Beginner’s Guide to Dock Diving Rules and Regulations in 2024

labrador retrieving orange bumper out of pool

Dock diving isn’t just a sport – it’s an addiction. Trust me, I know. The moment you see your dog’s eyes light up as they launch off that dock, you’re hooked. There’s nothing quite like the rush of watching your fur missile soar through the air and splash into the water. But before you and your dog can start racking up those jumps, you need to know the rules of the game.

Enter North America Diving Dogs (NADD), the largest organization in North America and the only organization on which this article is based. They keep this wild, wet sport organized and fair.

Don’t worry—understanding their rules isn’t rocket science. When we’re done here, you’ll be itching to get your pup on a dock and into the pool.

Let’s break down the basics of dock diving rules and regulations with NADD.

What’s the Deal with Dock Diving?

Dock diving is exactly what it sounds like – dogs jumping off a dock into water. But it’s not just about making the biggest splash (though that’s a fun bonus). NADD hosts competitions where dogs compete in three main events:

  1. Distance: How far can your dog jump?
  2. Air Retrieve: Can your dog snag a suspended bumper?
  3. Hydro Dash: How quickly can your dog swim?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s cover some basics.

The Essentials: What You Need to Know

Who Can Compete?

Here’s the best part – any dog can join in! Whether your dog is a purebred champion or a shelter mutt doesn’t matter. They’re in as long as they’re at least 6 months old and can jump off the dock.

Getting Started

  1. Register your dog with NADD (it’s a one-time fee of $35).
  2. Find a NADD event near you.
  3. Sign up for a splash (that’s what they call a competition round).

Now, let’s talk about the setup. You’ll be working with:

  • A dock: 40 feet long and 7.5 feet wide
  • A pool: At least 21 feet long and 4 feet deep
  • A non-slip surface: To mitigate the potential for injuries on the dock

Basic Rules to Remember

NADD takes safety seriously, as should you! Follow these basic dock diving rules for a safe and enjoyable event:

  • No pushing or shoving your dog off the dock. They should jump of their own free will.
  • You usually get 3 minutes for distance jumps and 45 seconds for air retrieve attempts.
  • Only flat collars or well-fitted life vests are allowed on the dock.
  • Training collars and harnesses are allowed at events, just not on the dock.
  • Keep your dog on a 6-foot leash when not on the dock or in the water.
  • Practice event etiquette and be kind to everyone, including other dogs and humans!
  • No peeing on the dock! (Yes, this is an actual rule, and for good reason)

Scoring Basics

  • Distance Jump: Measured from the end of the dock to where your dog’s tail base hits the water.
  • Air Retrieve: You get points for grabbing the bumper at increasing distances.
  • Hydro Dash: It’s all about speed – how fast can your dog swim?
infographic of dog size comparison for open class and lap class dock diving rules

Classes and Divisions

Dogs are divided into classes based on their size:

  • Open Class: Dogs 16 inches and over at the withers (shoulders)
  • Lap Class: Dogs under 16 inches at the withers

Within these classes, there are divisions based on performance. As you and your dog improve, you’ll move up the ranks!

The Three Disciplines of Dock Diving

Let’s break down the three main events and their divisions:

Distance Jumping

Your dog will run down the dock, leap into the air to catch a toy (or not), and land in the pool. The judge measures from the end of the dock to where the base of the dog’s tail hits the water.

You get two jumps per splash (that’s dock diving lingo for “round”) and the longest jump counts.

Distance Divisions
Distance Open ClassDistance Lap Class
Novice DN: 1 in – 9 ft. 11 inNovice: 1 in– 4 ft. 11 in
Junior DJ: 10 ft. – 14 ft. 11 inJunior: 5 ft. – 8 ft. 11 in
Senior DS: 15 ft. – 19 ft. 11 inSenior: 9 ft. -12 ft. 11 in
Master DM: 20 ft. – 23 ft. 11 inMaster: 13 ft. – 17 ft. 11 in
Elite DE: 24 ft. – 27 ft. 11 inElite: 18 ft. and above
Premier DP: 28 ft. and above

Air Retrieve

Imagine playing fetch, but the toy is suspended over water and keeps moving further away with each grab. That’s Air Retrieve in a nutshell. Your dog jumps off the dock to grab a bumper hanging above the water.

The bumper starts at 6 feet for big dogs (4 feet for small dogs) and moves out in 1-foot increments. Your dog gets two attempts at each distance until they miss twice at one distance or have three total misses.

Air Retrieve Divisions
Air Retrieve Open ClassAir Retrieve Lap Class
Novice AN: 6 ft. – 9 ft.Novice: 4 ft. – 6 ft.
Junior AJ: 10 ft. – 13 ft.Junior: 7 ft. – 9 ft.
Senior AS: 14 ft. – 17 ft.Senior: 10 ft. – 12 ft.
Master AM: 18 ft. – 21 ft.Master: 13 ft. – 15 ft.
Elite AE: 22 ft. and upElite: 16 ft. and up

Hydro Dash

This is for the speed demons. Your dog starts behind a line on the dock, jumps in, swims to grab a bumper at the 37-foot mark, and races back. The clock starts when they leave the dock and stops when their nose crosses the 10-foot line on the return.

You get two attempts back-to-back, and the fastest time wins.

Hydro Dash Divisions
Hydro Dash Open ClassHydro Dash Lap Class
Novice HDN: 21.000-39.999Novice HDN: 27.000-49.999
Junior HDJ: 18.000-20.999Junior HDJ: 23.000-26.999
Senior HDS: 16.000-17.999Senior HDS: 20.000-22.999
Master HDM: 14.000-15.999Master HDM: 18.000-19.999
Elite HDE: 0.001-13.999Elite HDE: 0.001-17.999
infographic of dock diving types for nadd

Earning Titles

Every qualifying jump gets you closer to a title. Start with the basic division title, then work your way up to Advanced and Excellent titles. Here are the titles:

Distance Jump Titles

Division Title – 5 Jumps Within a Division:

  • DN – Dock Novice
  • DJ – Dock Junior
  • DS – Dock Senior
  • DM – Dock Master
  • DE – Dock Elite
  • DP – Dock Premier (Open)

Advanced Title – 30 Jumps Within a Division:

  • DNA – Novice
  • DJA – Junior
  • DSA – Senior
  • DMA – Master
  • DEA – Elite
  • DPA – Premier (Open)

Excellent Title – 55 Jumps Within a Division:

  • DNX – Novice
  • DJX – Junior
  • DSX – Senior
  • DMX – Master
  • DEX – Elite
  • DPX – Premier (Open)

Air Retrieve Titles

Division Title – 5 Grabs Within a Division:

  • AN – Novice
  • AJ – Junior
  • AS – Senior
  • AM – Master
  • AE – Elite

Advanced Title – 15 Grabs Within a Division:

  • ANA – Novice
  • AJA – Junior
  • ASA – Senior
  • AMA – Master
  • AEA – Elite

Excellent Title – 25 Grabs Within a Division:

  • ANX – Novice
  • AJX – Junior
  • ASX – Senior
  • AMX – Master
  • AEX – Elite

Hydro Dash Titles

Division Title – 5 Grabs Within a Division:

  • HDN – Novice
  • HDJ – Junior
  • HDS – Senior
  • HDM – Master
  • HDE – Elite

Advanced Title – 15 Grabs Within a Division:

  • HDNA – Novice
  • HDJA – Junior
  • HDSA – Senior
  • HDMA – Master
  • HDEA – Elite

Excellent Title – 25 Grabs Within a Division:

  • HDNX – Novice
  • HDJX – Junior
  • HDSX – Senior
  • HDMX – Master
  • HDEX – Elite

There’s more to titling as you get more involved, but I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible for the newcomers. Hopefully, this helps without being terribly overwhelming!

Tips for Newbies

  1. Start with “try-its” at events. It’s a low-pressure way to see if your dog will enjoy this fun sport.
  2. Bring a favorite floatable toy. The most popular toys I’ve seen or used on the dock have been bumpers, tugs, and Kong Wubbas.
  3. Be patient. Some dogs take it like fish to water, while others need time to build confidence.
  4. Have fun! Remember, your dog doesn’t care about ribbons or titles.

Dock Diving Rules Wrapped Up

Dock diving is a fantastic way to bond with your dog, get some exercise, and meet other crazy dog people.

Remember, the most important of the dock diving rules is to have fun. Whether your dog leaps 30 feet or does a graceful belly flop 2 feet from the dock, they’re still the best dog in the world.

Ready to dive in? Sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks for all things dog. And keep an eye out for our upcoming dog training course!

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