Dog Dock Diving Training

Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
dog performing dock diving event

Leaping ability is one of the purest measures of athletic ability and the incredible diving dogs at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge are proof of that. These dock dogs push the limits of gravity, flying through the air 30 feet or more before splashing down in the pool.

If you have the good fortune of spending many summer days near a lake or have access to a diving dock and have a dog that loves the water, you may want to try the sport of Diving Dog with your dog.

Event Basics

In the Diving Dog event, dogs race down a platform and leap into a swimming pool, trying to jump the farthest distance.

Well-Suited Breeds 

When you think of the breeds that would excel as diving dogs, the retrieving breeds that take naturally to water, like Labrador or Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, would be on the shortlist. A number of other breeds, from Doberman Pinschers to Belgian Malinois, also excel at this dog event. But you simply need a dog that takes to the water and enjoys a good thrill.  

What You Need

The equipment for training dock dogs are:

  • A dog that loves the water and has strong swimming skills
  • A carpeted or nonslip 40-foot runway free of obstructions or trip hazards
  • Potable water, such as a pool, pond or lake with water that is at least 3 feet 6 inches deep and no more than 2-3 feet below the dock to ensure a safe landing for the dog
  • A toy or bumper which you throw out ahead of your dog to guide the leap

How to Train

If you have access to a dock or even a nice bank on the shoreline, you can get started with Diving Dog yourself. Just make sure the approach to the water is clear of debris or trip hazards to avoid the risk of injury. 

The first thing to do is to get your dog used to jumping into the water. Just lead your dog to the edge of the dock or shore, toss a favorite toy into the water, and encourage your dog to jump in. See how.

After your dog is comfortable with jumping in, move him backward to a starting point six feet from the edge of the water, while you remain at the edge to throw the toy. If he can stay on his own, you can do this alone, but if he has trouble waiting, you might want to enlist a friend to hold him until you say it’s ok to jump. As your dog gets more and more comfortable, move him further and further back from the edge of the water. See how.

Tips From Competition Veterans

Brianna Minshew is a Staff Supervisor at the Georgia Dog Gym in Rome, Georgia. She also competes in the Diving Dog competition with Knox, her 4-year old Border Collie. The team took 1st Place in the 2014 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge Eastern Regionals.  

While athletic ability is important, she says the most important element for getting started is good obedience. 

“My advice for those wanting to get into the sport of dock diving is to start off with a basic obedience class so the dog can learn to sit down and/or stay on the dock,” said Minshew. She adds, “They also need to learn to track and retrieve a toy. What I believe is the most important is to find a local facility that has a pool and get proper instruction and safety tips for the dock and also to have fun with your dog.”

J.D. and Ronalee McKnight got Storie, their Black Labrador Retriever, started in the sport after seeing a competition on TV. The team recently placed 3rd in the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals with a jump of 32’ 4”. 

While there’s a desire to progress as rapidly as possible, J.D. McKnight preaches the virtues of taking one’s time. “The dog might be able to swim and jump right away,” he said, “but getting the focus to use the dock properly and track the toy takes time, practice and patience.” 

Related Sport 

The Fetch It competition is similar to Diving Dog except the dog must knock a bumper that is suspended above the water. The dogs run off the dock and try to retrieve or knock down the bumper that is hung 4' above the water. The initial distance is usually about 18' and then is moved out in 1' increments. Each competitor receives two tries at each distance and is eliminated if they miss both times. The dog who knocks the bumper down at the farther distance is named the winner.

Getting Started 

There are a number of ways to start training your dog in these water sports:

  1. Find a club: There are clubs and dog gyms all over the country with facilities and knowledgeable staff. Just do a quick search online to locate one nearest you. 
  2. Network: Another great place to begin is by networking through your local breed-affiliated club. 
  3. Go to the lake: If you have access to a dock or even a nice bank on the shoreline, you can get started with this on your own. Just make sure the approach is clear of debris or trip hazards to avoid the risk of injury. 

Like any dog competition, it’s important to have fun. And while your dog may not have the physical makeup to set a world record, it’s an amazing journey to watch him or her maximize the potential inside. 

Before getting started, remember that you should always consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog is fit for exercise. And make sure to fuel your incredible dog with advanced nutrition that will help them be their best. Find your dog’s formula.

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