Dock Diving

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.

Bob Ryder, PMCT, CPDT-KA
6-minute read
Episode #199

Tip #1: Make Sure the Water’s Deep Enough

Of course, you want to make sure the water is deep enough to accommodate a splash landing without crashing into shallow rocks, mud, tree branches, or other debris. And choose a dock that’s only a couple of feet above the water. Two or three feet is plenty. (In official competitions, the dock is usually only 2 feet high.)  

Tip #2: Make the Dock a Fun Place

Have some fun with your dog on the dock before inviting her to jump. Associate the platform with happy experiences, such as cueing a few easy tricks she’s already good at for tasty treats. Hand targeting or puppy push-ups are good possibilities as they won’t end up with your pal accidentally falling into the water. Apply lots of warm praise and gentle petting, too – if your pup enjoys being petted. Go and play with your dog at the water’s edge, as well, tossing a favorite toy and letting her chase it just a few feet out into the water. Remember, keep the mood happy! The goal is to have fun – so do!

Tip #3: Build Your Dog’s Confidence

Next, build her confidence about jumping off the dock. Some dogs can do this with no hesitation, while others need a little time to build up to their first plunge. Take some more practice at the water’s edge if need be, throwing the toy for your dog to run into the water after it. But by all means, (and this is crucial) let your dog choose to jump at her own pace. Pressuring her, or worse forcing her off the end of the dock before she’s ready (yikes!) is a sure fire way to teach your dog to hate dock diving, and probably to hate water in general. As Jolanta reminds us regularly, slow and steady wins the training race every time, as you can see in this video with Daisy’s friend, Willow.