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Dive, dash and doggone explore: Duke's K9 Dash N' Splash offers something for every kind of pup

Once known for dock diving, the Portage County facility now offers many of the top sports for dogs.

WINDHAM, Ohio — Is that same old walk around the block feeling stale? Or how about that afternoon game of fetch -- is it lacking something? Maybe it’s time to shake up your dog’s routine?

We found just the place -- out in Portage County. It’s called Duke’s K9 Dash N’ Splash -- and it has something for every pup no matter their shape, age or speed.

Water? Duke’s has it. “Dock diving is our passion. The reason we got involved is because of my son and our dog, Duke.”

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Meet Michelle Filler -- owner of Duke’s K9 Dash N’ Splash in Windham. In Northeast Ohio, the name “Duke’s” is synonymous with the sport of dock diving in which dogs jump for distance into a body of water. 

Michelle’s son, Zak, is Duke’s head dock diving instructor.

“My specialty is anywhere from a beginner dog -- whose never seen water -- to a dog who can go to the national championship and jump 27 to 300 feet,” he said.

The sport has become so popular, it became tough to get practice or training time. Duke’s now offers three pools -- two are outdoors and one is inside. The inside pool is also used for swimming, which is proven to be very therapeutic for dogs.

Credit: WKYC
Duke's now offers 3 pools. Two are outside and one is inside.

Understanding that not all dogs love water, the Fillers wanted to make Duke’s into something more: A place where humans and dogs build a stronger connection.

“The more active you are with your dog, the more you have to work together as a team. The more you are going to strengthen that bond between human and dog. So, we really encourage that as much as possible,” Michelle said.  

Fast CAT is another sport that has been added. CAT stands for Coursing Ability Test, and it’s a timed 100-yard dash where dogs run one at a time, chasing a lure. It’s a newer sport -- and is gaining popularity quickly.

There’s an obstacle course, too, which is also used by a local K9 search and rescue team for training.

Credit: WKYC
Duke’s is also home to toss and fetch. The sport is worldwide – and leagues are going on year-round, right here in Northeast Ohio.

Duke’s is also home to toss and fetch. The sport is worldwide -- and leagues are going on year-round, right here in Northeast Ohio.

Lastly, there is something called “Barn Hunt.” It’s a scent work sport in which your dog searches around a straw bale course to sniff out hidden plastic tubes. Those tubes contain live rats.

“The dogs are never going to be able to interact with the mouse, but they can smell it. Then that tube is hidden within course of straw bales, and you are teaching the dog to alert to you when they have found it,” Michelle explained.

We watched Cherie Bluhm and her dog, Echo, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, go to work. The duo is well-known in the sport. Bluhm teaches classes and competes with Echo, who just happens to hold the highest-ranking title in the Masters’ division.

Bluhm says it’s great for humans and dogs, no matter their experience or lack of it!

“It's really a nice thing to do for owners. They can come into the ring. It's a gateway to performance events. So, you don't have any training though. Maybe they've never taken a dog in any kind of ring before. They can come into barn hunt,” Bluhm said.  

Your dog doesn’t have to be fast, agile or like water to take part in Barn Hunt. The only physical prerequisite is that dogs must be able to climb up on a bale and aren’t opposed to walking through a straw tunnel.

Credit: WKYC
Dogs and their handlers work as a team to locate and mark rats (which are always safely held in aerated tubes) hidden in a maze of straw or hay bales.

Whether it’s scent, speed, or agility – Michelle says she hopes dogs and their humans find something here to experience together that’s good for body and mind.

“We like to say, ‘a tired dog is a good dog.’ And the more exercise that they can get on a daily basis, even if you can't give them the physical exercise, a lot of things like the Barn Hunt and the nose work although they might not be physically working as hard, that mental stimulation is almost more tiresome to them than physical. So, it's all important,” she said.

Duke’s is holding an annual community day on Saturday, May 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. It’s an opportunity to have new dogs and their owners try new activities. Duke’s staff will be there offering friendly support and guidance. No pressure! Tickets are sold five for $30, and you pick which stations you want to try at the registration window.

You can learn more about the annual community day HERE.

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