Posted by: Shauna Farnell
The most beloved athletes at the Mountain Games – the four-legged ones – are getting a major status boost this year.
For the first time ever, the Mountain Games’ pooch contests – the Orijen DockDogs Outdoor Big Air, Dueling Dogs, Orijen DockDogs Extreme Vertical and Orijen DockDogs Speed Retrieve – are reaching national championship level.
What does this mean? For starters, it means that the winning dog in each competition will walk away (trot, scamper, bolt …) a national champion. The competition itself will be fierce with only the top-performing canines in the country in the line-up. Most importantly, the spectacle itself – the leaping, flying, swimming –will be more entertaining than ever before.
“We’re excited. It’s going to be fun,” said DockDogs Worldwide CEO Grant Reeves. “We’ve never had a national championship in Vail. We took the format of Joes vs. pros that the GoPro Mountain Games is known for and ramped it up. We took the top-ranked Joes from each division from the 2019 Mountain Games – those are the pros – and everyone else who is coming to beat them is the Joes.”
While the criteria is different than in previous years with pros showing up only by invitation and Joes showing up based on remaining registrations from last year’s (canceled) event, there is still a chance for the everyday Joes to enter the mix. Those secretly skilled canines who have only exhibited their talents in the privacy of their backyards or diving into alpine lakes can register for a Walk On Big Air Qualifier on Thursday, July 10. The best rookies will move on to compete against the pooches with previously proven talent.
“The special walk-on qualifier is for people who have never competed in DockDogs. We can handle up to 40 per wave. The top five will be invited to compete to potentially beat a Joe,” Reeves said.
In addition to earning the national champion title, dog and handler teams who make the podium in each discipline will be gunning for added cash prizes – $600 for the winner in Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve and $225 for the winner in Dueling Dogs, plus smaller purses for the second and third-place finishers.
“Due to COVID, this is the only national championship we’re having in the United States,” Reeves said. “There’s one in Canada and one in Australia, but this is the big event here. Probably 30 percent [of dog and handler teams] have attended the World Champs and there are probably 10 to 15 new competitors in addition to walk-ons. I think you’re going to see a lot of gunning for the pros in a good, spirited, fun rally. Because most of these dogs have not been able to compete in a year or so, there’s going to be a lot of energy. It’s going to be really fun to watch.”
For those unversed in how each contest plays out, the Extreme Vertical is essentially a high jump, in which dogs run off the dock and leap upward to grab a dangling bumper toy, the height of which goes up a notch as the competition progresses. The Speed Retrieve contest is based on time – how fast the dog can retrieve a toy from the water, racing off of the deck once a light turns green. Dueling Dogs is two dogs going head-to-head in the speed retrieve format and Big Air is a long jump, the winner being the dog who jumps the farthest off of the dock into the water after its handler throws a toy.
More information coming soon on DockDogs at the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail!
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