Zero To Hero: Dock Diving Rescues Dog

SuperSmart Dog Academy Owner and Trainer Jackie Jutte and her dog Jackson get their picture taken with St. Marys Rotarians after Wednesday's meeting. From left, Jim Harris, Jutte, Mike Burkholder, Robbie Burke, Jan Heinrich and Bev Wilker.
Managing Editor

One woman is taking troubled dogs, finding them homes and turning some into competitors.

Celina resident and SuperSmart Dog Academy Owner and Trainer Jackie Jutte shared with St. Marys Rotarians how she and her once-troubled dog Jackson are a sponsored team in a national competition.

Jutte and Jackson — nicknamed Action Jackson — compete in Dock Dogs, a nationally recognized sport started in 2000 basing its rules similar to track and field competitions. 

Dock Diving is the No. 1 growing dog sport in the United States, along with other dog sports Ultimate Air Dogs (UAD) and North American Diving Dogs (NADD). 

Jutte said she got into the sport when she rescued Jackson, a 6-year-old, 74-pound field lab after he had been returned to a shelter three times and was deemed unadoptable. When she rescued then-14-month-old Jackson, it took three days of running to calm the dog down.

“I was looking for a dog to train as a service dog,” Jutte said. “I went over and saw this dog and I was looking for temperament. I love drive, the love excitement and I can train a dog that shows me that.

“I have four and a half acres fenced in so I look for crazy dogs.”

She said when Dock Diving came to the Mercer County Fairgrounds a couple of years ago, Jutte had a friend who had already competed in it and eventually decided to have Jackson compete. 

Now, they are a team sponsored by Blue Buffalo dog food.

“And to this day, Jackson is the only dog, ever, to compete in Dock Dogs and compete in all three disciplines in one weekend without being shown how to do it,” Jutte said. “He saw it, wanted it and did it. He is actually now ranked the No. 1 lab in the world in Dock Diving.”

Of the three disciplines, Jutte was referring to, Big Air is the most popular of the Dock Dogs competition.

A sanctioned facility is a 40-foot dock with a 40-foot swimming pool. Each dog and their handler are a competition team and each team competes head-to-head against the other to see who can jump the farthest distance. Each team is allotted 60 seconds to get the dog down the dock and into the water.

The judge will evaluate all jumps electronically using digital video stop-action technology developed by ESPN’s Management Information System Department. The official jump distance is measured and the dog with the farthest jump wins.

The competition is split into several divisions based on how far dogs jump.

In the Extreme Vertical discipline, each team is allowed to use a maximum of 20 feet of the dock surface and is allotted 60 seconds to jump in the air while attempting to remove a bumper from an extender arm. If the team missed on the first attempt, they will immediately return to the dock and will be given a second and final attempt to remove the bumper.

For the preliminary qualifying competitions, a bumper is hung from a specially-designed extender arm and placed 8 feet from the edge of the dock. The bumper is then placed at the chosen starting height for each team.

Rounds will continue with the bumper being raised in 2-inch increments per round until the dogs that jumps the highest wins — much like high jump in track and field competitions.

The discipline is split into three categories based on height.

The third discipline is Speed Retrieve. 

Similar to Extreme Vertical, each team is allowed to use a maximum of 20 feet of the dock surface and is allotted 60 seconds to get into the water. However, instead of measuring distance or height, each dog is racing against a clock.

Upon entering the water, each dog must swim to the end of a 40-foot pool and remove the designated object from a modified extender arm in order to complete their timed run. The dog that removes the object the fastest wins.

The divisions for this discipline are split up by scored time.

Jutte said Jackson competed in the Iron Dog competition — where a dog competes in all three disciplines — and was the top-ranked Iron Dog in the world in 2018.

Jutte and her husband have eight dogs. Two are therapy dogs who are retired, Sammy is a dog Jutte got from late Dr. Ronald Riebel, DDS, of New Bremen, Jackson, Nico — a herding German Shepherd — Ruger, a 2-year-old field lab, Finn, who is a lab and shepherd mix and is an up-and-coming competitor in Dock Dogs, and Sonic.

“For most of these dogs, we are their fourth home and they are normally on death row when I get a call from [Auglaize County Dog Warden] Russ Bailey,” Jutte explained. “What I love is temperament. If I consider a dog has a good temperament, everything else can be trained. Temperament cannot be trained. 

“Unfortunately what happens with these dogs are they just misunderstood. The crazier they are the more crate time they get, the more crate time they get, the crazier they are and then they get relinquished to shelters. These dogs need an outlet. So I’m getting these crazy dogs and I’m giving them something to do.”