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What is Dog Dock Diving?

Dog retrieving a ball in water with a life jacket on.

Dog Dock Diving is a fairly new sport, when compared to Dog Surfing or Dog Flyball.  But, it is wildly popular so it is definitely worthy of consideration for any fast, high-jumping canine who likes water.  Dog Dock Diving allows dogs to show off their ability to jump off a dock using speed and agility in order to gain distance, height, or retrieve a favorite toy to return to their handler in record time. It is definitely not a sport for water-weary pups!  For pups that like to run and jump but prefer dry land, you may want to consider Dog Agility or Dog Parkour

If you’re curious to see a dock diving dog in action, check out this spectacular video of Spitfire from Olympia, Washington. Spitfire is an adult Whippet and considered to be the Michael Jordan of Dog Dock Diving!

Dog Dock Diving was first introduced by Purina in 1997 and is now very popular in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.  North America Diving Dogs (“NADD”) is the organization that supports the sport, grants titles and approves facilities.  The American Kennel Club (“AKC”) and the Canadian Kennel Club (“CKD”) have title recognition programs that allow you to apply to have your dog’s NADD title put on their record.  To apply, you have to fill out this application.  Only titles earned at NADD competitions are recognized.  But, your dog does not have to be registered with either the AKC or CKC to participate in dock diving events and competitions.

Dog retrieving toy from the water.

There are numerous NADD dog dock diving events held every month all over North America. You can check out the list of events here.  All sizes, breeds and mixes are welcome to join.  Dogs compete in divisions based on size and age. 

According to NADD, there are dog dock diving clubs and/or facilities as far south as southern Texas and as far north as Alaska.  You can see a map of the clubs here. To become a NADD sanctioned facility or location, the facility has to apply and meet official requirements. This sport is no joke! 

How do you get your dog into dock diving? If you want to try out Dock Diving with your dog, you can contact one of the facilities in NADD’s list or show up at one of NADD’s events and sign your dog up for a “Try-It” experience.  There your dog can try it out in an actual NADD pool.  Most facilities have training programs too. Watch the video below to get a sense of how the training begins. 

This video is the first in a series which you can view here. The basic steps for training your dog to dock dive are:

  1. Ramp Work – this is where you teach your dog to use the ramp to get into the water. The dog walks down the ramp into the water, takes a little swim and then returns to the ramp and walks up.
  2. Jumping off the ramp – in this step the goal is to get the dog to lunge off the ramp before their belly touches the water. You toss out their toy, they walk down the ramp and then lunge for their toy. As they do this more and more, they should be lunging sooner and sooner.
  3. Jumping off the dock – in this step the goal is to get your dog to jump off the dock directly into the water to get their toy. At this point, you will know your dog is confident about jumping into the water, swimming and retrieving the toy to bring it back to you.
  4. Prevent Hesitation – in this step, the goal is to help the dog overcome their hesitation in jumping off the dock when chasing after the toy thrown into the water. There are different way to overcome this issue – from shortening the distance on the dock to the water, to running with the dog and tossing while they run. 
  5. Chase Method – the goal in this step is to get the dog to grab a toy in the air before it lands in the water. You can start by holding the toy in your hand at the end of the dock. The dog jumps in the air to take it out of your hand and lands in the water.  Eventually, you will be able to throw the toy in the air and the dog will chase it to catch it in the air.   They key is to throw it at a level and distance that your dog can actually catch. 
Dog in life jacket relaxing by the pool

Is dog dock diving safe for dogs? You probably want to check with your vet to make sure there are no issues particular to your dog that might make them unsuitable for the sport.  If the vet gives the go ahead, you’ll want to invest in a good doggy lifejacket and some water toys that won’t break apart.  Of course, anytime your pup gets into the pool, you’ll want to check for objects that could hurt them either on the dock or in the pool itself.  And always pay attention to your dog’s reactions. If they aren’t happy doing it, the sport may not be right for them or maybe they need you to take it slower.  If you increase the difficulty, distance or speed too quickly, it may be too much for your dog to handle.  Sometimes, they may just need a good drink of water and a rest in the shade. 

Can small dogs dock dive? Yes! That is why NADD has a division just for small dogs.  As long as your dog can swim and wants to dock dive, they are a candidate for dock diving.  Many different types of small dogs have participated in dock diving events, from Chihuahuas to Min Pins to Poodles.  In 2018, a Chihuahua named Homer, had an impressive distance jump average of 6 feet, 8 inches.  Now, that’s a peppy Chihuahua!  In 2019, a Shih Tzu named Sweetie Pie had an average jump of 8 feet, 6 inches for the same amount of dives as Homer.

Still looking for inspiration and convincing?  Watch this video about Spitfire, which aired on ESPN just over a year ago. This dog and its journey with its handler will definitely put a smile on your face!

 

3 comments

  • I never knew there was such water sport for dogs! Great article explaining how it works and how to get your dog started on it

    Cristian
  • I didn’t know there’s a sport for dogs! Good excercise for them🙌

    Maiko
  • Great tips ! I have a puppy and we are by a lake , I have been trying to get him in the water !

    Amanda

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