Dock diving is one of the more well-known canine sports, but it can also be a little bit of a mystery. So Dog O’Day is here to explain how it works as part of our “Sporty Pups” series.
But even though leaping into a pool seems simple, there’s a lot that goes into it – not quite as complicated as other dog sports like agility or flyball, maybe, but still, there’s a fair amount of training time and titles to be won.
The sport of dock diving is governed by North American Diving Dogs, better known as NADD. Both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) recognize NADD titles, and the annual national championship event, the NADD National Championship, is held in conjunction with the AKC National Championship dog show.
Dogs do not have to be purebred to compete in dock diving, and may be any breed, though larger breeds like Boxers or water-loving dogs like Labrador Retrievers tend to do best, and a Whippet set a Guinness World Record last year.
The main types of competition are Air Retrieve (where a bumper is suspended in mid-air over the pool) and Distance Jump (straightforward leap for distance, a canine version of the long jump), and there are five levels of competition.
These divisions are known as Novice, Junior, Senior, Master and Elite, and a competition can be broken down further by size, with Lap dogs measuring 16 inches or less at the withers (shoulders) and Open dogs measuring above 16 inches at the withers.
A Distance Jumping title is earned with five qualifying jumps in each division. For Dock Novice (DN), that’s between one foot and nine feet 11 inches, for Dock Junior (DJ), between 10 feet and 14 feet 11 inches, for Dock Senior (DS), between 15 feet and 19 feet 11 inches, for Dock Master (DM), between 20 feet and 23 feet 11 inches, and for Dock Elite (DE), jumps above 24 feet.
Once a dog has earned their basic dock diving title, an Advanced title can be earned with an additional 25 qualifying jumps in that ranking. An A is then added to their title (ADN, ADJ, ADJ, ADS, ADM, ADE).
Once a dog has earned their Advanced title, an Excellent title can be earned with an additional 25 qualifying jumps in that ranking, and an X is added to their title (DNX, DJX, DSX, DMX, DEX). For each 25 qualifying jumps after that, a bonus title is added, represented by a number (DNX2, DNX3, etc).
The highest titles supersede the lower titles, like how a Bachelors degree takes precedence over an Associates.
For Air Retrieve, the longest grab at a competition counts toward titles, with a basic Division title earned after five grabs. For Air Retrieve Novice (AN), grabs between six and nine feet, Air Retrieve Junior (AJ), between 10 and 13 feet, Air Retrieve Senior (AS), between 14 and 17 feet, Air Retrieve Master (AM), between 18 and 21 feet, and Air Retrieve Elite (AE), over 22 feet.
Advanced titles are earned with another 10 grabs after their basic division title, and an A goes on the end of the title (ANA, AJA, ASA, AMA, AEA).
Excellent titles are earned with another 10 grabs after their Advanced title, with an X going at the end (ANX, AJX, ASX, AMX, AEX).
Again, the higher titles take precedence over the lower.
Docks may be either permanent or mobile, and the competition format is different for each type. At a permanent dock, each splash (competition session) has a fixed running order, while at a mobile dock, since there are often multiple sports taking place at the same time like at the OKC Summer Classic Canine Olympics, there are set time periods for splashes and dogs can run at any point during the open time window.
For the 2019 season, about 240 NADD-sanctioned events were held, with about 60 of them counting as qualifiers for the national championship.