Article by Trainer Taya Hekking. Taya competes in dock diving with her Golden Retriever, Boo! Learn all about the dock diving sport in this fun read. Maybe it’s something your dog could excel at!
Participating in dog sports is a great way to build a stronger relationship with your dog, increase confidence, and a great outlet for drive and energy. If your dog likes the water, dock diving may be the sport for you! Dock diving consists of a dog running down a dock and jumping into a pool of water. The handler stands at the edge of the dock and tosses a toy into the pool that the dog then targets during its jump. The dog is judged on the distance or height it jumps, depending on the category the team is competing in.
Dock diving originated in the late nineties as an outdoor dog event. The sport first premiered in the US during the Super Retriever Series Super Dock during the Retriever Trials hosted by ESPN in 2000.(Retrievers, 2000) It quickly caught on in the dog world and is now considered the fastest growing dog sport. The most common organization for dock diving is the North American Diving Dogs (abbreviated NADD), which offers competitions and titles in partnership with the American Kennel Club.
Each competition consists of three to four splashes. A splash is a round of jumps, usually going in alphabetic order based on the dogs call name. Each dog has two judged jumps back to back per splash, with an optional practice jump at the beginning. The goal is to beat your personal best distance. The dog competes not only against its own personal best, but can also be placed in breed and overall rankings, which lead to invitations to Regional and National competitions.
AKC Dock Diving titles are available based on the number and distance of jumps the dog successfully completes. Each title requires five qualifying jumps per division. In Open Class, Novice Division is anything below 10 feet. Junior Division is between 10-15 feet, Senior Division is between 15-20 feet, Master Division is between 20-24 feet, Elite Division is between 24-28 feet, and Premiere is anything above 28 feet. Lap Class is available for dogs measuring under 16” at the withers, with the distances adjusted in each division to match. Advanced titles can be earned in each division with 25 additional qualifying jumps (NADD, divisions).
Other common events that take place during a Dock Diving competition are the Hydrodash and the Air Retrieve. The Hydrodash is a swimming competition where the dog is judged based on speed. Air Retrieve involves the dog jumping off the dock into the pool while successfully retrieving a bumper hanging above the pool. In Air Retrievals, the dog is judged on its vertical height rather than distance. Titles are earned similarly in both of these events.
Any breed of dog can compete in dock diving, however dogs that are bred for the water seem to enjoy the sport the most. Retrievers, Spaniels, and Water Dogs seem to be the most popular breeds in the sport – however serious competitors are trending towards competitions with Malinois and Whippets due to their agility and drive. The current top ten ranking dogs are nine Whippets, and one Malinois (NADD, 2021).
While titles and ribbons are fun goals to work towards, the dog wins far more by competing in dock diving. Dogs build confidence and trust in their handler as they learn to jump off the dock and into the clear pool water. Contrary to popular belief, not every dog is born knowing how to doggie paddle! Many dogs must learn to swim comfortably in the water before they ever set foot on a dock. Dogs that are natural water lovers gain a wonderful outlet for their drive and energy, fulling their hardwired genetic purpose through a fun sport. If your dog loves spending the day at the lake, jumping in puddles and through sprinklers, or likes fetch and tug, dock diving may be your new favorite sport with your best K9 companion! Check out www.northamericadivingdogs.com for more information on clubs and trainers near you!
Divisions. NADD | Divisions. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://northamericadivingdogs.com/content/view/cmsid/21/Divisions.
Nadd | 2021 Breed Rankings Report – all breeds. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://northamericadivingdogs.com/Report/breedRankings.
Retrievers. Super Retriever Series. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.superretrieverseries.com/retriever-list/
Thank you for this educational and motivational read, Taya!