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Run, Leap, Splash Part II: How to Train for Dog Dock Diving

If you haven’t read Part I yet, click here to learn more about dog dock diving, and see if it might be a good fit for your dog!

Because dock diving is a high-intensity sport, dog owners should consult with a family veterinarian prior to beginning training. Once the veterinarian gives the green light, training can begin!

Most participants start with ground training and shaping the dog to get into the water. The owner and a trainer work to make the water desirable for the dog. Also, make sure the dog knows how to get out before he even starts to jump in!

Training a dog to dock dive requires patience and an understanding of how cold water can affect a dog. He or she may jump in once and think, “uh-uh, never doing that again.” While you may be able to work through a dog’s aversion to cold water, forcing the dog into the sport is likely to backfire.

Steve Powell, owner of The Dog Tank in Menonomie, WI, recommends training at a permanent pool. A permanent pool is different than a “try-it” event because you and your dog will have no time constraints. At a “try-it” event, a portable pool is brought in, and participants get only three minutes to work with their dog. A dog may be getting used to stepping down the ramp and into the pool, and the time may run out. A permanent pool allows time to build the dog’s confidence in the water and to perform at a comfortable pace. The Dog Tank in Menomonie, WI and The Paw in Mankato, MN are two permanent pools in the wider Twin Cities metro area.

Kristin Elmquist, owner of For the Love of Dogs in Hudson, WI, started training her Belgian Malinois rescue, Siri, at 18 months of age. They trained at The Dog Tank’s permanent pool with Steve Powell. Despite her experience swimming in rivers and lakes, Siri was hesitant to get in the water. Siri is very toy-motivated, so Kristin worked with Steve to get Siri further into the water at a comfortable pace. During early trials, Siri jumped 13-15 feet. In December of 2016, she jumped 25.1 feet! She is now the #2 dog in the Masters Division at the AKC Eukanuba Invitational and the #2 Belgian Malinois by average in 2017 to date.

It’s very important to keep in mind that dock diving is not for every dog. As a participant and a dog trainer, Kristin wants to remind owners that not every dog is going to jump into clear water or want to go down a ramp. Working with a reluctant dog requires positive training and some creativity. Often, a person in the water lures the dog in with a toy or treat. Puppies are always in a life vest and carried out. The main goal with puppies is to get them used to the water. According to Kristin, “everyone thinks all dogs swim well, which isn’t exactly the case. By putting them in life vests when starting dock diving, it makes them confident.”

Head over to Part III of our dog dock diving blog to learn about conditioning your dog for dock diving! You will also learn what handlers need to be able to do to help their dogs be successful in this sport.

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:

AKC Sanctioned: North America Diving DogsDock DogsSplash DogsUKC Dogs Dock JumpingUltimate Air Dogs.

All dock diving photos courtesy of The Dog Tank, Menomonie, WI.

Written by Sharon Middendorf, CNWI with For The Love of Dogs, LLC.

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