Just like it sounds, dock diving is a sport in which dogs jump, or sometimes fly, off of a ramp or dock, in pursuit of an object like a ball or toy.
The rules are pretty simple. The team consists of one human handler and one dog at least 6 months old. Handlers can use a toy or ball as the chase object. The dock is usually 40 feet long by 8 feet wide and is 24 inches above the water surface. It is covered in a turf-type carpet for traction and safety. Handlers may use as little or as much of the dock as needed and may start their dog from any point on the dock during competition. The pool, or body of water, should be at least 4 feet deep.
In a competition, the jump distance is taken from the lateral midpoint of the end of the dock, to the point at which the base of the dog’s tail breaks the surface of the water. The distance of the jump can be measured in two ways: electronically with digital video freeze frame technology or the old fashioned way, where the judges use measuring tape.
Sounds pretty easy, right? That’s what I thought, so I took my dog Scout, who loves to jump, swim and chase toys/balls, and headed over to Sunny Dog Place to meet with the good folks from Air Dogs and see if we couldn’t teach Scout how to dock dive.
Scout Takes on Dock Diving
We first met with Aparna Srinivasan, president of of Air Dogs, a premier dock jumping club in Los Angeles. She runs her club out of Sunny Dog Place, a cage- free daycare, boarding and training facility in Harbor City, Calif., owned and operated by Suzanne and Trevor MacKay.
We also met with Shari Robinson, who trains dogs to dock dive at Sunny Dog Place. She got into dock diving with her Border Collie, Nevada.
“Suzanne and Aparna had been watching Nevada’s career for the last four years, but because I was traveling so much with her, they actually thought that I lived out of state. When they figured out that I lived locally, they began to hound me. They hounded me for six weeks,” she said.
Robinson started training dogs to dock dive at Sunny Dog Place in February 2011 and has been going strong ever since, with both group and private classes.
Robinson said the first thing she teaches the dogs is to get acclimated to the dock, ramp and water. She said, “I go to the ramp and get them comfortable with jumping off of it and knowing how to get out of the pool, because obviously if they learn to jump from the ramp, they automatically want to come back to it to get out of the water.”
Scout is a water dog – she swims in the ocean – and she’ll dive into the face of a wave if that is what it takes to get her ball. I assumed because of her amazing athletic abilities that she would take to the sport of dock diving like, well, a fish takes to water.
Robinson said, “Most dogs love water. However, the pool is scary to dogs. People can get their dogs in the ocean or lake and the dogs will just launch into the water – some will even jump off the dock into a lake. Then they get to a pool and they’re like ‘Oh no, that’s scary, and it’s clear and blue.’”
This is what happened with Scout. We would throw the ball and she would start to run down the ramp and then come to a stop – wheels frantically turning as she wrestled with her desire to get the ball and overcome her fear of getting into the strange-looking and funny-smelling water.
However, Robinson wasn’t deterred, and I couldn’t blame her. This is a woman who looked me straight in the eye and said, “Every dog that I’ve put on here [dock], has gone into the water – every single one.”
We could see that Scout was interested, but needed some encouragement. Robinson worked with my girl and we eventually got her to jump off the side of the pool and into the water after her ball. After a few attempts, Scout was finally worn down and Shari’s spotless record remained intact.
Robinson was impressed with Scout and I was never more proud of my dog. This truly is a great sport for active and athletic dogs to get into – plus, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to bond with your pooch.
PHOTOS: Kara Ogushi