EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Contestants brought dogs of all ages to the DockDogs tournament Saturday, July 31, at the 33rd Annual Cats Incredible Tournament at LaFave Park in East Grand Forks.
People filled grandstands near the Red River to watch dogs compete for the longest jump into a nearly 40-foot-long pool, as well as attempt to break the world record of 32 feet in a single jump.
The dogs were led by their masters, consisting of men, women and even kids, who enticed their canine companions to line up one after another as they walked onto an impromptu stage made of turf before leaping into the pool. As part of the enticement, a chew toy, rope or toy bird was tossed into the pool before them.
Grand Forks resident Matt Walkowiak, owner of Ground Round Grill & Bar, and his 4-year-old black Labrador retriever, Zoey, have competed in dog-jumping events for three years, although they had not competed in an official DockDogs event until this weekend.
“We’re pretty novice,” Walkowiak said. “We don’t do a lot of training, but we do a lot of recreational jumping off the dock. It’s just something to do with your dog to get some exercise. They like interacting. They like performing. Normally we do hunting, so this is our summer sport.”
Walkowiak said he and Zoey are still getting the hang of the competitions, but — at least for them — it is more about fun and exercise than anything else.
DockDogs started in 2000 "to create a nationally recognized competitive sport based on rules and precedents in track and field competitions," the organization's website states.
Jeff Lundeby, another Grand Forks resident who competed Saturday, is more experienced, having competed in DockDogs events for more than six years. He competed with three dogs — a black Labrador retriever named Jet, a yellow Labrador retriever named Indy and his friend’s yellow red fox Labrador retriever named Riley — in the event this weekend.
“I always joke that my kids don’t want to hang out with me, but my dogs still think I’m fun. So, I kind of run with it,” Lundeby said. “It’s just great. I get to travel around and see a lot of people from all over the country, and a lot of the same people.”
Lundeby will compete various dogs in six events this year, the first of which was in Purcell, Oklahoma. After this weekend, he will compete in another event in Minot, North Dakota. He said he trains his dogs by keeping them active and teaching them commands.
“It’s just mainly keeping your dog in shape and (making) them listen to you,” Lundeby said. “Getting them to stay on the dock is the hardest part for me. They’ll stay anywhere down here, but when you get up there, they’re too excited.”
There was also a tent at the event where people could sign up dogs for future events. Lundeby said getting involved and competing is an easy process, and other competitors are happy to help.
“If people want to get into this, it’s a very supportive group,” Lundeby said. “As long as there’s time between events, they are more than willing to help get your dog in the water. It’s just a lot of fun.”