Image by Ryan McGilchrist via Flickr

If your dog loves to play fetch and he can’t get enough of the water, perhaps you should give dock diving a try. This fast-growing dog sport is an exhilarating and simple way to blow off steam while bonding with your beloved pup.

Interested? Keep reading for the lowdown on this unique dog sport.

What is dock diving?

Image by Bruce Simmons via Flickr

The concept behind dock diving is simple: you toss a toy into a pool, and your dog leaps from a dock to retrieve it, with the goal of jumping the farthest. While competitive distance-jumping is the most popular version of the sport, you’ll see a few variations—such as measuring how high a dog can jump and how fast he can retrieve a toy. 

Dock diving made waves at the 1997 Purina Incredible Dog Challenge, appearing on ESPN three short years later. Dock diving’s popularity is no surprise—what’s not to love about dogs running full speed into a body of water? The sport captures your happy pooch in his element, and we are fully on board with that!

Since it requires both a dog and a human handler, dock diving fosters bonding and companionship. It’s also an inclusive activity—anyone can do it! Whether you have an athletic labrador or a feisty chihuahua, dock diving is something any water-loving dog can enjoy and excel at. If your dog can jump—and swim—he can dock dive.

How to get involved in dock diving

Image by Phrawr via Flickr

If you and your pup are ready to take the leap, there are three organizations to check out: North American Diving Dogs (NADD), Dock Dogs, and Ultimate Air Dogs. Each group has its own rules and regulations, and they also offer memberships if you’re looking for some friendly camaraderie. 

Once you find a competition in your area, all you need to do is register and pay any fees required. To keep things fair, your pet will compete against dogs with similar abilities, so don’t worry about your beginner status. This is one sport where participants are happy to help out the newbies.

Benefits of dock diving for dogs

Still need convincing that dock diving should be your new hobby? Check out all the ways you and your dog can benefit from this activity.

  • It’s good exercise: Running, jumping, swimming—dock diving will get your dog’s heart pumping without being too taxing.
  • It’s safe: If you’re looking for a gentler sport that won’t strain your dog’s joints or muscles, it doesn’t get much better than this. Even senior dogs can get involved in dock diving.
  • It’s a great way to beat the heat: In the dog days of summer, dock diving will more than take the edge off. 
  • It will strengthen your bond: Like most canine sports, dock diving will bring you and your dog closer together. 
  • You can choose the level of competitiveness: Dock diving doesn’t need to be about winning. If you’re not the competitive type, it can just be a new way to have fun with your furry friend!

Spitfire “The Flying Dog”

Dock diving dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but one famous doggo exists in a category all his own. Introducing Spitfire, “the Michael Jordan of Dogs.” This 7-year-old Whippet has beat multiple world records, including height and distance jumps as well as speed retrieving.

In 2018, this champion took things next level when he jumped a whopping 31 feet!

So yeah. He’s kinda a big deal. 

How to get started

Image by Bruce Simmons via Flickr

Have we given you enough incentive to give dock diving a try? Excellent. Let’s look at how you can get started.

1. Brush up on your dog’s fetching skills

Hopefully, your dog already has this trick in his back pocket, but if not, now’s the time for some lessons. The American Kennel Club has laid out some easy-to-follow steps if you need some guidance.

2. Add water

It should go without saying, but your dog needs to be fond of the water if he’s going to get anywhere with dock diving. For dogs who are on the hesitant side, you’ll need work on his level of comfort with water. Private swimming lessons are an option for inexperienced dogs, and PetMD recommends using a dog life jacket for the first few sessions. It’s also important to practice in water that’s deep enough for your dog’s big splash landing. 

If you don’t have access to water, you can contact one of the three dock diving organizations mentioned earlier to help you find an available swimming pool for practice.

Image by Bruce Simmons via Flickr

3. Master the dive

Once your dog is comfortable in the water, it’s time to move on to the exciting part: the diving! 

First, let your dog familiarize himself with the length of the dock by walking up and down it together. When you’re both ready, toss a ball or toy into the water—chances are instinct will kick in, and your dog will leap for the toy without any prompting from you. 

Continue working on your throws, and encourage your dog to jump as far as possible. Just keep things fun! If you or your dog is getting bored, tired, or frustrated—it’s time to take a break.

4. Get the right equipment

Thankfully, dock diving doesn’t require an expensive array of equipment. Beyond the obvious (you need a dog, a dock, and a body of water) you’ll want a waterproof dog collar and some floating toys such as a dog-training dummy or just a plain ol’ ball. (Dogs aren’t picky.) PetMD suggests making these toys for dock diving only, so your dog will get excited every time you bring them out. 

As far as summer activities go, splashing around with our doggos ranks pretty high. Go ahead and give it a try—you may find that dock diving is your new favorite.