Dock jumping has been growing in popularity as a dog sport, and with good reason. Not only is it incredibly simple—just get your dog to jump off of a dock—but it’s laid back and fun for the dog and owners alike. There are organized dock jumping competitions springing up all over the world, and dog owners and trainers everywhere are clamoring to participate.
As simple as dock jumping is, there is still a right way and a wrong way to get your dog to take the plunge. Your dog needs to be safe and comfortable with jumping off of a dock. Depending on your dog, and how much experience he has with water, this might take a bit of work to accomplish. If you’re serious about teaching your dog to jump off a dock, here are some tips to make sure you do it safely.
Make Sure Your Dog is Used to Swimming
Dock jumping doesn’t require a lot of training, but it does require your dog to know how to swim. If your dog is entirely new to swimming, take her to a lake or pond to let her get used to it. You don’t need to have her jump off a dock immediately; in fact, it’s probably best not to start out with the surprise of landing in water. Just let your pup get wet and splash around the first few times you introduce her to water. Bring along a favorite toy to let her retrieve, since she will eventually be diving after it. Stay upbeat and energetic and never force your dog into the water. You want your dog to enjoy being in the water, not be afraid of it. If she seems afraid, get into the water yourself with the toy and try to entice her to come in with you.
Starting in Shallow Water
When you’ve gotten your dog interested in his toy and he is comfortable getting wet, it’s time to try some dock dives. Start in shallow water but deep enough so that your dog doesn’t have to swim a whole lot and tire himself out. The goal at this point is to make sure that your dog is interested enough in the toy to jump off the dock after it. If he’s still not that comfortable with swimming, the shallow water won’t deter him too much.
Once your dog is comfortable jumping into shallow water from a dock, move onto deeper water. It should be deep enough that your dog will have to swim back after retrieving the toy. Keep this up until your dog is comfortable enough swimming and jumping off a dock after his toy no matter how deep the water may be.
Jumping at Events
Once your dog has a good toy dive and is comfortable in the water, she should be ready to try some dock jumping events. Keep in mind that the atmosphere of a dock jumping event may be very different than what your dog is used to. Most dogs are trained as dock jumpers at lakes and ponds, where the water is murky and easy to see, while dock jumping competitions are usually held in pools where the water is clear and much harder for dogs to see. When you get to the event, take your dog up the exit ramp from the pool to show her the water and boost her confidence. This will let her know where she will be jumping and familiarize her with the way the water looks different from the lakes and ponds she might be used to. This step also ensures that she knows how to get out of the pool after her dive so she won’t panic and try to go over the side of the pool, potentially injuring herself.
Teaching a dog how to jump from a dock is about confidence above all else. Your dog has to be comfortable jumping from a dock into water. Many dogs take to this sport right away and enjoy it, while others may go to a few events before they’re comfortable. Be patient with your dog, and never force him or her into doing something he or she doesn’t want to do. You may see a dock jumping event as a competition, but your dog should see it as playing. Keep that in mind, and have fun!