Some dogs just have an awesome natural ability to get airborne -- and there are lots of events and activities that afford these high flying pooches the opportunity to showcase their talents. Agility competitions, dock diving competitions, and herding competitions are three well-sponsored dog sports that feature high jump contests and draw large, awestruck crowds to marvel at these canine competitors.
Think your pup may have the right stuff to be a high-jumping champ? Read on to learn more.
High Jumping Dog Breeds
While many small dog breeds excel in their ability to jump to heights greater than their body size, the current world record-holders for the highest jumps by dogs belong to medium- to large-size breeds. Herding dogs such as border collies, Australian cattle dogs, and kelpies are extremely agile and have proven themselves in high jump competitions that allow them to scale walls and other barriers. Protection dogs such as German shepherds and rottweilers are also able to clear obstacles set at great heights through a combination of strength, agility, practice, and technique.
But it's long, tall, slender dogs such as wolfhounds, borzois, Ibizans, and greyhounds, however, who are the breeds that can consistenly clear hurdles set at more than 6 feet — with ease, and without the need to pull themselves up or over the obstacles. In fact, according to Guiness World Records, the current record holder for the highest jumping dog belongs to a 4-year-old greyhound named Feather, who was rescued from a Maryland shelter in 2015.
Thanks to a diligent training regimen and lots of love from her human mom, Samantha Valle, Feather has progressed from initial leaps of about 54 inches to her current best of 75.5 inches (or about three (!!!) times the length of the average greyhound). Officially recognized in 2017 by Guiness as the highest dog jump ever, Feather's bodacious hops have to be seen to be believed — and in the video below, you can learn more about how Valle has helped hone her pup's marvelous gifts.
There are many dog agility competitions every year and most include hurdle high jumping contests. In this format, dogs jump over hurdles that are raised in 2-inch increments. There must be a mat for the dogs to land on when events take place on hard surfaces. Dogs are given two opportunities to clear the hurdle and are eliminated from the competition once they can no longer clear the hurdle without knocking off the bar.
Prior to Feather rewriting the record books, three Guinness record-holders had continued to elevate the bar within this type of dog competition. In 2006, a greyhound named Cinderella May cleared a hurdle set at 5 feet, 8 inches. The previous Guinness record-holder was a borzois named Wolf who cleared a 5 feet, 2 inch hurdle. Olive Oyl, a Russian wolfhound, held the Guinness record prior to that with her 4 feet, 11 inch jump. An Ibizan hound named Leap jumped 5 feet, 4 inches at a Superdog competition in 2005, but his exploits were not recognized by Guinness World Book officials for reasons that remain unclear.
While their athletic feats have since been eclipsed, archival footage posted to YouTube captures these trailblazing pups at their soaring, crowd-pleasing best.
In 1999, producers at ESPN wanted to develop a dog sport for the Great Outdoor games, and that is how dock diving found its start. From these unlikely origins have emerged regional, national and international dock diving events that share a common set of rules and as the sport has grown, new disciplines have been added.
The original events measured the distance dogs could leap from a dock into a 40 foot pool of water, with measurements indexed on the sides of the pool to determine which dogs jumped the farthest.
The three most popular competitions now include Big Air, in which pups have 90 seconds to jump after toys tossed by their human coach into the pool, Speed Retrieve, a timed event in which dogs fetch toys suspended above the pool, and Extreme Vertical, the object of which is for the dog to knock down a bumper that dangles 8 feet from the dog at ever-increasing heights.
An easy way to differentiate between them is to think of Big Air as the the equivalent of the Olympic long jump (the dogs' leaps are measured from where their tail lands in the pool) while Extreme Vertical is its high jump analog. A fourth type of competition, Iron Dog, blends the three into a hybrid event that aptly tests all manner of leaping ability.
In all of the events, the dogs are partnered with human coaches and trainers who provide them with directions and cues. According to Dock Dog bylaws, the four-legged contestants must be at least 6 months of age (note that American Kennel Club recommends waiting until puppies are fully grown before training or taking part in competitions), while their human counterparts have to be at least. Throwing dogs is strictly prohibited, and the pups must be willing participants.
Current world record holders in the dock dog events include a whippet named Cochiti in the Big Air (31'00', 2012), a Belgian Malinois named Griz in Extreme Vertical (8'10", 2014), and a whippet named Spitfire in the Speed Retrieve (3.489 seconds, 2018).
In 2019, the Dock Dog World Championships will be held between October 23rd and October 27th in Dubuque, Iowa and organizers are already hyping the field, which they say will be one of the strongest ever.
Herding High Jumps
Herding competitions, such as the Kelpie Muster held every year in Casterton, Australia, take place around the world. The object of the high jump competition at these events is to vault over a wooden barrier. The barrier is raised throughout the competition. The dogs run to the barrier and grasp the top with their front paws before clambering over the boards on to a stack of hay bales.
The top dog for the Kelpie Muster is a rescued kelpie named Riley. He jumped a record-breaking 9 1/2 feet at the 2007 competition. A brother and sister pair of border collies were nipping at his heels to take the record in 2009. Zoro jumped 9 feet, 4 inches, and his sister Girl jumped 9 feet, 3 inches in a high jump event in Singleton, New South Wales, Australia, prior to the Kelpie Muster.
By Jenny Newberry
About the Author
Jenny Newberry, a former teacher with 25 years of experience, is a professional writer and photographer and holds a B.S. and a M.Ed. in elementary and special education from the University of South Alabama. She is also a history buff, praise and worship pianist, pet enthusiast, avid crafter and hobby gardener.