Sable may be just three and a half years old, but in dog years, she is in the prime of her athletic career, especially when it comes to dock jumping.
The oil-black Labrador from Whistler, along with her owner and trainer, Sherri Fleck, are getting set for Friday (Nov. 16) when they compete in their first 2012 DockDogs World Championships.
Fleck and Sable have been training for the past two years, working on their sit, stays and leaping. They have been looking forward to the World Championships ever since Sable first leapt into dock jumping two years ago. Despite hours of training on Whistler docks and the pressure of competition, the pair is determined not to go into the event with high expectations.
“This being our first World Championships, we’re just excited to make the cut. We don’t have specific goals other than getting a feel for the competition level and talent. If we do well this year, then next year we’ll work on setting on setting podium goals.”
To say dock jumping is simply luring a dog off a piece of wood would be a severe understatement. The World Championships are the ultimate — an international canine sporting event with world records at stake.
Teams have three different competitions to choose from. Extreme Vertical measures jumping height, Speed Retrieve is based on time and Big Air is like long jump for dogs. Those who excel in all three disciplines could qualify for the Iron Dog competition.
Foregoing Iron Dog, Sable will be competing in Speed Retrieve, going into the competition ranked 34th in the world. Speed Retrieve, introduced in 2008, is a timed event. At the far end of the pool, a toy is suspended above the water with a starting indicator above it. The dog is then placed at the 20-foot mark on the dock. When the light turns green, the handler releases the dog and leaps for the toy. The time clock stops ticking when the dog has pulled the toy from the Speed Retrieve bracket.
When Fleck first tried this with Sable, she was pleasantly surprised by her enthusiasm for the sport.
“It was something we came upon by accident. Being that we live in Whistler we were always playing in the water and jumping off docks. I sent a few pictures to Sable’s breeder and she suggested that we enter a competition. Sable did her first event two years ago and she really took to it, so we kept competing. Now she is one of the best speed retrievers in the world.”
Fleck has always been interested in dog obedience, but it wasn’t until she brought Sable home over three years ago that she started seriously thinking about training. Fleck started with clicker training and has since taken several obedience courses. She is also in the midst of opening a dog agility and obedience business in Whistler, a project she hopes to expand once she and Sable return home from competition.
The 2012 DockDogs World Championships will be aired on ESPN throughout the weekend. For further information about Fleck’s new dog obedience course, email email@example.com.