Making a splash with dock diving

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dock diving

This exciting canine water sport is becoming a favorite for thousands of dogs and their people. Learn what dock diving is all about and how your own dog can take part!

Dock diving is a canine water sport that’s taking the world by storm! Dogs compete in jumping for distance, leaping for height, or swimming for speed from a dock into a pool or other body of water. Any breed and size of dog can participate in dock diving, as long as he’s at least six months old, loves water, and is in good physical shape.

As the proud “parents” of three German shorthaired pointers, my husband and I travel several times a month to attend dock diving events. As we began sharing our dock diving adventures on our team’s social media pages, two things became clear: many people have never heard of the sport, and those who want to get involved in it often don’t know where to start. This article will help address both these points.

Dock diving events are held in the US and Canada, as well as the UK and Australia. A good place to start is with the organizations that host dock diving events. These include DockDogs, Ultimate Air Dogs, Splash Dogs, and North American Diving Dogs (see sidebar). Our own dogs participate in DockDogs events. Each group has its own rules and versions of the various competitive disciplines. For example, DockDogs is comprised of several different types of competition; your dog can participate in one or all of these with some minimal training.

Big Air

This is the event that most often comes to mind when people think of dock diving. It is best described as a “long jump” for dogs, and is the most popular discipline. In this competition, dogs are judged based on how far they jump.

Handlers and dogs are given 60 seconds on the dock. The handler sets the dog and throws a floatable toy into the water. The dog then runs and jumps into the pool. (Pushing or throwing a dog into the pool is not allowed.) The dog’s distance is measured from the end of the dock to where the base of his tail enters the water. There are different divisions (distance ranges) to ensure the sport remains fair and competitive for all breeds and ages.

Extreme Vertical 

This is like a “high jump”. First introduced as a training tool for Big Air to teach dogs to jump in an upward motion for their toys (a technique for gaining greater distance), Extreme Vertical became a competitive discipline in its own right in 2005.

An “EV Rig” is used to suspend a foam bumper in the air. The handler may place the dog anywhere in front of a 20’ line on the dock. The bumper is extended 8’ out from the edge of the dock, with the beginning height for competition set at 4’6″. Dogs may enter the competition at any height after this, but in order to advance to the next round, they must get the bumper to release from the “EV Rig” within two attempts. The bumper is raised in 2″ increments until there is only one dog remaining in the competition.  During this event, you again have 60 seconds for your dog’s jump to be executed. There are different divisions (jump height ranges) so dogs of all sizes and abilities may competitively participate.

Speed Retrievedock diving

Speed Retrieve is the “sprint” of dock diving. A bumper is hung at the end of the pool, or 38’ from the dock in lake/pond events. The handler places the dog at the 20’ mark on the dock. Once the dog is set, the handler signals that the team is ready. Notified by either a “go” command or a green light, the handler releases the dog, who runs, jumps from the dock, and swims to grab the bumper. Time is recorded from the start signal to when the bumper is completely released from the hanging device. Divisions for speed ranges are in place to make this discipline competitive and fair for all dogs.

Iron Dog

The Iron Dog competes in all three disciplines mentioned above. Points are awarded based on scores attained in each discipline. A dog and handler must enter at least one wave in all three disciplines to qualify, and must register as an Iron Dog before competing in the event. Again, there are different divisions in place so all dogs have an equal chance of winning.

Dueling Dogs

Speed Retrieve times two! This is a side-by-side and head-to-head competition — like the swimming equivalent of a drag race. Two dogs are set on the dock, separated by Plexiglas on the dock, and a net in the water. Dueling Dogs works exactly like Speed Retrieve, except two dogs are racing against each other at the same time. There are divisions for ranges of speed.

Skills and trainingdock diving checklist

Training your dog to dock dive is simpler than it may sound. Along with a love of water, running and jumping, your dog needs to be in good physical condition, have basic obedience skills, and a drive to fetch or retrieve. As your dog’s handler, you also need to be in good shape, and have an accurate throw.

To train your dog to dock dive, you first need to find a dock somewhere that you can use. Ideally, as with competition docks, it should be around 40’ long, 8’ wide, and 2’ above the surface of the water. Be sure the water is at least 4’ deep around the end of the dock. The only other things you need are some floating objects you can throw into the water for your dog, such as his favorite balls or toys.

  • A simple dock diving training technique to try is the place and send. Have your dog walk with you to the end of the dock. Hold him back while you toss a toy in the water, then return your dog to the starting point and release or send him to retrieve the toy. This method is generally used for dogs that do not yet have a good sit-stay on the dock.
  • Dogs with a good understanding of obedience do well with the chase method. Your dog is commanded to stay or wait at the top of the dock while you walk down to the end. You then release the dog and throw the object into the water – it’s important to throw it at the right moment so that it stays in front of his nose all the way into the water. You’ll need to practice this technique to find that right moment. By changing the angle at which you throw the object, you can train your dog to jump both higher and further.

Perfect for summer days, dock diving is a lot of fun for both dogs and people. Whether you decide to enter a competition, or just want to play around with it at home or the cottage, you’ll both gets lots of exciting exercise!

Learn more about dock diving

Cello’s Corner, celloscorner.com/category/dock-diving/
DockDogs, dockdogs.com
North America Diving Dogs, northamericadivingdogs.com
Splash Dogs, splashdogs.com
Ultimate Air Dogs, ultimateairdogs.com
Ultimate Air Dogs Canada, ultimateairdogscanada.com
Ontario Dock Dogs, ontariodockdogs.com