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Dock diving event begins Friday
Canine challenge first for Forsyth
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Forsyth County News

If you go
What: Rucker Jump Into Summer, a DockDogs competition
When: Friday-Sunday; competition round times vary
Where: Rucker Horse & Pet, 5456 Bethelview Road
Cost: $10 for a practice session; $20 per contest wave in advance; free to watch

Lacey is a natural at diving.

The 2-year-old Australian Shepherd dog always enjoyed jumping off a boat into Lake Lanier, said owner Tracy McClain.

When McClain discovered a competition based around Lacey's love, it wasn't long before the two were out on the dock with Lacey trying for the longest jump into the water.

"She just took right to it," McClain said. "She loves it. It's her favorite sport to compete in."

The Forsyth County owner-dog team will be one of hundreds competing in the upcoming Dixie DockDogs "Rucker Jump Into Summer."

This coming Friday through Sunday at a pool at Rucker Horse & Pet off Bethelview Road, dogs will be jumping, leaping and swimming for the top numbers in their division.

The event will also be raising money for the charity Chase Away K9 Cancer.

The north Georgia affiliate club, Dixie DockDogs, is holding the regional event sanctioned by the national organization, DockDogs.

Nancy Akin, a club founder and event organizer, said this is the group's first event in Forsyth County.

"A big part of this competition is to get the local people to bring their dogs out and try it," Akin said. "They will all be trying big air -- getting their dog to jump off the dock for distance."

Dogs can compete in three different contests, including big air, extreme vertical and speed retrieve.

Big air, the most popular competition, measures how far a dog can jump horizontally off the end of a dock.

The extreme vertical contest tests the height of a dog's leap into the air, and the speed retrieve event measures how fast a dog swims to retrieve a toy from the other end of the pool.

Dogs are judged within their division, which is determined by their ability.

"Let's say a new person comes out and their dog jumps 7 feet. Then they're in the novice division," Akin said.

"They won't be competing against the dogs that are jumping 20 and 22 feet, only against other novice jumpers. Everyone has a chance to do equally well within their own division."

Big air divisional finals will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, and cash prizes will be awarded for the top three jumpers in each division.

First-timers are encouraged to try a practice session, which will also be available in the mornings and between competition waves for $10.

Some dog breeds are more typically seen at competitions, such as retrievers, border collies and Jack Russell terriers, Akin said, but any type of dog can dock dive.

"There are also a lot of rescue dogs in dock diving because it really works on the dog's confidence," she said.

Akin, a Watkinsville resident, has four labrador retrievers, two of which compete in dock diving.

She and her husband started the local affiliate club, Dixie, in spring 2008, and the group has about 90 members in metro Atlanta.

McClain, a Forsyth County member, first tried dock diving with Lacey at a competition last summer. Lacey won in her division.

She said Lacey and her other dog compete in agility and obedience events as well.

While those competitions require a lot of training, she said, dock diving takes only a little training and a dog who loves the water.

When Lacey is waiting for her turn to jump, McClain said, "she can hardly control herself" because she's so excited.

McClain said she most enjoys the companionship with Lacey during the competitions.

"There's a relationship that you build with your dog when you compete," she said. "It's all about the fun. It's not about whether you win or lose."

Akin agreed that fun is the only way to describe the competitions.

"When you see a dog jump off that dock 20, 22, 23 feet, and the crowd goes 'whoa,' it's just so cool," Akin said.

"It's just really great family atmosphere for fun and entertainment."