How to Teach Your Dog to Dock Dive

Dock diving competitions are popping up all over, and your dog would love to get in on the action!

Amanda Pieper
Jul 8 · 6 min read

Dock diving is a fairly new competitive sport for any dog that loves water, and any owner who loves to watch their dog soar through the air like an Olympic champion.

What Is Dock Diving?

Dog Diving, also known as Dock Jumping or Splash Dogs (depending upon the club hosting the event), appeared on the canine competition circuit in 1997 and has continued to gain popularity amongst dog lovers.

In order to win a dock diving competition, dogs must either leap the farthest, highest, or retrieve their favorite toy the fastest.

Docks are usually about 30 to 40 feet long and covered in fake grass, rubber mats, or grippy carpets. Competitors take a running start, speed down the dock, and take a leap of faith, soaring to impressive heights, and lengths, to retrieve a toy.

Dock Diving competitions are held by the AKC, UKC, all over Europe, Canada, and the USA. Since popularity and demand has increased, more and more local clubs are hosting events.

Some kennel clubs record titles and hand out awards for the top achievers, if that’s your thing.

Which Breeds Can Compete In Dock Diving?

Everyone is welcome in this aquatic adventure, however, that doesn’t mean that every dog will love the idea of hurling themselves into a pool of water. Water breeds, like the Golden Retriever and Labrador retriever, will typically welcome the water challenge with enthusiasm.

Big, small, stocky, or lean — this activity appeals to many different types of dogs, purebred or mixed breed, anyone and everyone can participate.

Will Your Dog Like Dock Diving?

Mud puppies love to swim

Some dogs were bred to spend their days hunting in the wetlands and will have no qualms about taking a dip in the pool, or any nearby mud puddle for that matter.

Even if your pooch isn’t a water breed, they may love to take make a splash for the crowd. French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, and Great Danes have all been known to give the water sport of Dock Diving a try.

The best way to determine if your dog will enjoy taking a dip in a blue pool of H2O is to take them to a nearby dog park with a water source, a lake, or a friends pond.

When you approach the water with your pup, watch to see if they shy away from the water, or if they run to it, full-bore. Even if your pup is a little unsure, with time, they may become enamored. Who knows, the next time you see them “running” in their sleep, they may actually be dreaming about their next swim session.

How to Train Your Dog To Dock Dive in 5 Steps

Golden Retrievers are bred to love the water and yours might enjoy dock diving!

Training to Dock Dive will be easy if you know your dog likes water. If they absolutely hate getting wet, perhaps water sports are not their thing.

A word of caution: Not all dogs automatically know how to swim, and some may never learn. If your dog panics, sinks, or simply can’t figure out how to swim, do not force it. Doing so may cause your pup to drown.

Training Supplies Needed

  • A slip-free runway (you can use a pier for training)
  • Water! For your dog’s safety, the body of water should be around 4 feet deep and the dock should be no more than 3 feet off the water.
  • Your dog’s favorite toy — but be sure it floats!

1. Swimming

Make sure your dog knows how to swim by introducing him to a body of water where he can easily touch the ground. If he can wade into a lake or pond, it will help him build confidence.

Being able to touch the bottom reassures a new swimmer that water isn’t dangerous, and once they realize this, they may pick up their paws and doggie paddle around.

2. Familiarize Your Dog with Jumping Into Water

Get your dog used to jumping off a dock and into the water by throwing their prized toy a few feet off the dock.

Encourage your dog to retrieve their favorite toy. If your dog knows how to play fetch this is the perfect time to implement it into their training. Giving the “Fetch” command will signal to your dog that you want them to jump in and retrieve the toy.

This part may be easier for some dogs than others, but with patience, most dogs will take the plunge eventually.

The moment your dog jumps into the water, even if it’s the shallow end of the dock, throw a party, celebrate, and praise your pup.

If your dog has decided his toy isn’t worth the leap, you can up the ante by entering the water yourself and coaxing your dog to join you. Usually, this is too good to pass up, and your dog will jump in with you.

Note: Your dog may bark and cry because they see their beloved toy right in front of them, but are too scared to jump. They may even go around the dock to retrieve their toy instead of jumping.

This is ok! At least your dog is comfortable swimming.

Troubleshooting: If your pooch continues to avoid jumping, and tends to go around the dock, you can put up a gate to deter them from going around without jumping.

Be patient and persistent, and never aggressively push your dog into the water, as this will reaffirm their fear and you may never get your dog back into the water again. You can, however, nudge your dog gently, only if they are already in a jumping position. Otherwise, don’t force it.

3. Repeat

Once your dog is enjoying the water and jumping in of his own accord, rinse and repeat…or maybe I should say dry and repeat — either way, just keep practicing with your dog. Chances are, they already love the new game and will be itching to play again.

Swimming is an exhausting sport for both humans and their canine companions, so don’t overdo it or your dog may struggle, and eventually dislike the hard work. Each session should be short in the beginning and always end on a high note.

Repeat every day, or as often as possible, and as your dog becomes more comfortable with Dock Diving, toss the toy farther and farther.

4. Get Big Air

Eventually, you can start teaching your dog to take running starts; this is when your dog learns to fly high! This phase also adds excitement and intensity to your dog’s new favorite sport.

Start by asking your dog to sit beside you on the dock, show your pup his toys, and then start running toward the end of the dock. This will encourage him to run alongside you and build excitement. As you approach the end of the dock, throw the toy and watch as your dog soars through the air!

5. Prepare at Every New Dock

When you take your dog to a new dock, it is important that he knows how to exit the water so he doesn’t panic. If it is a Dock Diving competition, the exit ramp may not always be in the same place, so make sure to get your dog into the water and show them the ropes first.

Dock diving has been known to be an addictive sport and continues to grow in popularity. Now that you have an Olympic diving champion on your hands, you can look forward to hot days at the lake with your best friend.

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