Does your dog love water and love to retrieve? Then you should know about the sport of dock diving. Here’s how to safely introduce your dog to it, and where to find groups and competitions.
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“Daisy, ready? Down … stay … good girl! On your mark, get set, GO! Run, run, run, run, RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN, GET IT! (Houston, we have lift off, and … splash down!)”
I’m Bob Ryder, sitting in for Jolanta Benal in The Dog Trainer’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Teaching and Caring for Your Pet. I run Pawsitive Transformations Dog Training in Normal, Illinois, and I’m here to share a fun activity my dog Daisy and I enjoy whenever we get the chance – dock diving. (No scuba equipment required!)
Dock diving is a canine sport in which dogs are enticed to run the length of a dock and leap as far out into the water as possible. They’re motivated to fly with a prized toy thrown tantalizingly just out of reach to keep their momentum going and help get the best launch angle. Of course it’s great to see dogs enjoying themselves in a fun activity, and jaw-droppingly awesome to watch gifted canine athletes in full extension soaring through the air. (Cue the theme from Chariots of Fire!) What’s in it for the dog, you ask? Well, some likely just enjoy the chance to splash in, swim a little, and grab that toy. Others seem to relish the hang time, stretching themselves as if to reach for every last bit of height or distance they can get.
Some dogs love to splash in the water and grab that toy. Others seem to relish the hang time, reaching for all the distance they can get.
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Daisy, my joyful Yellow Labrador Retriever, seems to enjoy both aspects of the game. Her breeding inclines her to love the water in the first place. One day on vacation, a tennis ball drifted out into a pond after my wayward throw during a game of fetch. Daisy, leaped off the dock, retrieved the ball, and dropped it at my feet to continue our game. This time, I deliberately tossed it a few feet back into the water off the dock. Daisy flung herself off the dock with a running start! Hmmm - time to experiment with my dog!
I had seen dock diving competitions on TV, and it was easy to put together a few skills Daisy already had to make it into a fun new game. Daisy has a great down-stay, and can handle lots of excitement while holding out for her release cue. With a little practice, I got better at tossing her toys to help maximize distance – as you’ll see in this video. If the self-control of a down-stay is too much for your aspiring dock-diver at first, have a friend gently hold your dog’s collar or – better yet, her harness, while you walk to the edge of the dock and make ready to throw the toy. You might want to do a couple of dogless rehearsals with your friend so she or he knows exactly when to let your Zippy go.
Want to give it a try? Here are 5 tips to make it relatively safe and fun both for you and your budding athlete: