Dock Diving: An Exciting Sport for Every Dog and Owner

Have you ever watched a dog leap off a dock, fly through the air, and splash into the water to retrieve a toy? That’s dock diving!

Dock diving is a thrilling sport that welcomes dogs of all breeds and sizes, from tiny terriers to giant Great Danes. It’s special because of its inclusivity—whether you’re a beginner, in it for fun, or aiming for competition titles, there’s a spot for every dog.

Dock diving involves your dog jumping off a dock to retrieve a toy or bumper. They are judged based on how well they achieve the competition’s specific goals, like distance, height, or speed. And guess what? With enough jumps, your dog can earn titles and accolades!

So, if your dog loves water and has a passion for fetching dock diving, it might just be the perfect sport to “dive” into. Let’s explore the exciting world of dock diving and see how you and your dog can get started!

pointer landing in water at dock diving competition

Dock Diving Organizations

There are a couple of major organizations that host dock diving events. Each offers unique opportunities and competitions. Throughout this article, I mainly refer to North American Diving Dogs (NADD) and its rules and regulations because it is the larger organization.

North America Diving Dogs (NADD)

NADD is the largest dock diving organization in the US. They host a variety of competitions, including distance jumps, air retrieve, and Hydro Dash. If you’re looking for a well-structured and competitive environment, NADD is the place to be.

Dock Dogs

Dock Dogs might be smaller, but they still offer a range of exciting events. They primarily hold competitions on the East Coast, in the Southern United States, and Australia. Whether you’re close by or far away, Dock Dogs has something to offer.

Types of Dock Diving Competitions

There are different types of dock diving competitions. Each has its own unique twist, making the sport more versatile.

border collie dock jumping for tug at dock diving competition

Distance Jumps (NADD)

This is the most popular type of dock diving competition. Dogs jump from the dock, and their jumps are measured based on how far they can leap and land in the water. Think of it like a long jump, but with a splash at the end.

blue merle border collie or australian shepherd jumping for bumper in air retrieve dock diving competition

Air Retrieve (NADD)

In this competition, a bumper is suspended in the air at a specific distance. Your dog gets two chances to grab it. When they succeed, the bumper is moved further away, challenging your dog to jump even farther. It’s like playing fetch, but with a high-flying twist.

Hydro Dash (NADD)

Hydro Dash is all about speed. In this timed race, your dog must swim to retrieve a bumper from the end of a 37-foot pool. The faster they retrieve it, the better their score. It’s a wet and wild race against the clock.

Extreme Vertical (Dock Dogs)

Extreme Vertical is a test of your dog’s vertical jumping ability. Starting at the 20-foot mark on the dock, your dog leaps to grab a bumper toy extended 8 feet from the dock’s end. The starting height is 4’6″, increasing by 2 inches as the competition progresses. Picture your dog jumping for the stars—only, in this case, it’s for a toy.

belgian malinois jumping in pool, dock diving practice with handler
Dock diving practice with my dog, Cahlua. Photo Credit: Katie Mayou

How to Get Started in Dock Diving

Getting started in dock diving is easier than you might think. If your dog loves water, knows how to swim, and is motivated by toys, you’re halfway there.

  1. Find an Event: Look for a local dock diving event and sign up for a “try it” session. This is a great way to introduce your dog to the sport and see how they like it. It’s basically a test drive for dock diving, similar to a “fun run” for Fast CAT.
  2. Assess Comfort: Watch how your dog reacts to the dock and ramp. Are they comfortable enough to play with you on the dock? Toss the toy to the edge of the ramp partly in the water for them to grab. If they confidently grab the toy, you can move to the next step.
  3. Using the Ramp: Toss your toy just past the edge of the ramp to encourage them to jump in to retrieve the toy. Do they seem excited and eager? Are they jumping off the ramp with confidence? Do they understand how to get out of the pool using the ramp? If yes, you’re ready to move up to the dock.
  4. Jump Off the Dock: Play with your dog on the dock and toss the toy just off the edge of the dock, and encourage your dog to retrieve the toy. Some dogs will jump in with little hesitation, while others may need you to be their cheerleader. The more hesitant dogs may take a few sessions before they work up the courage to take the plunge, and that’s okay!
  5. Start Competing: If your dog takes to the water like a fish, you can start competing. Each jump brings you closer to earning titles and becoming a dock diving champion.

This is a basic overview of getting started, but if you want to teach your dog how to dock dive formally, read about it here!

Wrapping Up

Dock diving is more than just a sport—it’s a fantastic way to bond with your dog and keep them active. It’s an adventure that combines exercise, fun, and a bit of competition.

Now, what are you waiting for? Grab that toy, head to the dock, and let the games begin!

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