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Dock Diving For Dogs

Updated on June 18, 2011

Dogs that participate in the world of dock diving are also known as Big Air dogs. Dock diving dogs, or dock jumping dogs, compete by jumping off docks for distance. Imagine your dog, running full steam ahead, on a dock and without even flinching, it jumps into a body of water. Dock diving dogs compete for distance and height. Dock diving or jumping competitions are popular in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Dock diving became popular in 1997. In 2000, DockDogs was established as one of the first major competitions for dogs. In 2003, Splash Dogs was started, and in 2005, Ultimate Air Dogs came along.

In 2009, the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized dock diving as a competitive sport for dogs and started providing competitions with titles to win, much like other categories such as agility, obedience, and weight-pulling. The UKC recognizes two forms of jumping:

  1. Ultimate Air or Distance Jumping
  2. Ultimate Vertical

As these competitions require the dogs to retrieve, many breeds that are successful in this sport are retrievers, labradors, and collies. The wonderful thing about dock diving or jumping competitions is your dog is not required to be a pure-bred. Mixed bred dogs are welcome in any of the competitions.

Dock Jumping
Dock Jumping | Source

The Dock

The dock used in dock jumping competitions is usually 35 feet to 40 feet in length. It is eight feet wide and two feet off the water's surface. The body of water for the dogs to jump into must be at least four feet deep. The dock is usually covered with a carpet, artificial turf, or rubber mat for traction purposes. The dog handlers are allowed to use any length of the dock for themselves, and are able to start their athletes at any point on the platform.  The distance of the jump is usually measured from the end of the dock to the point where the dog's tail hits the surface of the water.

The Competition

The dogs jump twice in round-robin format. The longer of the two jumps is counted as the competitive score. If a dog enters the water with its tail further away from the dock than the rest of its body, the measurement is taken using the point of the dog (part of its body) that breaks the surface of the water closest to the dock. If a toy is used to motivate the dog, it must leave the handlers' hands for the jump to be counted.

The dogs generally compete in five different divisions:

  • Novice: 1' to 9'11"
  • Junior: 10' to 14'11"
  • Senior: 15' to 19'11"
  • Master: 20' to 22'5"
  • Ultimate: 22'6" and up

Plan on being at the competitions for the entire day and make sure you bring enough of the appropriate supplies for your dog and yourself. There is generally an open jump time between rounds, stretching the day out.

The Handlers' Techniques


In the Chase technique, the dog is asked to wait or stay at the starting position. The handlers walk to the end of the dock and call for the dogs to start running. The handlers then throw the toys just ahead of the dogs' noses so that they chase the toys into the water. This technique encourages the dogs to jump into the water in an arc, up into the air off the end of the dock rather than in a horizontal, flat line. This is the more difficult to master, but bring more success for the dogs.

Place and Send

The Place and Send technique brings the dogs to the end of the dock while the handlers throw the toy into the water. The handlers then bring the dogs to a starting point on the dock and then releases the dogs, sending them to fetch the toys. The dogs then rush to the end of the dock and jump into the water to retrieve the toys. This method is effective for dogs who are not trained to stay.

A Safe Sport For Dogs

Dock diving is actually one of the safest sports for dogs.  There is no real pressure on the joints and the dogs are landing in water.  There really isn't much training for the dog to endure, unlike most other canine sports.  It is mostly a competition where the handlers and dogs are out to have a good time.


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