The Next Step for Dock Diving with Your Dog

Zippy Showing the Place and Send 20’10

Recently I wrote an article on the 8 easy steps to get your dog dock diving  and I continue to get questions both over the internet and in my personal life on how to get dogs started in this fun sport.

I am a judge for Ultimate Air Dogs for our club here in Maryland, and it is so much fun!

I started out as a competitor, just giving my dogs a couple of practice sessions the first time my dogs got started at an official event, just a few years ago.

Once your dog starts jumping off of the dock into the water, during competition or otherwise, I swear it is addictive!

And, dock diving is all about FUN!

Obedience is encouraged but not really required.  There is a certain amount of reckless abandon that goes along with this sport that my dogs just love.

They have great obedience in other venues, but I require less at these events so that they can get the speed running down the dock.

I believe that too much structure and obedience on the dock inhibits the dogs speed; instead he is more concerned about not doing something right.

And, with Ultimate Air Dogs you can use another human family member or friend to hold the dog at the back of the dog and get him amped up before releasing him to run full speed down the dock!

So once your dog has learned to jump off of the dock into the water, it is time to begin increasing his confidence so that you can get more distance.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t care if my dog is jumping 5 feet, 15 feet or 25 feet, but I do want my dogs to have the most fun and jump their best (whatever that is).

Usually, Most Dogs Start with the “Place and Send”

Rarely will a dog learn to jump off of the dock and then right after jump up and catch their toy in the air.

The Chase technique (chasing and catching the toy midair) is the best way to get your dog having fun and soaring as far as possible.

But that technique takes an enormous amount of confidence.  Only a few times (in the thousands of jumps I have seen) have I seen a new dog confident enough to go from learning to jump to almost immediately learning to catch his toy while jumping.

Most of us start with the place and send technique.

And, there are two varieties that will help your dog propel himself into the water.

I have two dogs, and each of them preferred a different place and send technique.

Fury’s Favorite Beginner Technique

Throwing the toy straight in front of her

Throwing the toy straight in front of her

Fury my Dutch Shepherd, who has since learned the Chase and now been retired from dock diving, liked the toy being thrown in line with her nose and straight out over the water.

Again, I was not tossing the toy up in the air at all because she didn’t have the confidence, yet, to look up all while watching her feet and gauging the end of the dock.

I simply waited until she was a few feet away and toss the toy in front of her nose parallel to the water.

At first, you don’t want to throw the toy unrealistically far.

If you throw the toy over 20+ feet, a new dog won’t have the confidence to know he can jump and then swim to get the toy.

If you throw too short 3-6 feet the toy is often too close to the dock for the dog to understand that he can jump in and get it.  He looks down at it and thinks he might fall on his head if he tries to get that toy.

Interestingly even proficient dock divers struggle thinking about getting a toy that has been dropped in or tossed too close.  Their mind can’t figure it out.

10-15 feet is typically a good distance for most dogs.

Once he is sailing off of the edge of the dock with no hesitation at all; then you can begin throwing the toy out as far as you can in the pool!

The trick is to throw it quickly so that your dog doesn’t have to decelerate and maximizes his speed.

Zippy’s Favorite Beginner Technique

My Belgian Malinois “Zippy” has a hard time not slowing down as he watches the toy.

Here we were just building confidence. Short jumps are fine at first

Here we were just building confidence. Short jumps are fine at first

It is as if his mind cannot do two things at once; watch the toy and gauge his feet for jumping while he runs.

I can’t explain it, except either he is not a multitasker, or he just doesn’t have the confidence to trust chasing the toy in any capacity yet.

So I have learned to take him to the edge of the dock and throw his toy in the water while he watches.

Of course he wants to jump in after his toy, so I hold his collar.

I get him excited, pat him on the ribs and ask him if he wants to get his toy, and then I back him up down the dock getting him pumped all the way; until I release his collar and let him run.

He runs as fast as possible and propels himself into the water to get his toy.

Again, in the beginning throw distance is important.

Too close, and he will hesitate and not figure out how to get his toy.

Too far, and he will feel that it is unachievable.

So, again, I start at 10-15 feet in the pool.

Once there is no longer any hesitation at all and he is jumping and stretching as far as possible, I throw his toy as far into the water as possible.

Even when he is jumping flat (not up which is ideal) he can run so fast and stretch so far that he is jumping over 22 feet.

But the ultimate goal is to get the dog to learn The Chase technique, which  is ideal for speed and distance!

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