NORTH BENNINGTON -- The fastest growing canine sport in the world is making a splash in Lake Paran this weekend.
The Green Mountain Dock Dogs club will hold its first official event, The Lake Paran Paw Plunge, on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dogs who love to swim -- and their owners who are looking for a fun way to spend some outdoor time with every member of the family -- are jumping in, for both height and distance.
All are welcome to join in or watch, as dogs of every size and breed compete by running down a 40-foot dock and leap into the air to retrieve the toy thrown by their handler, before landing in the water in an enclosed frame and swimming back to the dock.
Events include challenges like the Big Air Wave and the Extreme Vertical.
"Swimming is a great low-impact way for dogs to stretch their muscles and get exercise," said Beth Sausville, president of Green Mountain Dock Dogs.
Sausville's black lab, Tia, has been jumping since before the Green Mountain chapter formed last year.
Two techniques that are commonly used are known as the "chase" and the "place and send," in the latter, the dog jumps without a running head start.
After a summer of practices, or "newbie sessions," GMDD has found their home at Lake Paran; where the nonprofit organization has provided a family-friendly place for club members who are spread out around New England to practice and compete.
"As people see what they can do with their dogs and how much fun they can have I think it will be really good," said board member Mark Krause, on the community's turnout to witness the new pastime. Krause and his wife Kim, of Bennington, also have two black Labs, Rosey and Cooper, who enthusiastically jump alongside other pets of varying athletic abilities, including recently a life vest-clad Jack Russell.
A national organization, Dock Dogs began in the United States over a decade ago and has expanded to include affiliate clubs registered around the country; it is recognized by the American Kennel Club as an official canine sport. Dock Dogs Worldwide reaches as far as Canada, the U.K., and Australia.
GMDD has more than 35 members currently enrolled since receiving its official club affiliation and will continue to hold events and practices through late October, dependent on the weather.
The Lake Paran Paw Plunge will be held Sunday, Sept. 22, with registration and practice time for participating dogs beginning at 8 a.m.
All are welcome to attend at no charge, there will be food vendors as well as a silent auction. The entry fee for participation is $20 per dog/handler. Junior participants are welcome as handlers in a 16-and-under category; dogs must be at least 6 months old to jump.
Contact Khynna Kuprian at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @khynnakat.