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High Performance Canine Athletes

Water: some dogs love it, some don’t.

And some win prizes for jumping into it. Take, for example Tommy D’s Limoncello—Cello to her friends and family—of southern New Jersey. While she’s no fan of guns (something of a problem for a hunting dog), the four-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer took to dock diving like a duck to, well, water.

In November, she’ll be among the dogs representing the U.S. at the DockDogs World Championship in Dubuque, Iowa. (Her little brother, one-year-old Hooch, following fast in her footsteps, recently qualified for two of the world championship events.)

DockDogs is open to all breeds and all sizes six months old or older. The dogs compete in three categories: Big Air (go long!), Extreme Vertical (go high!) and Speed Retrieve (go fast!). The Iron Dog ranking goes to dogs—like Cello—who participate in all three.

How does a canine athlete get to this level of performance? We asked Cello’s person, Jenny Beadling, who, along with her husband, Brian, handles coaching, conditioning, training, transportation, housing, meal and dog-love duties.

Bark: How do you train Cello and Hooch?

Jenny Beadling: Most DockDogs events take place on the weekend, so Mondays are their rest days. We work with them Tuesday through Thursday; Fridays are more relaxed (walking or playing with toys). We do a variety of stretching, cardio, strength and stability training and exercises with the dogs. Also, we live in a log cabin on a lake, so we installed a 40-foot runway and an Extreme Vertical rig on our dock.

B: What’s a typical competition day look like?

JB: GSPs are on the “top 10” list for bloat, so on competition days, we wake up in the wee hours to feed them a very, very small amount of kibble. Throughout the day, they get small pieces of TurboPup bars for nutrition and sustained energy. A few hours after the completion, they get a full “regular” meal, a mixture of Orijen kibble; either salmon or coconut oil; Nupro supplement; and one of the following: ground bison, ground lamb, an egg or wild-caught salmon (all fresh-cooked, organic and humanely raised). We also make sure they get a warm-up and a cool-down before each jump of their competition, as well as stretching time.

B: How do you deal with weather-related issues?

JB: Keeping the dogs hydrated is really important. They drink bottled water, and if they’re not drinking enough, we give them watermelon throughout the day (a trick we learned from our agility instructor). When it’s warm, we shade their crates with reflective cloth and use crate fans, and when it’s cold, we dry them thoroughly and get them into their Trover coats, double-lined fleece coats made in England that have great wicking and thermal qualities.

B: How big a problem are injuries in this sport?

JB: Injuries are always a concern and something we worry about, but we’ve been fortunate; neither Cello nor Hooch has been injured so far. The most common thing we’ve seen in other dogs at competitions is called “cold tail” or “dead tail,” which some say is caused by overexertion. 

B: What kind of proactive steps do you take to prevent injuries?

JB: We provide the dogs with appropriate high-quality nutrition and are diligent about their training, which helps them avoid “weekend warrior”-type of injuries. We also keep in close contact with our vet; she does the dogs’ joint and hip checks. It’s time-consuming, but well worth it to us. 

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Photos by Brian Beadling

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