Dock diving, or dock jumping, is a fun sport that combines speed and power, making it ideally suited to retrievers and other obedience centered breeds such as the Australian Shepherd. These breeds not only love to run and retrieve, but they also have an abundance of energy to draw from, which works to their benefit as they try to record the longest jump.
As the name suggests, the sport consists of a dog running and jumping off the end of a dock into a body of water for as long a distance as it can manage. The dog's handler throws a toy for it to follow and handlers can employ either the place and send or chase method in order to get the dog to jump. The method used depends entirely on the temperament and training of the individual dog.
In the place and send method, the dog is walked to the end of the dock or held back while the toy is thrown into the water. The dog is then taken to the starting point of the jump and sent after the toy. Dogs with a lot of speed that don't require a lot of lift off the end of the dock usually do well with this method of dock diving, as do dogs who are not trained to wait or stay.
The chase method, in contrast, requires the dog to be placed in a stay or hold position on the dock. The handler then walks to the end of the dock, calls the dog and throws the toy at the same time, requiring the dog to "chase" the toy into the water. This method gives the dog the maximum launch pattern, causing it to jump up as well as out and increasing the length of the jump.
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The sport of dock jumping debuted in 1997 at the Incredible Dog Challenge event, sponsored by Purina. In 2000, DockDogs was established and held its first event at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games that same year. From there, the diving craze took off and in the next few years several more organizations were formed including Ultimate Air Dogs in 2005. In 2008 the United Kennel Club (UKC) added it as a recognized UKC sport.
The concept of dock diving is really quite simple and competition rules are pretty standard. The dock itself must be 35 to 40 ft. long and 8 ft. wide and stand about 2 ft. above the water surface. Any body of water may be used provided it is at least 4 ft. deep. The dock is usually covered with Astroturf, carpet or rubber matting to ensure good traction. Handlers may use as much of the dock as they choose and can start their dog from anywhere on the dock.
Though there are some minor variations from one organization to another, distance in dock jumping is generally measured from the lateral midpoint of the end of the dock to the point where the base of the dog's tail (the spot where it joins the body) makes contact with the water. Distance is usually measured with digital equipment but it can also be done manually.
Most dock diving competitions are pretty straightforward, with competitors getting two jumps each and taking the longer of the two jumps as their official result. The dog that jumps the furthest wins the competition. There are several organizations that sponsor competitions, including Ultimate Air Dogs, Splash Dogs, and Dock Dogs. Each organization develops its own rules and has its own categories of competition, based on such qualifiers as size and age.
While this sport is suited to retrievers and water loving breeds, it is open to just about any breed and any age. Several of the organizations have senior levels for older dogs and some even have special competition categories for smaller dogs. As long as your dog loves the water and loves to jump, there is no reason why he can't compete.
While it is one of the newer canine sports, having first been introduced in 1997 at the Incredible Dog Challenge, dock diving has taken hold quickly, growing in popularity over the last twenty years and even being included as part of the ESPN Great Outdoor Games. In 2014, North American Diving Dogs was formed and it now offers diving titles recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Most dogs love running and water, so combining the two was an obvious choice. Now diving off the end of a dock has gone from a fun summer pastime to an official sport, perfect for high-energy breeds like the Australian Shepherd. If you've got a four-legged friend who loves the water, why not give this amazing sport a try and see just how far you can go?