Heather Rife (HR) How did you get started in Australian Terriers? Did you have a mentor?
Marvyl Grinney (MG) I’ve been showing dogs for 60 years. I started in field trials when I was 14, with a Labrador Retriever. Then I had Flat Coated Retrievers for a while, then downsized to Standard Schnauzers. That was a lot of stripping and grooming, so I decided to go even smaller. I wanted a dog that was courageous, smaller than a Standard Schnauzer, and a dog I could move around the show ring with. I’ve always liked breeds that were not well known. My first Aussie was from Nebraska and I did a lot of Obedience with her, because back then, they didn’t have all these sports available. When I decided to get another Aussie, I interviewed Julie Seaton and she interviewed me as well, and that’s how I got Stryker. I’ve always gotten a conformation dog because they have correct structure, which is crucial for a performance dog. I promised Julie that I would finish his championship before moving on to my first love, performance.
(HR) Did you have a mentor in Dock Diving? How did you get interested in that?
(MG) Jan Dahling in Florida told me about Dock Diving when I met her at the AKC show in Orlando. I spend my summers in Minnesota and winters in Florida. So, I looked for a training center that offered Dock Diving in Minnesota. Stryker was in a class with 5 water dogs, 3 labs and 2 goldens. At first, Stryker was hesitant around water, but you know they are very prey driven, so a toy was used to get him to step to the edge of the dock and get his feet wet. By the second class Stryker was jumping off the dock and the other 5 dogs were not! (laughs) He doesn’t really like water, he hates a bath, and he won’t go in the ocean. He decided Dock Diving was fun and he never looked back.
(HR) So being toy motivated was part of your training even before he got started in Dock Diving?
(MG) Right, and even using a tug toy was helpful.
(HR) When did you know you had a dog that was really going to excel in Dock Diving? Was it this first class?
(MG) Well, I could tell it was a sport he was really going to love. That and any sport that requires chasing. He loves those too. Fast Cat and Barn Hunt are sports that are motivated by chase.
(HR) How do you keep and motivate Stryker while training or trialing?
(MG) laughing…I don’t really have to motivate him at all. He is a wild one and when we get close to the diving building, he is barking and dragging me into the building and to the stairs to the dock. I must work hard to calm him down. I don’t have to worry about keeping him motivated!
(HR) how do you keep him in good physical shape?
(MG) We do a lot of walking and playing ball. Jumping to keep his back legs muscled. We do go swimming in the ocean, and I keep his weight down. I use a machine called PAWWAVE, an animal massage tool, which was recommended to me by a chiropractor at the dock. And I use it on myself too!
(HR) What was the most difficult obstacle you’ve encountered in training and how did you overcome it?
(MG) Well the most difficult thing is that he is so enthusiastic that he will leave the dock early, as much as three feet early, which makes it the jump that much shorter. That’s a hard one to work on and I still haven’t overcome it. We’ve tried different training techniques with people who are smarter and more experienced than me in Dock Diving and we still haven’t overcome it. I do need to make sure I throw the bumper correctly and just as he reaches the edge of the dock. If I throw incorrectly or throw too early he will leave the dock too early.
(HR) So in Air Retrieve you still throw a bumper?
(MG) No you only throw a bumper if he misses, so he doesn’t continue to try to get the hanging bumper. In Air Retrieve, when he gets the bumper, the next bumper is moved a foot further out, which is a lot for a little dog. The bumper continues to move out another foot each consecutive jump, until he misses it.
(HR) What was one of the funniest things that has happened with you and Stryker?
(MG) Probably the funniest thing is that I have actually thrown the bumper out of the pool. It’s not really funny, and Stryker always looks at me as if I’m crazy when I do that. Then there was a time when I was talking to my orthopedic surgeon and he was recommending a particular surgery for me, to be done as soon as possible. I told him I had a summer of Dock Diving planned and I would do it after August. He muttered something under his breath about priorities…. Again, I don’t think he saw the humor in that.
(HR) How are you received by competitors who have different breeds?
(MG) You know, everyone is so encouraging at Dock Diving. They all know him and if you listen to the videos you’ll hear them say “GO STRYKER!” Most competitors have big dogs, but they all know Stryker.
(HR) What’s the most common breed in your height division? Do you have a breed that dominates?
(MG) There are some Dachshunds that are really good. People do actually breed small mixes to compete in Dock Diving. They’ll breed Whippets to something smaller. I’m not a fan of that. I’ve always had purebreds, although I’m all for the rescues that compete.
(HR) Describe the most exciting win for you.
(MG) Well, Stryker has been invited to nationals every year since he started competing in Dock Diving. (2019) That’s special to me but this last regional was very special because he earned first place in his size division. In regionals you need to be invited to participate. You do this by placing in the top three at a qualifier Dock Diving event. Then if you place in the top three in a regional you’re invited to the nationals. His best jump was 9 feet!
(HR) That’s amazing!
(HR) In Air Retrieve, how high is the bumper?
(MG) Well the dock is 3 feet above the pool and in addition, the bumper is 5 feet off the water. To compensate for the LAP dogs (the dogs under 16”), the bumper starts out closer to the dock. The bumper, too, is for big dogs. They should have a smaller bumper for the smaller dogs. I’ve mentioned it to the organization and they are considering some changes.
(HR) Any words of wisdom to those starting out in Dock Diving?
(MG) Make it fun for them. If you’re wanting a Dock Diving aussie start your puppies in a play pool when they’re really young. Ask your breeder to introduce water at an early age.
(HR) Have you and your dog influenced others to think about an Aussie?
(MG) Very few people know what breed Stryker is. So once we get beyond the Yorkie, Cairn guesses and inform them that he’s an Aussie, people say they’ll consider an Aussie when they downsize.
(HR) What other sports do you do with Stryker?
(MG) I do Obedience, Scent Work, and my daughter does Rally. Stryker has titles in Barn Hunt and Fast Cat, Trick Dog.
(HR) Are you willing to mentor other Aussie owner in Dock Diving or Air Retrieve?
(MG) Yes I am! They could contact me either by email at: email@example.com or by phone.