Dock Diving Competitions
To dock dive competitively, dogs must be older than six months. Luckily, most competitions are open to any breed (or a mix of breeds) and size.
There are two primary methods of competitive dock diving:
Place and Send – The handler walks the dog to the end of the dock and holds it back while throwing a toy into the water, then walks the dog back to a designated starting point – i.e., “placing” the dog. The handler then releases, or “sends” the dog to retrieve the toy.
Chase – The dog waits on the dock in starting position while the handler holds the toy in front of the dog’s nose, then throws it into the water and commands the dog to “chase” it. Some handlers favour this method for the optimum height; it helps get dogs to jump up first (as the ball is tossed), then out.
Competitive dock diving awards participants points for distance, height, speed, or a combination of the three. Achievement in these areas is impacted by training, body condition, and nutrition.
The most common dimensions for a professional dock diving competition are 36 feet (11m) long and two feet (60cm) above the water, which is generally 45 feet (14m) long.
Types of Dock Diving Competitons
Big Air – When people think of ‘dog dock diving’, this is the one they usually think of. It’s the most common version of the sport. (We’ve described this one above.)
Extreme Vertical – Looking for an extra challenge? Why not try a high jump as well! Instead of jumping straight out from the dock, dogs doing Extreme Vertical have to knock down what’s called a ‘bumper’, a bit like the bar on a high jump. Eight feet from the dock, there’s a bar at 4 feet 6 (1.4m) from the water. After knocking down the bar, each dog then moves up to the next level – and the fun finally stops when the dog can’t knock over the bumper.
Air Retrieve – This is a progressive game, where each time the bumper moves further from the dock (1ft (30cm) further each time). If the dog fails to retrieve the bumper twice, they’re out!
Speed Retrieve – Take the regular dock diving competition, then add an extra dash of adrenalin. Here, the dog waits up the end of the dock. At the other side of the water, a flashing light signals the start of the round. When the light turns green, the dog goes to the end of the pool to retrieve the toy as quickly as possible. As soon as the toy’s retrieved, the timer stops.
Iron Dog Challenge – Like the sound of one of the above events? We’ve got the perfect combo for you.
In this jumbo-sized event, dogs compete in three of the above challenges – Big Air, Speed Retrieve, and Extreme Vertical in succession. It’s obviously strenuous, but go for it if your dog’s made of strong stuff!
The Physical Challenges of Dock Diving
Flinging themselves off a dock at a million miles an hour, repeatedly, with all their might, is obviously strenuous and exhausting for a dog, no matter how fit. So just in case you think your dog can just ‘wing it’ and become an ace dock diving champion immediately … don’t.
Training dock-diving dogs properly is vitally important, and can’t be rushed. They need to be trained to succeed in competitions, because they’ll be up against seasoned professionals!
So, gradually step up the training for your dog over a number of weeks. Going to the beach regularly and doing long sessions of swimming and running is a great way to get those muscles primed for the big day.
Nutritional Needs of Dock Diving Dogs
Keeping in shape as a dock diving dog is tough. It’s vital to make sure your dog has a balanced diet when dock diving, because they’ll need all the help they can get to replace all those vitamins and nutrients they’ll burn off during the diving challenges.
With all that stretching of limbs, diving dogs are also at risk for degeneration of joint cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin help keep the cartilage healthy while EPA supports overall joint health, powering jumps to go the distance.
During dock diving, proper nutrition can mean the difference between timid jumps and some serious air. Eukanuba™ Premium Performance 20/30 Sprint is designed to help support diving dogs’ unique physical needs when they’re jumping off docks (and climbing back up, of course).
To focus on trainers’ commands, dogs require nutrients supporting healthy brain function. Staying alert and focused is necessary for learning a sport like dock diving, especially when pool time is limited. DHA and antioxidants may also help your dog’s cognitive function, which can impact learning.
If you’d like to get your dog into dock diving, it’s a great idea to start teaching them basic obedience skills during puppyhood. Because this sport requires your dog to execute several complex skills in order while keeping their focus, every ounce of basic obedience practice they get from you when they’re young will help set them on the path towards dock diving excellence later in life. There’s simply nothing like seeing your dog put all those skills together when they complete a breathtaking dive for the first time, so put in the hard yards early and you’ll reap the rewards!