‘Iron Dog’ draws four-legged competitors from across the region | TribLIVE.com
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Paul Leabhart, of McDonald, watches intently as Muzzy, a black labrador retriever, glides through the air after his toy after leaping from a dock at Misty Pines pet resort in Sewickley, during the Dock Diving Fun Trials, Sunday, May 17, 2015, held by the Three Rivers Dockdogs Club.

Soaring through the air and ending with a loud splash, the four-legged members of 3 Rivers DockDogs Club worked on their dog-paddling stroke with urging from their owners and fans.

On a Sunday in May, about 50 dogs and their handlers gathered at Misty Pines pet resort in Sewickley to practice improving their diving distance.

Along with the horizontal length, the dogs were judged on vertical distance and by how fast they retrieved a toy. Dogs competing in all three events won the title of “Iron Dog.”

Members traveled from Western Pennsylvania, Northeastern Ohio and West Virginia. Most competitors were Labrador retrievers, but other dogs put their best paws forward — including a Jack Russell terrier optimistically named Hope, who competed in the beginner’s category.

The competition divides dogs into categories by age, size, breed and experience. Handlers encouraged their athletes to pick up speed on a 40-foot run along the dock as they leapt into the pond to chase a favorite toy. Some more experienced dogs flew through the air for 20 feet before splashdown. Others required a few moments of fervent urging before they’d dip a paw into the water or perform a hesitant cannonball.

The 3 Rivers DockDogs Club is an affiliate of DockDogs Worldwide. It holds competitions, demonstrations and practices throughout the year for dogs 6 months and older. In November, the “best of the best” are invited to take part in the DockDogs World Championship.

Many experienced handlers look forward to receiving a gold-colored medal or trophy for participating. The furry athletes seem just as pleased with a bacon-flavored treat.

Keith Hodan is a Trib Total Media photographer. Reach him at [email protected].

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