Eukanuba Logo


How To Train A Dog for Dock Diving 

What is Dock Diving?

This relatively new sport is a bit like a long jump for dogs … into water. If that sounds completely bonkers, you’re on the right track. One thing’s for sure, though, your dog will love it!

So, what exactly is dock dog diving?

Dock diving (also known as dock jumping), is a sporting competition in which dogs compete at either distance or height jumping from a raised platform (known as a dock) into water.

To prevent slippage and accidents, the dock’s usually lined with some type of non-slip material (e.g. fake grass). The dogs can pick up some serious speed here, so traction is everything.

After reaching the end of the platform, your eager daredevil dog takes a flying leap into the water. Just as we measure the achievement of a long-jumper by marking the ground, the progress of a dock diver is measured by how far the dog manages to get along the water, measured from where the base of the tail hits the surface. (It has to be the base rather than the tip, otherwise big-tailed dogs would have an unfair advantage!)

What Equipment Do You Need for Dock Diving?

While dock diving is a simple sport, there are still several things you’ll need to bring along.

Body of water – The most important thing here is to have something for your dog to jump into! This is regulated, because the water has to have the ideal properties to be both safe and measurable for your dog.

Object to chase – To actually want to jump into the water, your dog has to have a reason! The best way of doing this is to give them something to chase after, e.g. a colorful, entrancing object. There are plenty of specialized chase objects available from pet shops; just remember that it may take a bit of trial and error to figure out which one they’ll like best.

Dock – This is a low platform suspended above the body of water that the dog’s about to jump into. As mentioned earlier, the dock’s usually made of non-slip material to prevent the dog slipping off the edge.

A dock may just seem like a regular piece of wood, but it’s actually quite tightly regulated. (This is because the records have to be reliable across each competition.) It’s also more common to do dock diving in a swimming pool, which prevents currents and other unpredictable elements from causing swimming problems for your dog.

Food and treats – After a massive day of jumping (and even in between jumps), your dog’s guaranteed to get mighty hungry. Have a variety of their favorite treats on hand, to make sure they don’t run out of fuel halfway through the competition!

Water – The same goes for water. Jumping (and waiting for their turn) is thirsty work, especially when it’s hot outside. You definitely don’t want your dog dehydrating, so make sure to pack their water bowl and find the nearest clean water point ASAP before beginning. If there’s none available, it’s on you to pack enough clean water to get your dog through the entire competition.
Content Block With Text And Image 1

The Best Dog Breeds for Dock Diving

Any dog that likes to swim can dock dive, but breeds like Labrador Retrievers and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are natural dock divers, since they typically love to swim and fetch. Dogs must be older than six months to dock dive competitively, but most competitions are open to any breed (or mix of breeds) and size.

When considering the best dog breeds for dock diving, size is definitely an advantage. Remember, you want your dog to catapult itself off the edge of a dock as far as possible, so having big leg muscles is a winning characteristic.

How To Train Your Dog for Dock Diving

Compared with other canine sports, training your dog to dock dive is relatively simple:

Step 1: Teach Your Dog to Swim All the good intentions in the world won’t make any difference if your dog can’t swim! You’ll really have to make sure they’re totally comfortable with water before setting out on your dock diving journey – because if they’re not, they may freak out when (or before!) they hit the water.

Fortunately, we’ve written an article on teaching your dog to swim. Follow these steps, and you’ll have the ideal groundwork to make sure your companion’s all set for the non-stop fun of dog dock jumping.

Step 2: Teach Your Dog to Jump Into Water When wondering how to get your dog into dock diving, it’s good to know that training your dog to dock dive is relatively simple.

To begin, lead them to the edge of a dock. Next, throw a favorite toy into the water. (Make sure to use one that floats.) Finally, give the “fetch” command. Like any sport, practice makes perfect, and you can throw the toy further as your dog learns.

Step 3: Repeat Steps 1 & 2 The more you repeat these steps, the more comfortable (and excited!) your dog will be with the whole experience. By getting right into it, they’re more likely to be able to soar further and more spectacularly in their efforts.

Step 4: Practice Getting Air The time your dog spends aloft before hitting the water is crucial, because that’s what governs the length of their flight. So, give your dog the chance to do progressively longer and longer leaps until they really get the hang of horizontal motion.

A great way to try this is if you’ve got access to a pool. With your dog at the edge, hold something they’ll want (e.g. a favorite ball, toy, or treat) away from the edge, inviting them to jump in and get it. After a while, increase the distance and see if they can get that, too. Soon, they’ll get the idea that you’d like them to jump as far as possible!

Step 5: Prepare At Multiple Docks Dock diving dog training should involve plenty of variation. So, trying a variety of environments is a crucial way of getting your dog comfortable during dock diving training. To get them used to different sensations beneath their feet, try several different floor coverings. If you have a pool, do the challenge from each end, varying these at unexpected times so your dog doesn’t get too comfortable (or bored) with each situation.

If you have access to professional dock diving venues, it’s a great idea to give your dog a try here before they enter their first competition. They’ll then become really comfortable with this strange experience, giving them a useful head start!

Content Block With Text And Image 2

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!