WALPOLE, Mass. — The splashes inside the warehouse home to Canine New England are often so loud they can be heard from outside in the parking lot. One after another, dogs learn to fly in a sport whose popularity has taken off nationwide, dock diving.
For dog owners like Barb Mathers, the sport has opened up new training avenues for her dog Diggity.
"He loves this," Mathers said as she stood on a dock overlooking a 30-foot-long pool inside the facility.
Dock diving has been around since 1997 but has recently been gaining attention as many dog owners look for new outlets for their canines to exercise their physical and mental health.
About three decades ago, co-founder Lorraine Messier traded in her corporate job for a canine one. What might look like a simple game of fetch requires a great deal of throwing coordination from the dogs' owners. And skill from dogs like Cooper, a 10-year-old golden retriever.
"I'm trying to get him to work on position and work on relaxing back on his haunches," Cooper's owner Dana Billings said.
In dock diving, the distance of a dog's jump is measured by where its tail lands in the pool. A dock diving pool is typically about 30 feet long, but as Messier is finding out, many dogs are now jumping further than that. So she's buying a new, longer pool.
But there is much more to this than just splashing around in the pool.
"We have a lot of dogs that have come in since COVID that don't have a lot of confidence and haven't done a lot of social work, so it acts as a confidence builder," she said.
At the end of the day for Messier and these dog owners, this is about much more than sport.
"They're physically motivated to do something active. It's very rewarding for the dog, allows the dog and the handler to become a team, so they're happier at home," Messier said.