DockDogs event draws competitors from across the U.S.

Published 1:36 pm Monday, July 19, 2021

Danville has gone to the dogs.

That was the case this past weekend as the fourth annual Splashin at the Chaplin Kentucky DockDogs event came to town, bringing with it participants from several states including Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and even Florida. There were also some competitors from right here in Danville, as well as neighboring communities like Harrodsburg.

The event is normally held in Perryville near the Chaplin River, but was moved to Danville’s Millennium Park due to construction on the bridge spanning the Chaplin River.

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Rod Niemer, who lives in Ohio, is the current president of Kentucky DockDogs. He and his wife, Tammy, who serves as secretary of the organization, are also handlers who have their own dogs competing in the events. Niemer said the club works with the national DockDogs organization to put on events in communities like Danville.

The competition features dogs of all breeds taking part in three events to determine which dogs can jump the longest, the highest, and retrieve a toy the fastest.

The events are known as Big Air, Extreme Vertical, and Speed Retrieve. The Iron Dog Challenge incorporates scores from all three events, with the best-combined scores determining the Iron Dog winner.

Dogs and handlers can advance from some events to compete in national and world competitions, and many in Danville this weekend have done just that, but Niemer said the local event is just for fun and practice.

“This event is mainly for fun, and to get your dog practicing more,” he said. Some of the dogs competing locally record jumps as long as 25 or 26 feet in the Big Air competition, which are impressive since the world record is just over 31 feet, according to Niemer.

Nancy Akin made the trip from her home in Lakeland, Florida, making her one of the farthest travelers for the local event. Akin said she is a handler, competing with her dogs, but also the southeastern United States representative of the national DockDogs organization.

“I come here every year to this event, and I love it,” she said. “The Kentucky DockDogs club is a real active club. The Kentucky club is just awesome. The people here are awesome, and they put on great events.”

In addition to the scheduled competitions, DockDogs feature another interesting aspect known as “Let’s Try DockDogs,” which lets dog owners who don’t compete bring their own dog and try the sport.

“It’s for the community to come and get involved,” said Akin. “We all had to get involved, and you have to start somewhere.”

One of the people starting at this weekend’s event was 9-year-old Gavin Sexton of Harrodsburg. Gavin and his dad, Dale Sexton, brought their 5-year-old yellow lab Sam to the event.

On Friday, Dale and Gavin took turns serving as a handler for Sam, and Gavin beat his dad. With the bragging rights in the Sexton family, Dale said Gavin would be Sam’s handler “from now on.”

“It’s just something entertaining and competitive for Sam to do. He’s been a good pet, and we’ve seen some potential in him at the pool, so we decided to bring him out,” Dale Sexton said. “He was trained to be a hunting dog, so his obedience is really solid. He loves the water, and at home, he is always in the pool and jumping, so we decided to bring him out here. He’s not an elite competitor or anything, but he’s done pretty well.”

Other local competitors included Jarrod Peek and Taylor Bottom of Boyle County. Results were not available as of press time, but both had good performances from their dogs during the local competition.

Niemer said the event featured more than 220 pre-registered entries in all events, which is huge.

“We’ve done it before and had 150 or so at the end of the event,” he said. He explained that one dog can enter in multiple events, and this year’s Splashin’ at the Chaplin competition featured more than 250 entries and about 100 dogs in total.

For more information on DockDogs visit the organization’s website at