It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's "Dock Dog!"

One of today's fastest growing canine contests nationwide, dock jumping competitions attract thousands of dogs, owners and spectators to this relatively new sport. The sport consists of a dog running down a dock and jumping into a body of water. The dog with the longest or highest leap wins.

In the "Big Air" category, the handler throws a floating toy into a specially constructed pool, the dog runs down a 40-foot dock at full steam and jumps into the water after the toy. "Extreme Vertical" events consist of suspending a bumper above the dock that the dog must jump up and grab. A new category making its debut in 2008, "Speed Retrieve" pits the pooch against the clock in a timed event consisting of the dog's placement, release, jump and waterfowl fetch.

Getting started

Any size or breed of dog can participate. Camaraderie, confidence and conditioning, coupled with a sheer joy of jumping and splashing, make for a successful dock jumping team. The best way to get started is to just show up.

In Minnesota, dog owners can find education and training by joining DockDogs Northern Stars. Since 2002, the club has hosted events throughout the state. As the oldest DockDog club in the country, it currently boasts about 60 members who receive a monthly newsletter, competitor's packet, current rules, opportunities to organize events and savings on competition fees.

"Come to an event and jump your dog," said DockDogs Northern Stars President Cyndi Porter. "Unlike a lot of other sports where you go through training, you can just get up on the dock and give it a try. Other people are there to help, and you get pointers to go home with."

Fun for all dogs

From novice to veteran, and lap dog to Labrador, any dog can be a successful dock-jumping dog. Medals, ribbons, Cabela's gift certificates and bragging rights await you.

"Contrary to popular belief, we really celebrate the dogs that don't jump far," Porter said. (For the record, Porter's 4-year-old Golden Retriever, Murphy, has the nation's longest jump for his breed. He was electronically scored at 24 feet, 8 inches.)

Porter says she expects this fun canine activity to continue to grow by leaps and bounds. "I can travel with my dog and compete in a sport that is as dependent on my dog as it is on me," Porter said. "It's a great way to socialize with people and bring your dog. I can't say enough great things about it. What better way than to spend time doing something that your dog loves to do?"

LaDonna Seely is a volunteer for A Rotta Love Plus,, an award winning rottweiler and pit bull rescue, adoption and education organization.