The Olympic athlete in your family may be the one you pet in bed every night. Your dog can be an Olympian, even without years of preparation and dedication. Serious dog Olympians will compete in the 15th ECF European Championship in England this fall. But canine games across this country offer something for everyone. “It was never meant to be a real serious competition. It’s all fun,” says Anne Solis, a spokeswoman for the Doggie Olympics, sponsored by the Larimer Animal People Partnership. This event began 16 years ago as a way for owners to bond with their dogs. Here’s a look at this and other similar competitions:
Doggie Olympics, Fort Collins, Colo.
Organizers offer 14 different games in four divisions: competitive, fun, junior handler (for owners 15 and younger), and senior dog (for dogs older than 10). Participants register in advance if they want to be eligible for medals. Some 150 dogs compete, but many more dog lovers and their dogs show up to cheer on the competitors, laugh at their antics and cruise vendor booths, says Solis.
Among the more popular events is the hot dog retrieve, in which dogs race to retrieve a hot dog from a bucket of water and return it to their owners. It’s OK if the hot dog comes back either “internally or externally,” says Solis. The Monday morning obstacle course is a crowd-pleaser, as owners coach their dogs through a course that mimics the routine of getting a kid ready for school, including the struggle to put a T-shirt on the dog.
The event also offers demonstrations of up-and-coming dog sports -- another way to encourage dog owners to spend time with their dogs. The Doggie Olympics occasionally draw participants from as far away as South Dakota and Wyoming.
“We start in March, and it takes a lot of hours from a lot of volunteers to pull it off,” says Solis. This year’s Olympics take place on Sept. 23.
North Carolina State University’s Dog Olympics
Each fall, North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine holds the Dog Olympics in Raleigh, N.C., to raise funds for local rescue groups. “It’s become a great community event,” says spokesman David Green. “We encourage people to bring their dogs even if they don’t compete.”
Whether your dog is a star athlete or a lap-sitter, the Dog Olympics offer the potential for stardom. Competitions include a Frisbee toss, a high jump, an owner/dog look-a-like contest, and Best Trick and Longest Tail awards. The Olympic Village provides booths where veterinary students can share information with dog owners. “We make it an opportunity to do some teaching,” says Green.
The school sets the schedule for the Olympics once it knows the football schedule. Simply search for “N.C. State” and “Dog Olympics” online this summer to learn the date and more information.
Woofstock Dog Festival
Looking for some fun dog competitions near you? Dog festivals also often offer games. At the Woofstock Dog Festival in Roanoke, Va., there are no Olympic rings or medals, but plenty of opportunities for competition for you and your dog. This year’s festival is June 2.
Games include stupid pet tricks, pet/parent look-alike contests, bobbing for hot dogs and a lucky duck game, in which dogs pick squeaky ducks for prizes. Of course, the duck itself is prize enough for plenty of dogs, says Waynette Anderson, president and owner of Sponsor Hounds, which sponsors the event.
“It’s all just fun games,” says Anderson, who adds that dogs can either directly participate or just sit in their owners’ laps and enjoy the day.
In general, you can expect a relaxed attitude and plenty of “Atta-boys” and “Atta-girls” at dog Olympic-style games across the country. “To me, it’s my happiest day of the year,” says Anderson. “I’m very inspired by dogs.”