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Intro to Dock Diving

Written by on April 5, 2021

In front of you, you see a large pool of water. Behind you, your revved up dog is dancing on the tips of their toes waiting to be released. Ready… set… go! On your cue, your dog takes off at full speed, and launches themselves off the dock after their toy into the clear water. As they soar through the air, it is hard not to be amazed by their athleticism, and as they make their splash into the pool, it is impossible to not beam with joy. The excitement that comes with the sport of dock diving is beyond compare, and to say it is addicting would be a vast understatement. 

Dock diving is a multi-discipline sport

Dock diving is a multi-discipline sport that has swept the nation. Organizations like North American Diving Dogs (NADD), Splash Dogs and Dock Dogs have seen immense growth in their event participation as people have grown obsessed with the activity. It is a sport that can be played by any dog, regardless of age or breed, and humans of all walks of life enjoy this game. NADD is recognized by the AKC with their titling programs, so that will be the organization we will focus on, though there are many national and local level organizations that offer dock diving training and competitions. NADD currently has three disciplines you can compete in with your dog – distance jumps, air retrieve, and hydrodash.

Distance jumps

Distance jumps are measured by how far your dog can jump off the dock into the pool, and measurement is based on where the base of the dog’s tail lands into the water. For the open class (dogs taller than 16”), divisions are broken up into six categories – novice (0’1”-9’11”), junior (10’-14’11”), senior (15’-19’11”), master (20’-23’11”), elite (24’-27’11”), and premier (28’ and above). Dogs achieve their first titles by jumping five jumps all within one division. Advanced and excellent titles are earned by an additional 25 jumps (or 30 total) within a single division. Each turn allows the dog two jumps per turn, and the highest of the two is the score for that splash. One of the biggest appeals of this sport is that because of these categories, your dog doesn’t have to be a huge jumper in order to be competitive within their division. There are also special categories for lap dogs (measuring under 16”) and veteran dogs (over 8 years old). 

Air retrieve

Air retrieve jumps require the dog to jump out and catch a toy that is hanging from a pole or rig. The toy moves out in one foot increments, and with each successful grab, the dog is allowed to try again at the next distance. The dog’s final score is determined by their last grab – if they miss the same distance twice, or have three misses over all (at various distances), they earn the score from their last successful catch. Much like with distance jumps, divisions are broken up into five categories (novice up to 9’, junior up to 13’, senior up to 17’, master up to 21’, and elite at 22’+). 


Hydrodash is the newest discipline to be available at NADD competitions. Similar to air retrieve, the dog starts on the dock and is released to jump off. However, this time to dogs are swimming for speed instead of jumping for distance. There is a rig at the end of the pool holding the toy, and time starts once the dog leaves the dock. They turn around once they grab the toy, and time stops once their nose passes a specified foot mark on the pool. Divisions are broken up based on times, though they are currently being revised as more dogs are competing in this discipline. 

The excitement of dock diving can be enjoyed by all dog and handler teams, and competitions are widely accessible across the country. Teaching your dog to be a strong swimmer often takes the help of an experience trainer, so looking for dog friendly pools in your area would be a great starting point. You can also train a lot of the toy targeting and retrieval skills on dry land and during the off season. This sport helps to physically condition your dog in a way that is unmatched. For more information on competitions to check out in your area, check out the NADD, Dock dogs and Splash dogs websites. 

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