Nearby Dogs to Have Their Day


Bill and Nina Helfer like to compete.

The central Ohio natives come from sports-crazed households, with coaching in their bloodlines and games a aspect of their each day life. They even met each and every other via sports, on a volleyball court, and when they cashed in their holiday days, loaded up their truck and hit the road from Kalispell earlier this week it was to take aspect in however a different competitors. Except this time, the Helfers themselves are not the major attraction.

As an alternative, their 3 Labrador retrievers, Blazer, Charger and Trooper, will steal the spotlight, placing their personal athletic prowess on show at the annual Dock Dogs Globe Championships in Dubuque, Iowa, which started on Oct. 22 and run via the weekend.


Bill Helfer really 1st encountered Dock Dogs by way of his like for sports, flipping to one particular of the a variety of ESPN derivatives and encountering enthusiastic owners coaching their canines launching off a boat dock as far as they could. The Helfers had a dog, Bill believed, and it could jump fairly far off a dock. The dog was one particular he and his wife had procured from a breeder in Hungry Horse when they asked for “the orneriest, most active female” in the litter, and Jazzie was specifically that. Following moving back to Ohio in 2005, the pair started on a regular basis taking Jazzie to the water and undertaking what ever else they could to burn off some of her boundless power.

Quickly just after seeing what he later discovered was a Dock Dogs competitors on Television, Bill, Nina and Jazzie signed up for an occasion in Dundee, Michigan and packed their pup to see what she could do. It turned out she couldn’t do a lot. Jazzie belly flopped off the edge of the dock just after a mere 3 feet, and Bill Helfer, a small embarrassed, pledged to be back with Jazzie prepared to challenge the huge dogs.

“Being the competitive people today that we are, as quickly as we saw what everyone else could do with their dogs, neither one particular of us wanted to say our dog couldn’t do that,” Bill mentioned. “It was like, all appropriate, we’re into this now, complete bore, let’s go.”

The Helfers mentioned fellow Dock Dogs competitors are friendly and beneficial, and that they provided guidelines and words of encouragement at that 1st occasion, but the pair also utilized their athletic background to come up with a education regimen not as opposed to one particular a human may possibly employ to prepare for a thing like a decathlon. There was interval operating for speed and cardio, strength education to bulk up Jazzie’s hind legs, and even a custom nutritional program. Jazzie ran hills, climbed stairs and utilized a yoga ball to strengthen her core.

“We’re each athletes we each played a lot,” Bill Helfer mentioned. “And so we know that you cannot be one particular-dimensional … you have got to perform on all the components.”

“For us the exciting aspect was how do we do some of these items that we know and transition it to the dogs,” Nina added. “You cannot inform a dog, ‘Give me 20 sit-ups.’ You cannot inform a dog to do squats.”

Bill Helfer sends Blazer off a dock and into a pond throughout a dock jumping session south of Kalispell on Oct. 12, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As an alternative, Jazzie and the other dogs that later joined the pack would accompany Bill on a number of-mile bike rides just about every morning, and occasionally once more at evening, along with the rest of their specialized education. Games the Helfers played prior to they knew about Dock Dogs, like when Bill would crouch on the floor and Jazzie would jump more than him, turned out to be a strong commence to the dog’s education, also.

It only took a couple of months prior to Jazzie discovered her way close to the leading of the Dock Dogs standings, and sooner or later the quantity-one particular planet ranking in Iron Dog (the Dock Dogs decathlon equivalent). Her profession-ideal leap from the finish of the dock was far more than 20 feet longer than her 1st try.

Thirteen years later, the Helfers are veterans of the circuit and now compete with Blazer (a 10-year-old who is in the Legends division) and a pair of puppies, Trooper and Charger. The ideal dock-jumping dogs, the Helfers say, are ones who are not overly submissive and all also eager to play, and all 3 of their labs had been buzzing with anticipation even though they waited for their turn throughout a current education session at the household of Byron and Erin Pollan in Kalispell. The dogs swam with vigor to practice for the speed retrieve (a timed swim out and back), sprang gleefully upward to perform on intense vertical (primarily the doggy higher jump) and could hardly include themselves waiting to be released for huge air (a operating leap out from the dock to snag a toy dangled above the water).

None of the 3 dogs have reached the leading of the sport like Jazzie did, but Trooper and Charger completed second and third in huge air amongst novice dogs at final year’s planet championships, and Blazer’s profession ideal in huge air (24 feet, five inches) is just one particular inch quick of Jazzie’s ideal.

The competitors, even though, is hardly the point, even to the Helfers. They get in touch with their fellow competitors “family” and have traveled to as numerous as 18 events a year on the Dock Dogs circuit, as a lot to see buddies and fellow dog-lovers as to compete for the modest prizes provided. When they moved back to Kalispell final year, they had “friends in just about every state” they drove via to get right here, and they have even designated a fellow competitor as their dogs’ godfather, writing the arrangement into their will.

The dogs, also, are a lot far more than just super athletes they come about to train. They are household dogs 1st and foremost, the Helfers say, and in addition to, to Blazer, Trooper and Charger, the planet championships are just a different day at the dock with their ideal buddies.

“They do not know it is a competitors,” Bill Helfer mentioned. “They just know they’re outdoors obtaining a terrific time with you.”

For far more information and facts on Dock Dogs and the planet championships, go to

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