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Dock Dogs compete at annual Tailwagger Classic

February 26, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Rain and cold temperatures couldn't stop the dogs from leaping into the Dock Dog pool this past weekend as all kinds of canines from all over the country converged on the Shell Factory's front parking lot for one of the first big events in the Dock Dog season.

The 2020 Tailwagger Classic Wild Card Double Header featured some of the wildest canine action, featuring Big Air, Extreme Vertical, Speed Retrieve and Dueling Dogs, with the winners punching their ticket to the World Championships this fall.

Friday's competition really showed what the dogs were made of, as raw, rainy, windy conditions made things tough for everybody, especially in Big Air, the long jump for dogs.

Article Photos

Crystal McClaran of Cape Coral throws the toy for her dog, Cassius Clay, during the Tailwagger Classic Wild Card Double Header at the Shell Factory on Friday.

The owners couldn't throw the dog's toy (which they use as a lure to make the dogs jump) without it getting caught in the wind and sending it in different directions, affecting the distance of the jump.

"I think it bothers the handlers more. The water is actually warm for the dogs, but the wind keeps them from throwing a toy straight. It's a difficult situation day," said Vicki Tighe, owner of Aqua Dog Sports and Suncoast Dock Dogs.

The event brought people from all over the country. Contestants came from Vermont and New Jersey, and even one from as far west as Texas, as well as several local competitors.

Libby Griffin came all the way from Charlotte N.C. with her two dogs. She's been coming down since 2014 to jump with her dogs, which she can't do this time of year.

"We love coming to Fort Myers. We do the Dock Dogs, North American Diving Dogs and the Ultimate Air Dogs. Both my girls have been to worlds, with my oldest going six times." Griffin said, adding that Jesse, her youngest dog, placed second once. "It's all about working as a team and just having fun. It's doesn't matter if we win, it's about having fun."

Meanwhile, Crystal McClaran had nine dogs competing on Friday, two of them owned by other people. She had a good morning, with her top dog, Whiplash, jumping 26 feet.

"The wind has been hard because I didn't throw it far enough. It was against the wind. And with the cold, the dog's muscles get cold after getting out of the water," said McClaran, whose most acclaimed dog, Bo, passed away last year.

The weather improved greatly the last two days, which featured the Dueling Dogs, a doggy drag race, on Saturday, albeit a little chilly in the morning and evening, and the finals for all events on Sunday.

Tighe said Dock Dogs have become very popular in other countries, since anyone can do it.

"We're in Australia, in Canada and all over the United States. Any breed can do it, there's no discrimination. We have new dogs coming in who have never done it and it's all divisional," Tighe said. "Beginners compete against beginners and super elites compete against other super elites. If you want to try Dock Dogs, come out."

To learn more about the sport, visit



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