Never heard of DockDogs, much less the World Championships of DockDogs? Let’s dive (no pun intended) into the exciting and high-flying world of dock diving and keep scrolling to see a video of Spitfire leaping through the air.
What Is Dock Diving?
Dock diving (also known as dock jumping) is exactly what it sounds like: a sport where dogs leap from elevated docks into pools to retrieve toys. Depending on the event, the goal is to jump the furthest, the highest, or the fastest.
First introduced to the dog world in 1997, dock diving has steadily grown in popularity. In 2000, DockDogs became the first official dock diving organization and began hosting competitions throughout the United States, which were broadcast to the homes of dog lovers everywhere on ESPN. With national attention captured, more dock-diving organizations began to crop up, and so the sport was officially born.
Spitfire: The 21-Time World Record Holder
Spitfire is a now 9-year-old Whippet, lovingly nicknamed “the Michael Jordan of dogs” for his incredible dock diving abilities. Holder of 21 world records, Spitfire shattered previous records for years and became the most famous dock diving dog ever following his first competition in 2016.
Spitfire’s handler is 17-year-old Sydney Mackey, who has been his handler throughout his athletic career. A dog that looks like he can fly, Spitfire reaches distances of more than 31 feet, and heights of more than 8 feet when jumping vertically. A skill you have to see to believe, Spitfire and Sydney are still competing and staying at the top of the rankings.
Today, thousands of dogs and their handlers participate in dock jumping competitions and only a few hundred qualify for the annual world championships.
How Far Do Dogs Jump?
The world record for distance dock jumping is 36 feet, six inches, set by a Whippet named Sounders in the summer of 2022. Even world record holders have to start somewhere, and for novice distance dock jumpers (the entry-level) the average jump is closer to 9-11 feet. The dogs are given 35-40 feet of dock to run up to the jump, and handlers can choose to place their dogs anywhere along the dock to optimize their performance.
Dock Diving Events
Depending on which organization you compete with, the specific names for each event might be different, but they all boil down to the same three basic event types.
- Distance: The goal of distance diving is to jump the furthest. Sometimes called “the long jump for dogs,” this event requires the dog to run down the dock and leap into the water chasing a toy thrown by the handler. The further, the better.
- Vertical: The goal of vertical dock diving is to get as much height as possible. Instead of jumping out, the dog jumps out and up to retrieve a hanging toy. The toy is hung eight feet from the edge of the dock and raises in height incrementally as the competition advances. The record (as of 2021) stood at 8 feet, six inches.
- Timed: The goal of timed dock diving is to retrieve a toy as fast as possible. The toy in this event is hung just two inches above the water at the far end of the pool. The dog is given just 20 feet of run-up and is timed to see how quickly they can make it to the toy.
Who Can Participate in Dock Diving?
Dock diving is a reasonably accessible sport since there aren’t breed, size, or age restrictions preventing you from participating. In fact, your dog doesn’t even have to be an excellent jumper–they just have to enjoy the sport and meet the qualifications for the events you take them to.
For beginner events, qualifications are usually as simple as showing up, filling out a sign-up sheet, and keeping your dog on leash until it’s time to dive. More advanced competitions will require your dog to be able to jump certain distances and have other prerequisite requirements.
Breeds that Excel at Dock Diving
Any dog can dock dive, and they don’t have to be purebred, either! Many of the world’s best dock diving dogs are mutts, so don’t let breed stand in your way of getting into the sport.
However, there are a few purebred breeds that we see more frequently at the top of the standings at dock diving events. Whippets, Border Collies, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and other herding breeds are among the most common breeds seen at competitive dock diving events, with Labrador Retrievers often finishing off the rankings.
Team B: The Team To Watch
One of the most exciting dock diving teams this year isn’t just one dog, it’s three! All from the same family, Bentley, Bailey, and Boston are a gorgeous group of Golden Retrievers with a natural knack for dock diving. Participating in both distance and vertical events, Team B started their athletic careers out on the lake, jumping off the dock while their family enjoyed swimming in the water.
Bentley, Bailey, and Boston were once house pets living leisurely lives with their humans and the occasional trip to the lake on the weekend. Now, this trio of Golden Retrievers are some of the most anticipated athletes at this year’s DockDogs World Championships.
When their owners saw a dock diving event, the idea popped into their heads that their trio of Goldens might have fun trying this out themselves. A few years later, Team B has quickly leaped to the elite ranks of dock divers, and now have their sights set on a world championship title.
If the idea of dock diving is getting you excited, get ready to meet an absolute legend who will surely get you hooked on the sport.
How To Get Involved
If you think your dog would like dock diving and want to start training for pleasure or to compete, check out some of these resources.
- Dock Diving Groups & Training Facilities
- Get Started & Beginner’s Guides
Not finding what you’re looking for? Try hopping onto Google and searching for “dog dock diving near me” to find a local group!
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