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Dock diving takes a simple game to a refreshing new level
Steve Mize, a Jefferson resident, encourages Lady Marion to jump off the dock. - photo by Carolyn Crist

The Fishing Creek Outfitters Throwdown

Where: Fishing Creek Outfitters, 201 Roberson Mill Road, Milledgeville
When: Aug. 28-30

Sally can jump 21 feet, Lady Marion can jump off the dock and Blaze is still getting used to the water.

These dogs of North Georgia are learning the sport of dock diving, and they'll start competing in August.

"I was watching great outdoor games on ESPN in 2000 and thought, ‘one day I'm going to do that.' And now we are," said Nancy Akin, coordinator of Dixie Dock Dogs.

The organization meets at Lake Lucerne, Lake Oconee, Lake Allatoona and Villa Rica on Sundays to encourage members' dogs to catch toys thrown off the end of a dock.

The group is hosting its first event in Milledgeville in August, boasting a 40-foot competition pool and showcasing 100 dogs.

The event will support canine charities such as Chase Away Canine Cancer, a cancer prevention and treatment organization, and Helping Paws Rescue, a foster organization.

Akin said her brown Labrador retriever named Sally began jumping two years ago and was "a natural."

"She flew 13 feet at her first jump," Akin said. "Her record jump is 21 feet and now she gets an intense look on her face every time she goes to the dock."

Kathy Rakestraw, a Gainesville resident, joined the group a month ago and is training her dogs Rio and Blaze to jump.

"Rio, a black Lab, is doing agility training and loves to swim, so I wanted to complement it," Rakestraw said. "Blaze, an 18-month-old greyhound, is just getting used to fetching in the water, but it's unusual for a greyhound to be swimming like this anyway."

Dixie Dock Dogs welcomes dogs of all shapes and sizes, unlike many groups that only allow registered Labradors to jump.

"One of our members brought out a Yorkie with his lab," Rakestraw said. "Any dog can do it; you just have to work with them. The swimming is so good for them, too."

Rakestraw said her goal is for both dogs to be certified in agility, dock diving, obedience and freestyle sports.

"I like the idea of really well-rounded dogs who have done a little bit of everything," she said. "Rio would be a basket case if she didn't do the agility trials because she's around different dogs, people and situations each week. I tell people these exercises really help nervous dogs to build confidence."

Rakestraw said the events are just as fun for the owners.

"I spend a lot of my free time doing this, so I feel like a soccer mom of dogs," Rakestraw laughed. "The great thing is that I've met some of my best friends doing this. You find like-minded people who are crazy enough to spend this much time with their dogs."

Steve Mize of Jefferson began training his mixed black Lab, Lady Marion, to jump on Sunday and bought a new chocolate Labrador last week to train in a year. Willow is still getting used to the water, but Lady jumped off the dock on her own for the first time on Sunday.

"Usually I have to get in the water and get her to jump in with me," Mize said. "It's funny how we get more excited about dogs making their first jumps than one that jumps 20 feet all the time."

Akin said she hopes the group, which has more than 20 members, will continue to expand following August's event.

"I'd like to get a group started in South Georgia because I get inquiries from down there and Florida all the time," she said. "Then we could do fun jumps, competitions and festivals. As it's getting more popular in the South, we're looking for sponsors for these events."

For now, the owners are working on getting their dogs ready.

"I'm not forcing her to jump in yet," Rakestraw said, using a ball to entice a disinterested Rio from the dock. "I'm doing this for fun. She's only 4, so I have time."

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