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With so many events going on at the AKC National Championship Dog Show Presented by Royal Canin, how do you choose which ones to attend? Since 2014, a new exciting event has been added, and if you’ve never witnessed the intensity, grace, and sheer joy of a dog leaping off a dock to retrieve a favorite toy, dock diving is a can’t-miss event.

Dogs have been jumping into bodies of water to chase or retrieve since time immemorial, but only recently did this skill inspire the sport of dock diving. In 2014, the AKC officially recognized titles earned in events sanctioned by the governing body of the sport, North American Diving Dogs. And since then, canine athletes of all sizes, ages, and breeds (including mixed breeds) have competed for dock diving titles.

What Is Dock Diving?

Dock diving has two main events. In distance jumping, a dog starts from a dock and jumps into a pool after his toy. The distance of the jump is measured at the point where the base of the dog’s tail enters the water.

In air retrieve, a bumper is held over the water, and a dog must run off the dock and knock the bumper into the water. The bumper starts at two feet above the water and six feet from the dock. The bumper is moved farther out from the dock and a dog continues until he misses twice. The longest successful grab (or knocking the bumper into the water) distance determines the Qualifying score.


Each division has several classes, including Elite, Master, Senior, Junior and Novice, so there’s a way for almost any dog to compete.

Which Dogs Can Compete in Dock Diving?

All a dog needs to compete is a love of water, good swimming skills, basic obedience, a favorite toy, and a little showmanship. And this isn’t limited to water breeds and retrieving breeds, although you will surely see some expected competitors, such as Labrador Retrievers. Sporting breeds, for example German Shorthaired Pointers, and herding breeds, such as the Border Collie, are also worthy competitors. In fact, dogs of almost all breeds, as well as mixed breeds, compete. Mixed-breed competitors are dogs registered with the AKC under the Canine Partners Program.

You may be in for some surprises. For instance, a Bulldog that can jump almost 20 feet or a Belgian Malinois that jumps an amazing 30 feet! Small dogs get their chance, too, since there are two classes: Open (16″ tall and over) and Lap (under 16″ tall). You might see a Dachshund jump over 11 feet or a Russell Terrier make a 17-foot jump. Other breeds you may be surprised to see excel at the sport are Old English Sheepdogs, Pomeranians, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Boxers, among many others.


Keep an eye out for some past winners, including Storie, the Labrador Retriever current record holder in the Air Retrieve Master Division, and Keira, an English Cocker Spaniel, that placed first in the Distance Jump Lap Master Division.

Most of all, dock diving is fun! For the handlers, for the dogs, and especially for the audience. It’s a freewheeling, exciting event, where males and females, big dogs, small dogs, old and young dogs all compete to achieve excellence, and, if they have a really great day, a title.