Have you seen dogs jumping off docks at state fairs or on sports TV? This high-octane event is actually a sport called dock diving and you and your dog can get involved! Building on a dog’s natural love of toys, in dock diving pups leap into special pools to retrieve toys and compete to see what dog can jump the farthest.
The current World Record for the farthest dock diving jump was set in 2019 by Sounders, a Whippet who jumped 36 feet and 2 inches! Sounders’ record-breaking jump was 2 feet beyond the previous record of 33 feet, 10 inches!
Dock Diving for Dogs: The Rules
The goal of competitive dock diving is to have the longest jump possible. Dogs compete in two groupings based on their height at the withers (shoulders) with taller dogs competing against each other and shorter dogs competing together. There are also competition categories for senior dogs, and the sport is open to dogs of all sizes and breeds including mixed breed dogs.
With dock diving you throw your dog’s favorite toy off the end of a dock into a long pool. When cued to go, your dog runs the length of the dock and jumps into the pool to get their toy. The dock must be at least 40 feet long and 7.5 feet wide and the pool the dogs jump into are at least 41 feet long and 20 feet wide. The water in the pool is 4 feet deep and has a ramp which allows the dogs to safely exit the water and get back to the dock after their jump. There are measuring marks posted on both sides of the pool making it immediately apparent how far dogs have jumped.
Although dogs sometimes practice in lakes or natural bodies of water, dock diving competitions only take place in pools.
Within dog dock diving itself, there are two divisions of competition—distance jumping, and air retrieval.
For this division, dogs are judged by how far they jump. The distance a dog jumps is based on the length of the end of the dock to the base of the dog’s tail when the dog hits the water. A dog’s turn to jump is called a “splash” and includes two opportunities for the dog to jump into the water. The farthest distance jumped out of the two becomes the dog’s score for that splash. The dog who jumps the farthest will win first place.
In this division, dogs jump to catch a toy that is suspended two feet above the dock height above the pool. The dog must either grab or remove the toy from the hanging apparatus. The apparatus holding the toy is moved along the length of the pool, starting at six feet from the dock for large dogs and four feet for smaller dogs. It is then is moved further from the dock one foot at a time. The goal is for the dog to grab or knock the toy loose from the apparatus.
Each time the dog knocks the toy to the water they qualify to move to the next distance (one foot further). Dogs get two chances at each distance and continue to compete until they have two misses (misses are when they don’t knock or catch the toy) at one distance or three misses altogether. The dog who gets the bumper at the greatest distance from the dock wins.
A Splash for Pets—and People
Like any other canine sport, dock diving is a great way to bond with your dog. Robert Thibault, from St. Catharines in Ontario, Canada, competes in dock diving with his Standard Poodle, Evil, and explained that what he loves most about the sport is “the joy evident in my dog. Our bond has grown so dramatically since we started diving. She is more driven in every aspect of our partnership.”
Although Evil has only been involved in the sport since the beginning of 2021, she’s already making a splash. According to Thibault, “Evil is already the biggest jumping Poodle in Ontario” and leapt an impressive 23 feet 1 inch in a competition. Thibault proudly notes that Evil has also “placed in the top three in every wave of competition, save one so far,” since she began competing this year.
“As long as the dog is capable of running and swimming, they can jump. I’ve seen three-legged dogs jumping!” says Brittany Brauer, a certified professional dog trainer who owns and operates The Soggy Dog Club, a dock diving training facility in Tucson, Arizona. Brauer has competed in dock diving since 2015; her Border Collie, Stark, has a personal best jump of 27 feet.
Last year, Stark earned his Advanced Masters Dock Diving Title—this means he completed 30 qualifying jumps of 20 to 23 feet 11 inches, judged by North American Diving Dogs (NADD).
Jump In, the Water’s Fine
Do you think your dog might be interested in giving dock diving a go? There are pools and training centers across the country that can help introduce you and your dog to the sport. “Even if your dog isn’t a swimmer yet, they can learn to love the water,” Brauer says.
There are multiple different organizations that organize competitions including Ultimate Air Dogs, Dock Dogs, and NADD, all of which have clubs and events located across the United States. Each organization has information on their website about local clubs, competitions, and training opportunities. These local groups will help you safely introduce your dog to the dock and pool.
To get involved in competition, dogs must be at least six months old, but Brauer notes even puppies can “start training at a much younger age. If your dog has a love of toys and water, whether they are big or small, old or young, they can dock dive.”
Dock diving competitions are most commonly held in the spring, summer, and fall, but some areas have indoor training and competition facilities like Paws Aquatics in Hillsboro, Oregon allowing dogs to compete year round.
If you see dock diving demonstrations at a local fair or other event you can also approach any of the competitors and ask where they train.
Ready to get started? NADD has educational resources on their website including some instructional videos for how to get your dog started in the sport. It’s also helpful to encourage your dog’s excitement to play with toys because this drive will come in handy when you get onto the dock.
Getting involved in the community of dock diving teams is a great way to learn more about the sport and build friendships and connections to other people who love their dogs as much as you do.
For people sitting home thinking, “this looks fun,” Thibault encourages you to get out there with your dog.
“Do it! I promise that even if you find that it isn’t for you and your dog, you will find a better relationship and very likely find a fantastic pastime.”
See Dock Diving Dogs Near You
You can search for dog dock diving events in your local areas via the NADD calendar of events.