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In Great Outdoors, dogs jump to see who can go farthest

He's a lot of Lab. Ninety pounds, to be precise. But the boy can jump. Once he gets that big yellow payload moving, Isaac can put some serious air beneath him when he leaves the dock. Isaac is a dock-jumping dog. This coming weekend he'll be with...

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He's a lot of Lab. Ninety pounds, to be precise.

But the boy can jump. Once he gets that big yellow payload moving, Isaac can put some serious air beneath him when he leaves the dock.

Isaac is a dock-jumping dog. This coming weekend he'll be with his owners, Ed and Sandy Shaughnessy of Bovey, to compete in the Outdoor Channel's Great Outdoor Adventure at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. The 3-year-old Lab earned his way there by winning the Midwest qualifying event at Terre Haute, Ind., Sept. 14-16.

Dock jumping is still a relatively new sport in which dogs run down a dock, leap into the air and see how far they can go before they land in the water. The dogs' owners stand at the end of the dock nearest the water and toss an object -- a tennis ball or a rubber toy of some sort -- that the dog chases in flight. Timing is everything.

Isaac is ranked eighth nationally, tied with two other dogs. Rankings are based on club-level competitions compiled by DockDogs.com, the sport's organizing body.

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Isaac's longest jump is 25 feet, 11 inches, which puts him near the top of the dock-jumping heap. He posted that leap at a dock-jumping event in Eau Claire, Wis., this past summer. He has jumped longer than 25 feet seven times, Shaughnessy said.

The best dock-jumping dogs in the country, so-called "super-elite" dogs, consistently jump 26 to 27 feet. Only a handful are in that category. Isaac jumps in the "elite" classification. Only the "super elite" dogs compete at a higher level, and there are four lower classes.

Nine dogs from across the country will compete in each classification at the Ohio event, Shaughnessy said.

Most dock-jumping dogs weigh about 50 to 60 pounds. Dogs as large as Isaac are uncommon, says fellow dock-jumping dog owner Perry Ludwig of Duluth.

"Isaac, he's a real big dog for a jumping dog. He's one of THE biggest of the big-jumping dogs," Ludwig said.

Ludwig's yellow Lab, Lily, has competed against Isaac several times. Isaac and Lily have finished one-two, respectively, at the past two Hoyt Lakes Water Carnival dock-jumping events in Hoyt Lakes. Isaac has tremendous drive, Ludwig says, and Shaughnessy agrees.

In training and in competition, Shaughnessy places Isaac exactly 38 feet from the end of the dock, where Isaac awaits Shaughnessy's signal to take off.

"When I ice him at the end of the dock, he won't move until I call him," Shaughnessy said. "When I call him, he just tears that dock up. He has to get that 90 pounds moving."

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Shaughnessy, 55, an industrial construction consultant, trains Isaac on Lawrence Lake near Bovey, Minn. When Isaac qualified for the Great Outdoor Adventure finals, organizers wanted Shaughnessy to complete a biographical sketch for them.

"They asked about sponsorship," Shaughnessy said with a chuckle. "Isaac's just from Lawrence Lake. He doesn't have any sponsors."

The Outdoor Channel plans a seven-part series on dock-jumping dogs, starting at 8 p.m. Thursday and continuing for six more Thursday evenings. The program will feature East, West and Midwest qualifying events and the Great Outdoor Adventure finals.

After competing in Ohio, Isaac and Shaughnessy will compete in the DockDogs National Championship, which will be held Oct. 12-14 in Rogers, Minn.

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