It's probably not often that a business idea originates from walking your dog, but that's what happened to Tony Reed.
Reed, president of Splash Dogs, adopted a water-loving Labrador retriever in 2001 and began taking her to the Pittsburg marina for exercise. He would toss a toy to the dog and see how far she could jump into the water to catch it.
After a friend suggested he look into hosting water-jumping competitions for dogs, Reed launched Splash Dogs in 2003. The firm hosts competitions at 55 to 60 locations across the country each year, including one set for Oct. 8-9 at the Pittsburg marina.
Dog owners bring their pets to the events to compete in categories, based on their sizes, to see which pooch can pounce the farthest.
"If the dogs like water and they're comfortable with it, they're all over it," Reed said, as his dog Sierra practiced jumps off a dock at the Pittsburg marina.
Reed has a couple of 40-foot artificial turf competition docks where dogs can get a running start, and he developed a camera to take pictures of the dogs as they hit the water.
He can determine the key distance between the base of the dog's tail when it goes into the water and the end of the dock using a grid overlay on the screen.
Many dogs and handlers travel the event circuit competing for points toward the national championship competition.
Aries, a border collie/pit bull mix, led the 2010 Splash Dog rankings with jumps averaging slightly more than 26 feet.
The Labrador retriever is the most popular jumping dog, Reed said, followed by border collies and Australian shepherds. Pit bulls and, surprisingly, dachshunds also are talented jumpers.
Splash Dogs is one of several competitions held at the annual national championship of the Dallas-based U.S. Dog Agility Association, according to President Ken Tatsch.
Some other agility association events that run parallel to Splash Dogs include obstacle courses for dogs, with hurdles, ramps and tunnels; show jumping; herding competitions; and retrieving flying discs, Tatsch said.
"Splash Dogs is always a very popular attraction," he said. "It's always a very popular thing for people who come out to our shows and compete in our shows."
Reed hauls his docks and splash pools to agility competitions, fairs and other events, mostly in Western states. He has more than 20 events from now to November, including ones in Phoenix, Redding and Rancho Cucamonga, as well as others in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Florida.
Terry Cook, owner of Columbus, Ohio-based Aquadogs, is building a series of permanent facilities for Splash Dogs' practices and competitions.
"Having several locations opening up allows Tony to expand to the East," Cook said. "He can rent pool time, and the pool stays stationary."
Contact Rick Radin at 925-779-7166.
What: Pittsburg Splash Dogs "Rock the Dock"
When: 9 a.m. Oct. 8-9
Where: Pittsburg Marina, Marina Boulevard