Diving into SEWE – Tips for Getting Ready

(Written from the viewpoint of Hope, my 1 1/2 year old rescued black Lab mix dock diving addict!)

The other day I heard mommy talking about SEWE (Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, February 16-18) – apparently it’s a big deal here in Charleston … at first all I heard was blah, blah, blah … but then my little ears perked up when I heard DOCK DIVING!  What???  They have a dock diving competition?!?  I started getting excited at the very thought of running down that long dock and jumping into the water!  Mommy told me that it’s one of the biggest DockDogs events in the Southeast and people come with their pups from all over to compete.  There are two pools set up, one just for practicing.  Oh yippie, I’m doing my happy wiggle dance, this is going to be so much fun!

Of course, as a pup, all I care about is the fun stuff.  But mommy has to take care of all the ‘details’ or as I call it, the boring stuff!  Mommy called Auntie Deb (Feller), the president of Palmetto DockDogs to get the scoop on what we’ll need to be ready for SEWE.  As you might know, although there’s a slight chance in might be warm here in Charleston for SEWE, it could also be really cold.  So it’s best to be prepared!  If you’ve never participated in SEWE, here are some good tips from Auntie Deb to help you and your pup get ready:

Condition Yourself and Your Pup to the Cold Weather

As with any other sport, ease into it.  It’s like training for a marathon and you don’t want to do it all at once.  BUT, the more time you can spend with your pup outside in the cold, the better acclimated you’ll both be for SEWE.  My mommy hates the cold, but like most Labbies, I love it, so she bundles up and we go walkies and I have play dates with my friends in the frigid temps!  Take your pup swimming – we love the polar bear plunge (just make sure to wear water proof clothes so you don’t get wet and freeze!).

Dry Your Pup Off After Leaving the Pool

This may sound like a no-brainer but many pups have a thick undercoat and it’s not so easy to get completely dry.  Auntie Deb tells her champion Dock Diver, Doni (my idol!), to shake after getting out of the water.  I haven’t quite mastered that one! I do just normally shake when I jump out of the pool – but usually I do it all over mommy, oops!  When there’s no visible water coming from your pup’s fur, here’s a great dock dog hack – use a car shammy (like the infomercial Shamwow).  Make sure and dry your pup very well with the shammy and then use a big fluffy absorbent terry cloth towel like a beach blanket.  Pay a lot of attention to get your pup’s hind legs, hips and base of tail making sure those areas are completely dry.  While you’re drying off your pup, massage the areas to increase blood flow and keep those muscles warm. Remember cold stiff muscles are an enemy of any sport, and your pup is an athlete!

Don’t Kennel Your Pup Yet

Go for walkies first to keep moving around.  It’s a good idea to have a coat to put on your pup once they’re mostly dry.  Walk around the event grounds, this will help you both stay warm!  The main reason for drying your pup off really well and then walking around is to avoid the dreaded (and painful, ouch!) “cold tail” which is simply a cramp in the muscles at the base of the tail. Pups who use their tail vigorously while swimming sometimes over use these muscles.  If they don’t get dried off really well and then warmed up properly they’ll get a painful cramp.  It usually doesn’t last long, a few days at most, but it’s treated with rest.  Which unfortunately would mean you’d have to stop dock diving and drop out of the competition for the rest of the weekend – no fun!

Setting Up in Dog Town (where the competitors stay in between events)

Bring a canopy/easy-up/pop-up tent.  It’s nearly essential to have ‘walls’ to keep the wind out – the dock dogs competition is on the water and it can get chilly!   If you don’t have walls for your tent, bring a tarp and heavy duty clips to fasten.  It’s a good idea to have a propane heater or a generator with an electric space heater, too.  You’ll also want to have chairs, a crate for your pup so they can relax – I wasn’t too thrilled with this initially, but after a few jumps at my first competition, it was really nice to have a place that I could take a nap.  Bring a blankie for the crate and also one to cover it so your pup can snooze in peace.

Things to Bring to Keep Your Pup in Tip Top Condition and Ready to Compete

In cold weather both pups and their peeps often forget to drink enough water.  Auntie Deb brings a thermos of sodium free chicken broth and then adds in some warm water for Doni to drink when it’s cold, that sounds delish!  High fat snacks.  Yes pleeeeze!  Fat is the most calorie dense food and us pups need extra calories to stay warm.  Auntie Deb learned about this cool hack from the ‘mushers’ – sled dogs are fed chunks of lard at bedtime to stay warm.  Now this doesn’t mean that we pups get to gorge on fat – but freezing some bacon grease in ice cube trays is a great idea for a bite sized snack.  You can also make coconut oil cubes and add in some blueberries, yummy!

Human Comforts to Stay Warm and Dry

Most important thing is to keep the feet warm and dry – mommy would agree with this, her tootsies get cold easily!  So waterproof boots are a necessity.  You’ll also need water proof/resistant pants – even though you won’t be going swimming, your pup will most likely be shaking water all over your legs and feet.  Ski pants are a good option or check out water resistant golf pants, too.  Jeans are not a good option as they’ll get wet and then you’ll get cold!  Layering on top is best.  Long sleeve t-shirts, a sweater and then a fleece or down vest or pullover works well.  It’s a good idea to bring a couple of extra pieces with you so you can switch out if your tops get wet.  And finally, several pairs of warm gloves.  You won’t want to wear these on the dock, but you do want to keep your hands warm up until then!  And as with the pups, don’t forget to bring lots of water for yourself – and some snacks!

A Few Things to Keep in Your Dock Diving Competition Bag

Mommy always has a ‘go bag’ for events – she brings some extra trash bags, zip ties (you never know when you might need one!), a pair of scissors, small first aid kit (sometimes I get overly excited and accidentally scratch mommy), small packs of tissues (just in case the portalettes run out of toilet paper or paper towels), hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and of course, you don’t want to forget poop bags!

If you’ve never competed in a dock diving event, the first thing to remember is to have FUN!  But there are also some basic rules that you’ll want to get acquainted with, so check out the official DockDogs Rules and Policies . Dock Diving is like any other sport and there are rules to ensure that it’s a good experience for everyone!

If you’re traveling from out-of-state, make sure and book your hotel rooms early.  SEWE draws tens of thousands of visitors to Charleston and accommodations book up quickly.  Palmetto DockDogs has posted pup-friendly hotels on their FB page

I’m so excited to be participating in my first SEWE – I can’t wait to see you there!

Play, Swim, Dive, Hope

Melissa Gray

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