In the running to become top dog
EDWARDS — It’s a brilliant and warm weekday afternoon at the Edwards dog park, and there are about 10 dogs frolicking on the lawn, chasing balls and romping about, but border collie mix named Flour isn’t paying attention to any of it.
Her eyes are glued instead to a bright orange rubber toy in the hand of her owner, Benjamin Dale. The second Dale hurls the toy into the pond, Flour sprints off, leaping off some rocks and bounding into the water like a skipped stone to retrieve the toy. It’s just a typical day at the park for Dale and Flour, but it’s also important training time.
The two will travel to Dubuque, Iowa in mid-November to compete in the DockDogs World Championships in the Big Air competition. There, Flour will compete against other “pro” dogs to see which pooch can jump the furthest. Here’s how it works: The dog and owner start on a platform, where the dog gets a running start. The handler throws a “bumper,” or toy, into a long pool of water and the dog jumps in after it. The jumps are scored based on distance jumped.
Winning at the GoPro Games
Flour, 3, has just made it to what some might call the “big time” of DockDogs competition. At the DockDogs competition of the Vail GoPro Games in June, Dale, a 28-year-old Eagle-Vail resident, decided to enter Flour. She competed in the top category, where she soared with a jump of 27 feet, 9 inches.
The jump not only won her the competition, but also put her in ninth place worldwide for the longest jump. She was just about three feet off from the world record. Normally, dogs must compete in two national events to qualify for the World Championships, but Flour and Dale were invited to attend in November solely based on her GoPro performance.
“She loves the excitement of competition, and she’s not scared of the crowds,” said Dale. “She’s beat her own jumps every time she competes, and at the GoPro finals, with the cheering it seemed to help her jump even further. She was so riled up and barking by the time it was our turn, I think that’s why she won the whole competition.”
Dale wasn’t looking for a jumping champ when he first got Flour as a 10-week-old puppy. He knew he wanted a border collie, and a friend living near Grand Junction had two litters of puppies to give away. As he puts it, Flour chose him — while he was looking over the litter, Flour followed him around and wouldn’t leave him alone.
Starting at a young age
“I thought, ‘Well, I guess this is the one,’” he said, adding that he noticed her propensity for running and jumping even when she was younger. “As a puppy, I noticed she has this huge affection for tennis balls. She’d sprint after balls and come back. I had seen DockDogs and thought I could get her into it. I knew she had the ability, and she loved the water.”
The trick was getting her to jump in the water — her first year competing in DockDogs, she was scared to jump into the tank, stopping short of the water. So, Dale worked with her, practicing by throwing a toy a few inches into the water and letting her get comfortable. Soon, she was sailing in without hesitation.
“I think she’s just a one-of-a-kind border collie,” Dale said. “It’d be really cool to beat the world record someday — 31 feet. I think she could do that.”
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