Teaching The Chase Technique For Dock Diving With Your Dog



I am getting ready to go to Ultimate Air Dog Games, a National competition for competitive dog dock diving, in about 2 weeks!

Needless to say I am excited and honored to have been invited.

My dog, Pharaoh or “Zippy” as I like to call him (because he seems to never stop moving) earned a couple of invites!

I don’t have a ton of money right now, to be traveling the country for dog sports; however I believe that life is short and when you are given an opportunity or an invitation to do something fun; you should take it.

I may never again have a dog that gets such an invite!

What makes it more special is that “Zippy” HATED water when I first got him.

He would avoid puddles in an attempt to not get his precious fur wet!

My friend Brian Wilcox co-owner of Ultimate Air Dogs would lift my 65# adult, male Belgian Malinois and put him in pool to teach him to swim.

Luckily Zippy has always enjoyed toys, so his reward was getting to grab his toy as he exited the pool.

Eventually, after many, many sessions he learned to go into the pool for the toy.

And, from there has learned to jump over 23 feet in “Big Air” and recently snatched the toy in “Fetch It” at 22 feet!

He is also a BEAST when it comes to their timed swimming event!

I am very proud of him!

I recently wrote an article on how to get your dog involved in dock diving in 8 easy steps.  Click on the link for more information to get started in this exciting sport!  https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dog-dock-diving-8-easy-steps/

Many People Want that Competitive Edge With Dog Dock Diving

But, many people want that competitive edge.

Physics will tell you that there is only so far that your dog can jump, when he jumps flat out over the water.

Interestingly, there is also only so far your dog can jump if he jumps too high.

The magical combination for distance comes when we teach our dogs to jump slightly up and out.

If you have ever watched dogs that do dock diving on ESPN for the Incredible Dog Challenge or on David Letterman or other TV opportunities; the majority of the dog are jumping up and trying to catch their toys in midair.

They make it look easy!

It is NOT!

Owners must gauge the speed of their dog, running down a 40 foot dock and time the toy appropriately; all while throwing the toy in the perfect manner (height and distance) so that their dog can catch it in the air.

The joy of catching the toy in the dog’s mouth is typically what drives the dog to run harder and jump farther.  Very few dogs can jump over 25 feet if they have not learned this combination.  Otherwise they are just engaging in the Place and Send technique, which doesn’t build the kind of speed and drive needed to jump with the elite dogs!

Getting Started

Photo Thanks to Wayne Ramsay

Photo Thanks to Wayne Ramsay

Again, it goes without saying that the average dog must be proficient at simple place and send dock diving before beginning this game.

The dog must be confident jumping in the water.

If he is not totally confident, he cannot multitask by trusting his feet to carry him to the edge and over the water all while looking up and soaring after his toy.

Think about it in your own terms… run to the end of a dock all while looking up and trying to catch something and not looking down at your feet (this would screw up the timing of your catch).  At first, it would be nearly impossible, until you learn to trust the length of the dock and trust that the water is underneath you!

Ground Work

First, you must teach your dog to jump up and catch a toy.

Again, it is somewhat silly to expect our dogs to be able to be high off of the ground and trust his ability to jump, catch and fall; unless he is confident.

To gain confidence the dog should learn to catch on the ground, where he is not afraid to fall.

Even though I do some play and competition in Frisbee, I do NOT use a Frisbee for dock diving.  I believe that Frisbees are too difficult to throw accurately in high wind; and you don’t want the Frisbee to drift out of the safety of the pool!

Typically I use a Kong © Wubba toy or a soft Dokken Double Rope Super Dummy (that can be found through Gun Dog Supply http://www.gundogsupply.com/dokken-double-rope-white-super-dummy.html  and are also used for Fetch It) because these toys have some weight to them but are still soft in the mouth.

Obviously you should avoid a hard toy that could hurt when chomped midair.  Pain or discomfort will certainly effect your dog’s ability to jump large distances, negatively.

I start with my dog on a sit stay 3-6 feet away, reach back and point the toy at my dog’s nose, release my dog and slightly toss the toy up in the air and out right before his nose.

The goal is for the dog to see the toy and chase it into the air, slightly.

Do not toss too high!  The goal is to slightly lift the dog’s front feet off the ground but not to lift them all!  We don’t want to hurt the dog while making him jump high and land forcibly.  When the dog’s eyes are watching the toy and not the ground, we open him up to injury.

Be careful not to throw the toy above your shoulders.  Again, even if you throw too high over the pool, the dog’s distance will be effected.  He may be able to jump super high, but this brings risk as he lands in the pool (the higher he jumps the more dangerous his landing, if he is a big dog) and you want a combination of height with distance.

This distance 3-6 feet will help you to gauge your throws.  Again too high is dangerous and if you throw it out too fast your dog can’t actually catch it; he is only chasing it.  The goal is to “hang” the toy in the air for a moment while your dog runs and catches it.

fury-chaseEventually you can add more distance and speed to your throw, but first allow your dog to gauge his timing, and achieve the catch.

As you and your dog figure out your timing and are successful, you may begin to move him back a little bit at a time.

It is easy to gauge the run time of your dog at 6 feet away, it is difficult to gauge the timing of your dog at 40 feet.  So slowly place your dog further and further back as you are both successful with your throw (the most difficult part) and your dog’s catch.

I always point the toy toward my dog’s nose so she can see it.

Then when she is about 8-10 feet away (depending on your specific dog) you MUST turn your face away and look out at the point over the pool where you want the toy to go.

You have to trust in your dog’s speed and proficiency that he/she will continue and leap at the right moment.  It is impossible to watch your dog and accurately place the toy over the water.

Again remember, try not to throw over your shoulders or head, toss it in the mid-range and out over the pool.

In the beginning, most of us toss the toy so it hangs a little in the air so the dog can better estimate his catch.

Later as he becomes more proficient you can toss it faster out so that he stretches and chases the toy more midair!

Ground Work is Crucial!

So is practice!

The people on TV make this technique look so simple, when it is truly difficult and an art form of communication between dog and handler!

As always, HAVE FUN!!!




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One Comment

  1. Anna Vito says:

    I am facinated….and I live on the MS coast right now….but to my knowledge I do not have access to a dock to practice on. I have a springer, and I think she would enjoy trying. She chaces the ball freely into the water, usually jumping quite a distance.
    I am encourage to pursue this now, AND with my Golden puppy when she is old enough.
    thank you for your article!


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