It doesn’t matter if you’re talking man or dog, leaping ability is one the purest measures of athletic ability there is. And for those with the good fortune of spending many summer days near a lake, the sport of dock diving is natural for many dogs. At the Purina® Pro Plan® Incredible Dog Challenge®, the top dogs push the limits of gravity, flying through the air 30 feet or more before splashing down in the pool.
The elements of the sport 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 for safe landing
- A toy or bumper which you throw out ahead of your dog to guide the leap
When you think of the breeds that would thrive, the retrieving breeds that take naturally to water like Labrador or Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, would be on the shortlist. But a number of other breeds, from Doberman Pinschers to Belgian Malinois, also excel at the sport. But you simply need a dog that takes to the water and enjoys a good thrill.
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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 and/or down 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.”
The Fetch It competition is similar to a high jump competition except that the bumper is moved out horizontally instead of up vertically. The dogs run off the dock and try to retrieve or knock down a bumper that is hung 3' 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 winner is the dog(s) that knocks down the bumper at the furthest distance.
There are a number of ways to get started in dock diving.
- 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.
- Another great place to begin is by networking through your local breed-affiliated club.
- 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 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.