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Dogs make the leap into competitive dock diving in Hamptons

A dog leaps off the mark at a

A dog leaps off the mark at a dock diving competition. Credit: Precise Video Productions / Jim Zelasko

Leapin’ Labradors! (Not to mention dog-paddlin’ Pekes and divin’ dachshunds.)

At the East End’s first-ever Hurricane Dock Diving competition, they’ll not only let the dogs out, they’ll also let them swim in the pool.

Dogs of all breeds and athletic ability are expected to arrive from near and far to run, jump and swim for prizes. A special “Olympic Village” with a 40-foot dock and a 40-by-20-foot pool will be set up for practice and competition on the Westhampton Beach High School grounds. Spectators can watch from the sidelines of the dock and pool. They’ll also enjoy a festival atmosphere featuring food vendors, Frisbee demonstrations and a bouncy house for kids.


Dock diving is a relatively new canine sport, which has become an international phenomenon, according to DockDogs Worldwide of Medina, Ohio, the competition’s international sanctioning body. DockDogs sanctions multiple dock-diving competitions every weekend at state and county fairs throughout the United States, and in the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and Australia.

“It’s Westminster for swimming dogs,” says Amanda Gill, a DockDogs spokeswoman.

Events in Westhampton Beach include the Big Air running long jump; the Extreme Vertical high jump, and Speed Retrieve, a timed event in which dogs run, jump and swim to retrieve a toy. To compete, pets must be at least 6 months old and human handlers at least 7 years old. First-timers and rookies are welcome.


Among the competitors at the Westhampton Beach event: Cody, a 2-year-old bluenose American pit bull terrier. Nancy E. Hassel of Babylon, founder and president of American Pet Professionals, a business networking group, adopted Cody last year from the Islip Town shelter. He learned to swim at a doggy camp, and dock dove for the first time in May at a dog show at the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay.

After a bit of poolside hesitation, Cody warmed to the experience, his owner says.

“It took him about three rounds, but he was so excited about being in the water that he nearly knocked me over trying to get into the pool,” Hassel says. She’s a fan of dock diving, which she calls “less stressful than Frisbee or agility.”

Grant Reeves, chief executive of DockDogs Worldwide, says dock divers should like the water and have a strong drive to retrieve toys. Owners aren’t permitted to push their pets into the water. “The dogs have to go in under their own momentum,” Reeves says.

Both winners and losers take home a laurel.

“Everybody wins a participation medallion, and the top three in each event win a bigger medallion,” Reeves says. Like other DockDogs-sanctioned competitions, Westhampton Beach is a qualifier for an invitation to the world championship, held in the second week of November in Dubuque, Iowa.


Unsure whether your dog will take to the water? You and your pet can try practice runs the day before the big show. Register at 2 p.m. for a practice beginning at 2:30 p.m.


Dog Film Festival

WHEN | WHERE 4 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2 at Guild Hall in East Hampton

INFO 802-442-2007,

ADMISSION $15 ($10 younger than 12) per session

Dog-lovers can see a range of canine-centric films — shorts, documentaries, live-actions — in the Hamptons leg of this film festival, which is on a 12-city national tour. Screenings include the Weimaraner-centric “The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold,” and PBS’s “Second Chances,” which highlights a program that pairs animals with inmates. Half the ticket sales benefit the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.

Hurricane Dock Diving

WHEN | WHERE 4-6:30 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, July 29-30 with newbie/practice time available at 2-4 p.m. Friday and as time allows between competitions Saturday at Westhampton Beach High School, 49 Lilac Rd., Westhampton Beach

INFO 631-288-1486,



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