Dogs showing their diving skills in Blackfalds

60 competitors and their dogs will compete at the two-day event

Karen Douglass’ pet Bart performs an air retrieval at a dog diving competition earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Karen Douglass)

Karen Douglass’ pet Bart performs an air retrieval at a dog diving competition earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Karen Douglass)

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a dog?

There will be some high flying canines doing their best Superman impression this weekend in Blackfalds, at the North American Dog Diving Canadian regional qualifier.

The event, hosted at the 13-metre-long pool at Prairie Dog Sports facility, is the first Canadian-specific qualifying event.

Typically, Canadians head south of the border to compete in American competitions in order to qualify for the North American championships.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, a Canadian qualifier was established and it landed in Blackfalds.

“It’s exciting that I don’t have to travel to Florida to take part, and the fact that they picked Alberta and Blackfalds is awesome,” said Karen Douglass, an organizer who also competes with her dog.

“Everybody is pretty pumped.”

There will be about 60 handlers and their dogs at the event, which takes place Saturday and Sunday.

Douglass said competitors will be coming from as far as Quebec to join about a dozen locals who train regularly at the Prairie Dog Sports facility.

Simply put, the sport of dog diving is a dog jumping into a pool and measuring the distance of that jump.

Douglass said she was introduced to the sport this year through a few trainers she knows and has since taken her dog to about four competitions this summer.

Her two-year-old curly-coated retriever, Bart, has taken to the sport like a duck to water. His longest jump so far this year, after about 42 qualified jumps, is just over 15 feet.

“There is a current diving dog, it’s a Whippet, and if you can imagine, it’s jumping 35 feet, seven inches. The top five diving dogs are Whippets,” she said.

Along with diving, there is also an air retrieve category and a hydro dash.

In the air retrieve event, dogs jump to grab a bumper that is suspended in the air. In the hydro dash competition, dogs race across the pool in a timed event to see who can retrieve an object the fastest.

The top qualifiers from the event this weekend move on to the North American championships.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, the event in Blackfalds will not be open to the public.