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Your Dog Can Leap For A Title In Dock Diving

(Wednesday, August 27, 2014)

In June, the AKC announced that it will recognize titles earned in dock-diving events sanctioned by North American Diving Dogs (NADD). This independent governing body for canine dock diving offers competition for all dogs in distance jumping and air retrieve.


Auggie and his owner go for a victory dive after earning a new World Record in dock diving.
(Photo by Amy Neal)

Dogs of all shapes and sizes can compete—purebred and mixed, sporting and non-sporting breeds, big and little, puppies 6 months or older and seniors, male and female. The girls compete against the boys in their divisions, which vary depending on the sanctioning organization. 

FIRST AND FOREMOST
As with many dog sports, a basic foundation in obedience helps set the stage for future success, and the AKC STAR Puppy and Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) programs are a great start. Of course, your dog should enjoy getting wet, although she does not necessarily have to be a great swimmer. But the most important ingredient to create a dock-diving fanatic is a strong toy and play drive. Most participants reserve their special toy for training sessions so that their dogs go wild for it when poolside. 

TRAINING FOR THE SPORT

Step 1: Before signing up for our chance to try the sport, acquaint your dog with water using her favorite toys and chase games to create a positive association with going into the water. A life jacket can act as a safety net to create confidence—you can remove it as your dog becomes a stronger swimmer. (Although life jackets are allowed, they can interfere with the dog’s ability to reach out and drive for distance as they become more experienced.)

Step 2: To teach the retrieve, find a toy that your dog likes and teach her to take it by praising her every time she grasps the toy in her mouth. If your dog is reluctant you can attach the toy to a leash and drag it on the floor to create interest, hide it behind your back and play hide-and-seek with it, or have a partner facing you and wiggling it at a distance as you gently restrain and then release your dog to claim her prize.

Step 3: There are two primary ways to teach a dog to enter the water: place and send and chase. With place and send the owner restrains the dog by the collar with one hand while simultaneously tossing the toy in the water. Then the team walks toward the entry point of the dock, and the handler places the dog in position and then releases the dog to get the toy. This method is helpful for dogs who have not been taught to stay or wait in position on the dock.

The chase starts with a wait or stay at the very start of the dock as the handler walks toward the end overlooking the water, toy in hand. The dog is given the command to move and the owner tosses the toy in front of the dog’s nose so that he leaps upward instead of out in a flat horizontal motion. 

Total beginner? Here’s a third method: The owner stands on the dock and restrains the dog while tossing the toy into the water and then releasing rather than walking back to the starting point. The idea is to create drive to jump off the dock. Even dogs experienced with lake swimming may at first hesitate to dive into a pool since they can see their reflection.

Whether your dog is pint-sized or a galloping Goliath, there is a division for you both to participate and have a great time. Dock-diving events vary by organization and may include the more familiar big-air event covering horizontal distance, in addition to the extreme vertical, which is like a high jump for dogs, and speed retrieves, where the dog races against the clock as he retrieves an object. 

Originally published in AKC Family Dog

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