Dock diving is one of the fastest growing canine sports out there and it is perfect for any dog that loves water, which makes it tailor made for Labs. No other sport combines the breed’s love of water with retrieving to such great effect. It sprang up out of a common summer cottage activity. Tossing sticks out in the water for your Lab to leap in after and retrieve. So many great afternoons spent enjoying the sunshine and water with your best friend.
It began with Big Air. You and your Lab on a dock that is forty feet in length and ends in a pool of the same length. They measure the length of the pool your dog covers when he leaps before his tail set hits the water. You’ve got lots of room for your Lab to build up some speed and make the most of his leap but you cannot follow him into the water unless you end up having to retriever him because he loves the water too much to get out. Obviously, you dog must enter the water voluntarily.
Extreme Vertical tests how high your Lab can jump. You only have twenty feet of dock to work with. Eight feet out in the pool a toy is suspended 4’6” over the water. Your dog needs to grab the toy as he leaps into the water. It’s an elimination type event and those that don’t get the toy are finished competing. The toy is then raised an additional two inches and it begins again with the remaining competitors. It continues until there is a winner.
Speed Retrieve is the final event. A toy is placed at the end of the pool. Your dog once again has twenty feet of dock space to work with. The goal is to get to the end of the pool and the toy as fast as possible. It’s a timed event.
Those that compete in all three events are considered for the Iron Dog title. Like a triathlete, the winner is the one with the best combined score from the three events. Dogs can compete in one or more events, depending on what interests you and your Lab most.
Who Can Compete
Dock diving events have become very common in North America with over 18,000 dogs registered to compete. They are quickly becoming very popular in Europe and Australia and it is spreading into South America as well. Competition is open to any dog that is at least six months old. There are special classes for veteran dogs (aged 8 – 10), junior handlers (aged 7 – 15), and those with lap dogs under 17” at the withers, or those whose Lab has a little buddy.
Your dog does not need to be a registered Labrador Retriever or even a purebred Lab. It is open to any dog and their owner interested in competing. It’s a family sport that can be a great way to spend your weekend together with your best friend, doing something you both love.
If you are interested in getting involved, try checking the internet for local dock diving clubs and groups near you. Some offer general training while others work together to compete and attend events together. A great dock dog competitor loves the water and loves to retrieve. These are pretty normal traits for most Labrador Retrievers. You’d almost think that they came up with it after watching you and your Lab play at the cottage on a hot summer afternoon. Can you think of a better way to spend your weekend?
Photo credit: Pete Markham/Flickr