People Behind the Pets showcases specific members of the animal community who have amazing stories to share. Recently, we spoke with Cheryl Johnson who is a member of Team Petcurean and Title DockDogs Champion (along with her pup Sync of course). They are currently ranked the Top Lapdog in Canada. In this edition of People Behind the Pets, Cheryl fills us in on the sport of DockDogs, how she and Sync got started and their ultimate goal.
Can you give a description of dock diving for our readers?
Dock diving is a canine aquatic sport involving 3 disciplines.
1. Big Air – the distance competition
2. Speed Retrieve – the speed competition
3. Extreme Vertical – the height competition
In Big Air the distance is measured using a camera that captures 90 frames a second and measures where the tailset of the dog enters the water. This point of entry is captured on camera and recorded. The handler/dog team has 2 jumps in each wave and the better of the recorded jumps is the one used. However, a team can compete in numerous waves throughout the weekend and the top 6 teams proceed to the Finals where a final winner will be determined.
There are categories for different ages and sizes of dogs. Sync and I compete in the Lapdog category, which is 17 inches or below at the shoulder. Sync jumps so far that she also competes among the big dogs too, often Malinois and Labradors etc.
How did you get started in the sport of DockDogs?
Sync and I started in DockDogs 4 years ago at Petapalooza in Victoria, BC. We entered on a whim only 10 minutes before registration was scheduled to end. Sync then went on to win the Lapdog category at that event and then two weeks later we entered our 2nd event in Comox, BC and won again in the LapDog category. The Comox event was a wild card event and by winning this event we earned an invitation to compete at the DockDogs World Championship in Dubuque, Iowa that same year in November. At the World Championship Sync went on to win 1st place! Only 3 months after she started competing!
What’s been your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?
Sync and I have had many accomplishments that I can say truly inspire me and make me so proud. But I would have to say that so far the most joyful moment for me came the very first year that we made it to the DockDogs World Championship in Dubuque, Iowa. Sync and I won 1st place and it quite literally shocked me! I had no idea what she had just jumped and when they announced that she had won I was too shocked to realize that I had to go up onto the dock and receive my trophy in front of hundreds of people. It was a magical moment indeed!
What’s your ultimate goal with Sync?
My long term goal is two-fold. First, I would like to have Sync become the very 1st Super Elite Titled Lapdog in the history of DockDogs. She needs only 1 more jump over 25 feet to attain this accomplishment!
My other goal is to make the Top 3 on the podium at Finals in the World Championship for 5 years in a row. This coming October will be our 4th attendance at Worlds and I am hoping to get Top 3 again.
What is the importance of pet nutrition in your sport and day to day life?
To us, pet nutrition is extremely important because it fuels Sync’s energy and gives her the stamina to keep going in competition and during all the rigorous training that she goes through year round. During the time that she has been eating Petcurean she has improved her distance jumps from 17 feet to 26’2 feet! That speaks volumes!
What has been your favourite memory while competing?
My absolute favourite memory is the event in Bakersfield California March 2017 when Sync jumped 26’2”! By far the most memorable for me and the most meaningful, as it was a tribute jump for two wonderful dogs who had recently died.
What has been your biggest learning curve in the sport?
My biggest learning curve has been to learn how to read Sync’s mood and to know when she has lots of feistiness in her and it’s those moments that I know that I need to make sure that I throw her ball out as far as I can. Because Sync will give me an incredibly long jump if I can throw the ball really far!
If she’s tired I need to bring her energy up! I need to get her really excited and get her really wanting to jump. I have had to learn lots of ways to keep her happy and yet competitive at the same time. She thrives on the energy of competition.
What kind of friendships and relationships have you made in the sport?
More than any other dog sport I have done, DockDogs has by far been the most incredibly rewarding in terms of friendships. I have been so fortunate that my cute little dog who loves jumping in the water for her ball has taken me to all these great cities and competitions all over North America. I have really great friends far and wide all the way from Seattle to Florida and back up into the East Coast of Canada and everywhere in between.
I can’t even express how awesome these DockDogs competitors are and how willing they are to help out a new dog who is just learning how to get its feet wet in a pool. These are the people that are the foundation of true kindness and generosity. We are all rooting for each other in competition and yet we all want to be winners. But no matter what happens or who wins, we still smile and say congratulations!
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