Making A Splash: What Is Dog Dock Diving?

The second I noticed Bandit’s love for the water, my attention instantly turned to dock diving. Although we haven’t tried it, I fill my weeks with hours of research about this dog sport. I catch every competition that comes to town. But, “What is dog dock diving,” you might ask?

Dock diving is a popular sport where dogs launch off a platform and then splash into the pool below. Dogs win prizes for the greatest distance, height, or speed when pursuing their toy and it is a highly competitive sport. It’s fun for owners and their pups alike. The dock diving competitions happen at the neighborhood level all the way up to world championships.

If you are thinking this activity is an excellent way to run that energy off your dog, you are right. Dock diving wears dogs out both physically and mentally, ensuring they rest easy at the end of the day. Before you can decide if this sport is right for you and your pup, it is vital to learn more — and I am here to help. For instance you can use this guide to dive right in and learn what is dock diving, what breeds excel, and who are the front-runners in this exciting dog sport.

Why You Should Trust Us

To find all the best information on what is dog dock jumping, and who are the best contenders, I’ve turned to the most reputable names in the sport, including:

  • DockDogs
  • Splash Dogs
  • North America Diving Dogs
  • Ultimate Air Dogs.

Through my research, I’ve had in-depth chats with trainers, dog owners, and others who are passionate about this activity. As a result, I’ve understood what to expect at every level of competition — and how to encourage dogs to perform their best.

As a lifelong dog owner, it is clear to me that pups, big and small, love to launch off the dock at full speed and splash into the water below. So, I am inspired to bring you all the info you need to see if dock diving might keep your dogs in great shape, and having an awesome time.

What is Dock Diving for Dogs?

Dock diving is a relatively new dog sport that lets dogs show off their jumping and swimming abilities. That is to say, in this sport, dogs leap from the end of a dock into the water to get the best score for distance, height, or speed. It was developed in the late-1990s by Purina as a part of their Incredible Dog Challenge event. It took off like wildfire as everyone realized just how much fun this sport really is.

Since its inception, many organizations have popped up to promote the sport and create competitions, such as:

Many clubs, including the American Kennel Club (AKC) hold competitions at local, national and global levels.

The docks

This sport is practiced at local docks on the lake, although the events are held in purpose-built swimming pools, or portable pools.

Firstly, the pools connect to a 35 to 40-foot platform that acts as the dock, giving the dogs a good running start toward the water. In addition the pool is about four feet deep to serve as a safe landing spot and let even the biggest breeds swim with ease.

More than distance scores

Competitions initially focused on getting the best distance scores, but as love for the sport grew, so did the game varieties. Now, dogs compete to see who can jump the highest or make it to the end of the pool fastest. When dogs compete, they can earn bragging rights and win titles from their kennel clubs and other entities.

While you learn more about dock diving disciplines, competitions, and the top dogs in the sport, you will realize why many people need to know what is dock jumping. Above all, as this sport grows, more and more dogs will have an excellent time using up their energy.

Dock Diving Disciplines

Dock diving centers around three disciplines that focus on distance, height, and speed. There’s also the Iron Dog competition for pups that want to compete in all three. Think of it as a doggie triathlon of sorts.

If you think your dog would do well going for distance, then Big Air is likely your calling. In this discipline, you toss a toy across the pool while encouraging your dog to take the longest horizontal leap possible. Judges measure out from the platform to where the dogs hit the water to see who makes it the furthest in a single leap.

what is dock jumping
Yellow Lab dog catching a toy during an event after jumping off a dock over a pool

To go for height instead, look to Extreme Vertical. This competition has dogs leap up to grab a toy suspended about four feet over the pool. The height increases each round with pups who fail to snatch their toy out of the air eliminated. The games continue until only one dog remains, giving them the win.

what is dock diving
Athletic dog participating in Extreme Vertical

As the name implies, Speed Retrieve focuses on how fast dogs can make it to the pool’s end. A solo drag race of sorts, this discipline starts by placing their toy at the end of the pool to act as the finish line. You can then release your dog from their position on the platform to see if they can make the fastest time. They can use their jumping skills to leap into the pool and cut down on time. But then, they have to swim their hearts out to make it to the toy as quickly as possible.

Many handlers try out each one before settling on a primary discipline for their dog if they ever do. I suspect Bandit would excel in distance competitions since he can leap like an antelope. But without getting to the pool and trying them all out, all I can do is speculate. Hopefully, that changes soon.

Best Breeds for Dock Diving

With a glance at the 2020 Distance Jump Rankings from NADD, it is clear that big and small breeds can compete at a high level in dock diving. Not surprisingly, for obvious reasons, Border Collies rank in the top 50 multiple times, including one in the top 10. Cattle dogs, like my Ruby, show up as well, though not quite as often.

Other top-performing breeds in the dock diving world include:

There are many mixed breeds, too, as they are typically allowed to participate at all levels. Although not as common, you will find small breed dogs jumping with the best of them, including Yorkshire Terriers and Cocker Spaniels.

As long as the dog is driven, well-trained in the basics of dock diving, and enjoys the sport, they are welcome to join the crowd. That said, the competition is fierce at the top, narrowing the pool down to the most popular breeds.

So far for 2020 in the NADD world:

  • A Whippet named Feather holds the number one spot for distance with a season average of 30-feet, 7-inches.
  • At the top of the charts for height is Swindle, a Belgian Malinois with a season average score of 24-feet, 5-inches.
  • For speed, coming in first is Bailee Motter’s Kaine, a Labrador Retriever who has been zipping to the end of the pool in an average of 14.142 seconds.

If you’re looking for more information about the best breed of dog for the sport of dock diving, why not read our in depth article here.

What is the World Record for Dock Diving?

Even with those impressive figures, the competing dogs for 2020 have a long way to go to beat the current records across all disciplines. Since starting this fun sport, dogs have been setting and shattering records for distance, height, and speed. Just when everyone thinks the dogs cannot jump any further or go any faster, they show everyone just what they’ve got.

In the distance arena, Whippets dominate, likely due to their speed and lightweight build. Sounders, a Whippet owned by Laurel Behnke, currently holds the world record for a distance of 36-feet, 2-inches across the water. Before that, the record was held by another Whippet, Rachael Brinkman’s Slingshot, for a 31-foot jump.

Sounders also snagged the world record for height with an even 28-foot score, set in 2018. Spitfire is right on their heels, however, with a 27-foot score set in 2019. With this friendly sport, 2020 is sure to bring out these dogs’ competitive spirit as they seek to hold the record.

The speed competitions are equally competitive, with Kaine holding the record at 12.213 seconds. A mixed-breed dog named Soren, owned by April Pelletier is right on his tail with a 13.120 run made in June 2020. If that pup can shave less than a second off his time, he will easily hold the world record by the year’s end.

Where to Watch Dock Diving

With your newfound knowledge of just what is dog dock diving, you will want to find where to watch these awesome events. That is doubly true if you need to see those amazing distances for yourself to believe them.

It is definitely awe-inspiring to see dogs leap from the platform and sail through the air before splashing down. Even better is the joyful look on their faces as they run back up the ramp. Many even wiggle in excitement at the thought of getting that release cue and having a chance to fly like a bird toward their favorite toy.

So, where can you watch dog dock diving for yourself? If you are lucky, these events will come to the fairs and festivals near you throughout the year. DockDogs, NADD, and other organizations in charge of the competitions share event information online before the start date.

If you are even luckier, you can catch livestreams of current events or recordings of past events at:

You might even get to see dogs break the world records yet again for distance, height, or speed as you watch.

Although the sport has many amazing dogs in its ranks, beginners are always welcomed with open arms. Newcomers keep the competition alive, and give everyone a chance to share the knowledge they’ve gleaned through the years. They ask that you and your dog have fun and follow the rules. Although it doesn’t hurt to lend a hand to beginners once you become a veteran of the sport.

If you are interested in getting started in this sport, learning just what is dog dock diving is a great first step. As you get ready to join, you can read more and watch events to get a feel for the competition. When you attend events in person, you can start to network and build connections with the dock diving regulars.

Before you know it, you will have your time in the limelight as you climb the platform alongside your pup. You might see your dog on the big screen when beating your personal records and go for the top score. Even if not ranked high, you and your dog will walk away winners by having spent your days together. I know for sure that Bandit would adore that, as would I.

what is dog dock diving
My dog Bandit in the snow chasing a Treibball

Where To Start?

So you might be wondering, where do you start? We recommend 5 steps to get started in dock diving. In this article, we cover all the waterproof accessories you will need as well.

Dock Diving Not For Your Dog?

Now that you know what is dock diving, do you think your dog will like it? If the answer is no, don’t worry, we’ve got some other interesting articles for you to read if your outdoor dog loves water and swimming.

Author - Marie

With 2 Border Collies (Nyx and Bandit) and a Red Heeler (Ruby). With no livestock, Marie spends most of her time outdoors with her dogs, letting them release all their energy as farm dogs. They are fiends for fetch - even in the snow. Marie has started formal flyball training with Nyx, with the other dog likely follow. Marie is also interested in joining dock diving, sheep herding, and agility activities so that her dogs can burn more energy. All three are adept trick dogs with the ability to wave, shake hands, roll over, sit pretty, walk like people and much more. She has much to share with this community of outdoor dog lovers.

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