Any dog would’ve been crazy to not jump in a glimmering above-ground pool at the Western Montana Fair at the Missoula Fairgrounds on Saturday, when humidity added to the high 80-degree temperature.
A crowd sitting on bleachers that overlooked the pool watched the dogs, perhaps with some envy, as they leaped from a turf-covered dock into the cool pool.
The competition was an official North American Diving Dogs event, which entails what the name suggests. Dogs leap as far out into the pool as possible to compete for height or distance.
Owners motivate their dogs to jump by throwing their favorite toy out in front of them. Hot temperatures don't hurt, either.
Karin Harrison, from Frenchtown, brought her Chesapeake Bay retriever named Huckleberry Finn, who she calls Finn for short. When her dog wasn't on the dock, Harrison sat under a sun tent decorated with ribbons from titles her dogs won in other competitions.
A judge measures the dogs' distance using a ruler on a banner than spans one side of the pool. A dogs distance determines their division, which range from shortest to longest and include novice, junior, senior, master and finally elite.
The "diving dogs" event at the fair, featuring various diving competitions, runs all weekend. Harrison said Finn got senior title Friday at the fair and is now working on his "master."
The audience cheered and whooped as Libby, a Russell terrier with her junior dock diving title, jumped after her favorite yellow rubber duck toy.
"Small dogs are always the crowd favorite," said Debi Hanson, Libby's owner.
Hanson, from Idaho, said she just started competing with her dogs this year but she's already "got it all down."
Hanson said she practices with her dogs in her pool at home, although any pond or lake will do.
She also brought her Golden retriever named Moose, and his favorite toy — which she withholds for competitions, and a dog-print towel.
Wearing pink Crocs and sporting a paw tattoo flanked by angel wings, Hanson said she also participates in other events with her dogs like obedience, agility and barn hunt competitions.
She said she likes dock diving, in particular, because it's a low-impact sport, but she also enjoys meeting people at the events.
"Everybody helps everybody," she said. "Everybody holds everyone’s dogs and it's a lot of fun."