar Agar is such a rare breed it's always nice to try and reach new milestones with them and get them out in the public eye.

So, we headed down to the Doggone Dirty Dock Diving Facility in Hollister on Sunday, July 7th to give it a try. I was a little worried when we finally got down there because it was actually foggy and the weather forecast only showed a high of 85 for the day. I had no idea whether or not Pi would be comfortable jumping off a dock, let alone into potentially cooler water than he was used to.

Turns out I needn't have worried, because he took right to it once I figured out what his "on switch" was. The dock is about two and half feet off the top of the water, which is a bit intimidating for most dogs at first. But, I found that if I threw the toy out first, and then pulled him back away from the edge, giving him a running start, he was much more confident about jumping in.

Pi jumped in two waves, with his longest distance being 9 feet 11 inches, just one inch below the junior level jumping division. That jump earned him first place out of three dogs in his division. Hopefully he will continue to improve, and of course, continue to have fun.