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On Sunday, Zara earned her first dock diving title! She earned a Dock Junior title, which means that she jumped five times in the Junior division: jumps between 10 feet and 14 feet, 11 inches. Her longest jump is 12 feet, 3 inches. She is now:

Trailside’s Tzar of Fairlington SH THDN CGCA DJ

(Translation: Zara’s registered name, Senior Hunter, Therapy Dog Novice, Canine Good Citizen Advanced, Dock Junior)

What is Dock Diving?

For those who don’t know, dock diving is a dog sport that involves a dog jumping off a man-made dock into a swimming pool to chase a toy. There are a few dock diving organizations. Zara is registered with North American Diving Dogs (NADD). Titles earned through NADD are recognized by the AKC.

There are two main types of dock diving: distance jump and air retrieve. Distance jump measures the length that the dog jumps, from a few inches all the way up to 36’2″ (the current NADD record!). There are five divisions: Novice, Junior, Senior, Master, and Elite. Air retrieve measures the height a dog jumps to catch a hanging bumper.

Our Foray into Dock Diving

Although Zara has loved water activities since she was about a year and a half, I never thought she would enjoy dock diving. When we’d gone to places that had raised docks, she was always very reluctant to jump off of them. If I threw a toy, she would instead run off the dock and get into the water from shore. I knew there were dock diving events around, but I figured it would be useless to attend one.

Last summer, I was at a nearby lake with a friend. Her vizsla was jumping off the dock to get a bumper. Zara really, really loves toys, especially toys that are not hers. She wanted that toy. So we tried throwing it for her, and eventually, she jumped off the dock to get it! After that, I started thinking that maybe she would like dock diving.

dock diving

Zara jumps off the dock during our practice session.

Practice Before Competition

After that day at the lake, my friend Emily and I decided to rent the dock diving pool at Indian Creek K9 Aquatics for a few hours. We had five dogs and rotated between them so everyone got a chance in the pool. Since Zara had never done it before, I had her retrieve a toy from the ramp a few times to get her used to going in the pool. That way, she also would understand where the exit was. She picked it up very quickly and was soon happily jumping off the dock.

I also brought Colombo, who is less of a water dog. He became comfortable launching into the water from the ramp but was really unsure about jumping from the dock. He is not toy-motivated, so throwing a toy didn’t entice him. I did manage to get him to jump off the dock once, but I was in the water too. He’s very attached to me, so trying to please me and be with me were probably the only reasons he decided to do it.

I have both dogs wear life jackets, even though they know how to swim and probably don’t need them. But the life jacket helps to keep their head above water as they jump in and I like to be safe.

dock diving

I try to convince Colombo to jump off the dock.

Colombo jumps into the pool from the ramp.

Zara wearing her winter coat

Zara wears her winter coat to warm up from jumping in October.

Dock Diving Events

In August 2019, I took Zara to her first dock diving event. On her first jump, she jumped 9 feet, which is in the Novice division. Her second jump was 10 feet, 1 inch, which put her in the Junior division. After that, all of her jumps have been in the Junior division. I’m sure there are techniques out there for me to improve my throwing skills and possible get her to jump further, but I have not investigated those. I have noticed that I need to throw the toy before she gets to the edge of the dock, otherwise she will hesitate, which decreases her distance.

We did several dock diving events last year, and the last one was in mid-October. Although October in North Carolina can be warm, unfortunately it was in the low 60s that day and felt quite cold. I had a lot of trouble getting Zara to jump into the water. She knew it was cold. She did jump once, but then I couldn’t get her to go in again, and you can’t force them in.

She could have earned her title that day, but instead, we had to wait until the spring.

diving at the raleigh shows

Zara earns another Dock Junior qualifying leg at the Raleigh shows over Labor Day weekend.

Dock Diving Title

Zara finally earned her title this past weekend. A lot of the dock diving events have been cancelled this year due to coronavirus, so I’m thankful we were able to go. The venue, Teamworks Dog Training, required everyone to wear masks and they had designated areas for people to stand. It ran very smoothly and we were in and out in an hour.

In order to earn an advanced dock diving title, Zara will need 25 more jumps in one division. I’m not sure we will get there, but I’ll probably occasionally enter her in dock diving events because she enjoys it so much.

Have you ever tried dock diving with your dog?

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