In May of 2011, I attended my first DockDogs event in North Vernon, Indiana, with 2 of my dogs – Summit and Grit. Little did I know the vast impact that this organization and the people involved with it would subsequently have on my life. That event was the first time my Malinois, Grit, had ever gone off of a competition dock.
A troubled dog, Grit had entered my life of his own free will…by running from his former owner into an enclosure with my dogs, and refusing to leave. He had been badly mistreated and didn’t trust men. He was not at all fond of strangers. He didn’t like the city. The only things he wanted in his life were me and my other dogs. Being a trainer myself, I knew that flipping a dog that had been imprinted so badly was going to be a challenge. I provided him with a strong foundation in Obedience and Agility, but with Grit’s level of over-the-top prey-drive, he needed an additional outlet. I’m not even 100% sure that he knew he was heading into water the first time he sailed off of the dock…all he knew was that the bumper was moving, and he was going after it! Once was all it took. As if a light bulb went off in his head, he began sailing off of the dock for his bumper as many times as I was willing to throw it.
At that first event in Indiana, I didn’t know anyone. The initial thing that really struck me was how, apparently, that didn’t matter at all. The DockDogs staff was SO helpful. They found out it was my first DD event, and went absolutely out of their way to take me under their wing and show me the ropes. I’m still friends today with many of the people that I met at that event. Furthermore, when people saw Grit’s uncertainty with the crowds of strangers, they didn’t hesitate to assist me in desensitizing him. I didn’t even have to ask. These people immediately understood how to act around a dog like him, and by the end of that first day, Grit was loving life, and was just as happy as Summit to be a DockDog – as you can see in this photo from that day.
The subsequent years of my involvement with DockDogs have not only seen Grit become a happy and confident competitor, but have helped me train up my current team of 5 – Summit, Grit, Raven, Vice, and Wiley – aka, “Team Rebel”. We now travel near and far to competitions, and have been invited to compete at Worlds for two years in a row.
Because of DockDogs, I not only have a wonderful energy outlet for my high-drive dogs, but I also have friends from all over the US and Canada – my DockDogs “family”. Truly, the relationships forged with the other competitors in this sport are like none other. I’ve never seen another sport where the competitors cheer each other on, go out of their way to help one another, and are legitimately such good friends on and off the dock. I’m proud to be a part of an organization like that, and am ever mindful to pay that friendliness forward to others who are new to the sport.
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