Dock Diving 101
by Kelli McCoy (Senior Instructor with Partners Dog Training School, AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, Certified Trick Dog Instructor - Email)
"Swim" and Nessy goes flying through the air.
For me, only one thing could possibly beat the look of anticipation on my dog’s face as she waits for me at the back of the dock, anxiously waiting for the word “Swim!” to leave my mouth. She gallops down the 40 feet of the dock; barreling toward me. I turn towards the water, and the toy leaves my fingertips. She takes one great leap and soars over the surface of the water only to break it with a splash! Even through all of those wonderful moments; my absolute favorite part of this entire sport is how proud she looks swimming back to me, toy in mouth, and tail a-waggin’. The entire reason I do this, is for that one look from my very happy dog.
As a behavioral trainer I am often quoted with saying, “A busy dog, is a good dog.” I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this pearl of wisdom! Being the proud owner of four dogs myself in a household of 8 pups total; I realized just how true this statement is! I am sure many dog owners can attest to this realization I have come to. Luckily for me, I have had the privilege of being introduced to the world of dog sports. The bond between my fur-kids and myself has blossomed into something grand, we work as a team doing activities that we all love.
There are many different sports for you, and your pooch, to take part in; this article dives into the world of DockDogs.
A little over a year ago my vet finally made me face the cold hard truth…. that our Goldendoodle, Teddy was not just “pleasantly plump” as I had always described. He was, in fact, overweight. Action was necessary. This is when I was introduced to the world of Dock Diving. When I first heard the term I had no idea what they were talking about! I had to look it up on the ever popular site; YouTube. When I first saw the video of the dog racing down the dock after its beloved toy and into the water with a splash I thought… “My dog could do that!”
Swimming is a low impact, full body work out.
that I could utilize even during those sweltering summer months we all endure here in sunny Arizona. I was all over that! We of course started with swimming at Partners Aquatic Center in Cave Creek, where we built his confidence in the water. I will never forget his first dive from the dock into the pool! The overwhelming feeling of pride that hit me as Teddy belly flopped into the water is by far one of my favorite moments with my big goofball. Thus bloomed my love affair with Dock Diving.
I have been a swim and dock instructor at Partners Aquatic Center for almost two years now, where I can share my love for the sport! My German Shepherd Nessy and I make up “Team Loch Ness,” together we travel to events in awesome places like Las Vegas, and we have had the pleasure of making friends all over the country!
Dock Dogs Events
There are several different organizations who hold Dock Diving events through the country, and the sport has expanded worldwide! One of the largest of these companies is the Ohio based DockDogs Worldwide. Partners Dog Training School is a Sanctioned Facility of Dogs Dogs, the only facility on the West Coast, and one of five in the USA. In 2014, Partners Dog Training was awarded the Top Facility of the Year Award.
There are events held all over the United States that lead to Worlds which is being held in Dubuque, Iowa next year. Within each event there are three different components; Big Air, Extreme Vertical, and Speed Retrieve. These three disciplines combined make up the Iron Dog Competition. To give you a little more perspective I will break the events down.
DogDiving is divided into four events, Big Air, Extreme Vertical, Speed Retrieve and Iron Dog
Big Air is the distance discipline of dock diving. Competitors can use as much or as little of the 40 foot dock to send their dogs from. The distance of the jump is measured from the end of the dock to where the base of your pup’s tail hits the water. During National events this is judged by a computer system which is calibrated several times during the event to ensure accuracy, during club events the distance is measured by two DockDogs certified judges. The outdoor world record for this event is a whopping 31 feet. Yep, I said THIRTY-ONE feet! This record was set by a handsome whippet back in 2012. I know what you are thinking… That dog is a freak of nature there is NO way my dog could hurl himself 31 feet! That’s ok! DockDogs makes the sport fun for dogs with leaps of any length; with divisions. Novice runs 0’ to 9’11”, Junior 10’ to 14’11”, and so on, up to Super Elite which is 25’ and above. So even if your dog only jumps 9 feet, you can still place!
Extreme Vertical is the doggy high jump! This competition is by far one of my favorites! The crowd gets so into it, you can hear everyone say “OOOOOO” when the pup misses the bumper, and the cheering when the dog makes the catch! Now what on earth do I mean by doggy high jumping? I mean a pole that extends eight feet out from the edge of the dock, where the bumper (toy) is connected to the rig by magnets. The starting height for this discipline is 4’6” the bumper moves up in 2 inch increments after each successful grab, the indoor world record is an astonishing 8’10” set by none other than a Belgian Malinois! Let’s recap…. That is 8 feet out from the end of the dock, and almost 9 feet high! To say these dogs are athletic is an understatement! Once again there are divisions within Extreme Vertical, or EV as the DockDogs crowd refers to it. So if your dog does not jump almost 9 feet into the air you can still place as well!
Speed Retrieve is what DockDogs competitors refer to as doggy drag-racing! In this fast-paced event the dog is placed at the 20 foot mark on the dock, and the coveted bumper is hanging at the end of the pool on a magnetic pole. During national competitions the bumper is rigged to an elaborate timing system with lights that let you know when to deploy your dog and sensors to detect when your pup successfully pulls the bumper from the magnets. Up on the dock there are lasers that detect false start, and reaction time. The indoor world record for this event is 4.442 seconds. That is 4.442 seconds for the goofy lab mix to run from the 20 foot mark and jump from the end of the dock, splash into the water and then swim all the way to the end of the 40 foot pool to pull the bumper! I would like to see an Olympic swimmer go up against that pup! He would give him a run for his money, that’s for sure.
Last, but certainly not least to talk about is the Iron Dog competition. You could liken it to a triathlon. Points from each activity within the event are added up and weighed to account for an official score, these scores are used to determine Iron Dog places for that particular event. The way these scores are calculated is a little confusing…. But don’t worry. There’s an app for that!
DockDogs is a wonderful sport where everyone is out to encourage and aid their fellow competitor. Although the dogs are somewhat competing against each other you would never know that based on the level of camaraderie between the teams. This sport encourages dogs of all sizes, ages, and skill levels with divisions such as lapdogs for our smaller pups and veteran for our pups who are a little more advanced in years. As well as, handlers of all ages! There are many junior handlers who participate in the sport. How do my dog and I get involved you ask? There is a fantastic local club called Arizona DockDogs (AZDD) who offers support and practice sessions for their members, I encourage you to join them! Visit their website for more details; www.arizonadockdogs.com. AZDD practices at our Aquatic Center here in Cave Creek, AZ. Classes, private lessons, and pool rental are available through Partners! Even dogs who are scared of the water can, and should, learn to swim! I recommend dogs who are newer to watersports to take a class, or a few lessons to build that confidence before attempting to dive off of the dock.
We are all about sharing our dog world with you. Here are a bunch more links for you and your dog to dig into: