It's important to maintain a well-conditioned dog when competing in dock diving. Remember, dogs don't always have the muscles to do endurance swimming. They may have weak core muscles, causing their rear end to drop down in the water. Over time, the core muscles build and so does the dog's confidence.
Weight pulling, Frisbee (for jumping), massage, and chiropractic are all important training enhancements. Dogs have to run down a dock, jump into the water, and then swim back to the exit ramp. This is why the dog's conditioning program needs to focus on the right muscle groups and building endurance.
Owners may want to consult with a veterinary rehab specialist. Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota has a Sport & Strength department with a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. Experts can help owners develop a conditioning program tailored to the dog's needs.
Dock diving does impact the dog when taking off and landing. The hard pushing dogs can attain heights of 7-8 feet and lengths of 25 feet when they hit the water. This impact may require regular bodywork to maintain good condition. For vertical jumps like air grabbing, a larger dog's legs can actually hit the bottom of the pool which can impact the spine. A regular conditioning program will change the performance of the dog and will help maintain a healthy dog.
As with any dog sport, there is a human somewhere in the picture. During a competition, the handler does not get in the water. The handler must be able to throw an item in a perfect arc to get the height and resulting distance for the dog. Handlers can train on land to practice the perfect throw. Perfecting the throw takes time and practice. One of the coolest parts of competing is that the handlers and dogs are not competing against others except at a national event. Simply put, if the dog jumps into the water, at any length, the handler and dog get a leg in that division in an AKC-sanctioned event.
Almost any dog can dock dive with the right training, conditioning, and attitude. This sport can give owners one more fun thing to do with their dogs!
For more information on dock diving training in the metro area, click on these links:
The Dog Tank, Menomonie, WI
The Paw, Mankato, MN
For information on national dock diving organizations and events, click on these links:
All dock diving photos courtesy of The Dog Tank, Menomonie, WI.
Written by Sharon Middendorf, CNWI with For The Love of Dogs, LLC.