The Joy of Dock Jumping
By Tina McLaughlin for Exceptional Canine
Dock jumping is the fastest-growing canine sport around. It’s safe for dogs and good for their joints — and they love it.
There are three different types of dock-diving competitions:
- Big Air is the canine version of the long jump. Running at speeds of about 20 miles per hour, the dogs catapult off the end of a 40-foot dock to retrieve a floatable toy in the water below.
- Extreme Vertical is a high-jump competition. The dog runs just 20 feet and leaps upward to reach a bumper suspended above the water.
- Speed Retrieve dogs launch off the dock to fetch a toy at the end of the pool. They’re judged for how fast they jump and how far they swim.
Check out dogs in action at a dock-diving competition:
How to Get Started in Dock Jumping
You can learn a lot by visiting DockDogs.com. You can ask questions on the forums, and people across the country will chime in and help you. And you can see where upcoming competitions will take place. We have clubs in about 30 states now, and there are events happening nearly every weekend throughout most of the year.
Any breed that likes water can participate in dock jumping, as long as your dog is at least 6 months old. The dogs really get into a competition mode. They know what they’re supposed to do. But here are a few guidelines to get you started:
- Make it fun. Your dog should be comfortable in water and associate it with fun. Never push, shove or throw him in. You’ll terrify him! Make sure to let your dog get into the water on his own free will.
- Introduce water play. Start by tossing a toy in water just 3 to 5 feet out and letting him play in the lake. Then, gradually go to the dock and just put the toy a little farther in the water and let him retrieve it.
- Make sure your dog knows basic commands. Basic obedience is an absolute must, because your dog has to know how to sit, stay and come.
- Don’t forget to praise, praise, praise. If it feels like work, it’s not going to be fun for the dog.
As far as safety goes, just use basic common sense. As a responsible dog owner, you need to ensure that the environment is safe. Make sure there aren’t any sticks in the water, or your dog may end up getting shish-kabobed. And you don’t want him to go into any lake that’s dirty. If you wouldn’t swim in it, your dog shouldn’t either.
Good, Clean Fun
Dock jumping is a great socializing opportunity for us humans, and the dogs have a blast doing it. I can tell my Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Ellie, loves it, because as soon as we pull up the car and she can see the pool, she starts going nuts. She’s not shaking with her tail tucked under her legs.
The events are competitive in a very friendly way. They’ll play music that you and your dog can jump to, but it’s all family-friendly. Ellie and I do between five and 10 events a year, depending on where they’re located.
On the weekend events, we try to have a cookout on Saturday night. Everyone talks about their dog, how they did, and the training methods they use. What I love most about this sport is the camaraderie. Everybody cheers for everyone else. It’s a dock-dog family. It’s spending quality time with your furry friend. And everyone has a wonderful time.
Tina McLaughlin is
the founder, past president and a board member of Buckeye DockDogs in Grafton,