A canine long-jump champion in Savage will defend her national title in December.
Olive, a 9-year-old, medium-sized mix, is training for the American Kennel Club National Competition in Orlando. She won last year in the lap-class junior diving dog division with a leap of more than 8 feet — not bad for a pup about a foot tall.
“She’s been doing quite well in training this year,” nearing 9 feet on average, owner Alysha Riel said. “So I have high hopes.”
Diving dogs leap off of dock-like structures into large pools and compete in height, speed or distance, Riel said, much like humans’ high and long jumps. The biggest canine jumpers in different divisions can cross 20 or 30 feet, on par with or surpassing the winning human long jumpers at the 2016 Olympics.
“You’re starting to see it more and more on things like TV, and they have it at the State Fair,” said Kristin Elmquist, co-owner of The Dog Tank in Mendota Heights, where Olive practices. The facility hosts diving competition trials throughout the year and also offers obedience and performance training.
Riel said she bought Olive from a family on Craigslist and stumbled into competing after trying out a dock dive at a local dog show.
“She was a very fast little puppy; she was always eager to do stuff,” Riel said with a laugh. “And she needed a job.”
Training for the sport involves a few steps: Get attached to a toy, which is thrown off the dock for each jump; then get comfortable with the water, the ramp out of it and the leap itself.
“Ready, go, go, go, go, go!” Riel called out during a session Monday, tossing a bright orange toy into the tank. Olive hesitated less with each jump, snorting excitedly around her thoroughly chewed toy.
The sport isn’t limited to purebreds or other dog types, Riel said. All comers are simply separated into divisions and classes by size and capability.
Winning a competition means another trophy for Olive’s trophy shelf, not prize money, Riel added, though Olive has gotten sponsored by the dog vest company Xdog.
“Any dog can do it,” Riel said.