Diving Dogs: A New Twist on Fetch

rayne-dog
Rayne, 2014 Diving Dogs National Champion; Photo Courtesy: Phyllis Ensley

By Madeline Ladd, Swimming World College Intern.

There’s skydiving, platform diving, cliff diving, and there’s …dog diving? Sure enough, Diving Dogs – also sometimes referred to as dock jumping – is a nationally recognized sport. According to North America Diving Dogs description, the event goes something like this: “Dogs are enticed to run the length of a dock and leap as far out into the water as possible to compete for height or distance. They’re motivated to fly with a prized toy, which is thrown just out of reach in order to help them keep their momentum and get the best launch angle possible.” As you can see, the rules are simple and resemble a game of fetch.

Most people are unaware of the sport’s existence; however, it is labeled as the fastest growing sport for dogs in the world. Just what does it take to be a champion dog diver and owner? Read to find out!

In the meantime, check out this up-close action shot from a dog diving competition.

Meet Steve Mize 

Steve Mize, Operations Manager for North America Diving Dogs, is an expert on all things Diving Dogs. Mize has three dogs who have been competing in the sport for twelve years, and his love for the competition inspired him to become more involved with the organization. Eventually, he found himself earning the title of operations manager. “My job is to get facilities and ensure they are safe, plan events, and make sure it is fair and even competition. I provide an avenue to get people to do something and go have fun with their dogs,” Mize explains his role.

Mize’s involvement all started years ago when a bystander observed Mize’s dog repeatedly leap into the water to retrieve toys. He asked if Mize and his dog had ever tried Diving Dogs. Confused but intrigued, Mize eventually looked it up online and participated in a local competition. “I put my dog in it, and I was hooked!” 

rev-dog

Photo Courtesy: Kim Langevin

Origins of Dog Diving 

The sport of Diving Dogs began 20 years ago. “The running rumor is that it started between two duck hunters, and there weren’t any ducks that day,” Mize chuckled. As it is said, the duck hunters had a competition among themselves to see which of their dogs could jump the furthest off the dock. Thus, the sport of Diving Dogs was born. Soon, the sport took off and has evolved into the spectacle that it is today. 

“We have 70 jumping facilities all over the country to include Canada and Alaska. We put on over 300 events per year, and have 14,000 dogs registered nationwide with the company,” Mize says of its success.  

dog-diving-yellow

Photo Courtesy: @northamericadivingdogs

Where do You Compete? 

With numerous facilities nationwide, it is not difficult to find a Diving Dogs competition. The sport is most favorable in the southern states where there are eight months of available jumping weather. However, several indoor venues are popping up to encourage a longer period of competition in the colder regions. Any person and their dog can enter a competition by simply showing up to the venue and paying a small fee. If they want to be a permanent competitor, however, they must register with North America Diving Dogs so that their scores can be tracked. Most participants in the sport compete in an average of five to seven competitions per year. 

diving-venue

Photo Courtesy: @northamericadivingdogs

How Does it Work? 

A specially trained and certified judge scores each jump. The distance jumped is measured from the back end of the dog where the tail meets the body. “It is the actual distance from the end of the dock to where the back end of the dog hits the water,” says Mize. “You do the two jumps, and the highest score from these two jumps is taken as your score.” There are several different divisions in Diving Dogs based upon jump length so that competition remains fair. As Mize says, “If your dog only jumps nine feet, you are not competing against a dog that jumps 20 feet.” 

Here are the Levels: 

Novice Level: 1 in – 9 ft’11

Junior Level: 10 ft – 14ft’11

Senior Level: 15 ft – 19ft’11

Masters Level: 20 ft – 23ft’11

Elite Level: 24 ft and over 

Championships 

Competitors compete in Diving Dogs on a local, regional and even national level. Every December, over 750 dogs gather in Orlando, Florida, for the national championships. There is a winner for each level: novice, junior, senior, masters and elite. Mize himself is no stranger to the championships. In 2014, he and his dog, Rayne (see featured image), won the national championships. Rayne jumped a length equivalent to the senior level. Mize emphasizes that he has many memorable moments for each of his dogs that compete, and it is very case specific. “I still remember the events and how far they were for all my dogs’ first jump,” says Mize. “The first time they did it in competition was a big deal.” 

dog

Photo Courtesy: Steve Mize

Why Diving Dogs? 

Mize is a big supporter of Diving Dogs. As a competitor turned Operations Manager, he has a deep love for the sport and what it stands for. “It is a very active and fun way to exercise your dog. A dog doing a 30 minute activity in water is the same as a three to four mile run,” says Mize. “Diving dogs also allows for more bonding with your dog, and the competition just adds more organization to it.” Who doesn’t want to increase their bond with their furry friend?

Diving Dogs is rewarding for all involved, whether canine or human.

“The biggest reward from my job is seeing people have fun with their dogs. I think the sport is very entry-level friendly, meaning if you have a dog that will jump off a raised platform into a body of water, you can compete. It’s not like some other sports that require a whole lot of practice and a whole lot of training.” -Steve Mize

North America Diving Dogs has plans to add more elements to the competition in the coming year. These additions will bring more versatility to the sport beyond just jumping. 

swimming-dog

Photo Courtesy: @northamericadivindogs

Get Out and Try It! 

If you are looking to get out and do something fun with your dog through an organized activity, consider trying a dog diving competition! As Mize said, if your dog can jump off a raised platform and likes to fetch for toys, they can compete. Check out northamericadivingdogs.com for more information and competitions near you! Follow them on Instagram and Facebook @northamericadivingdogs.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Swimming World nor its staff.

9 comments

  1. Linda Marvin

    Raena Alexis Latina Lawson diving dogs get a write up in swimming world.

  2. avatar
    Michelle Demler

    So I started Dock Diving by a fluke. I was driving over an hour to get my dog excersise at a dog pool in the winter cause he wad cutting his pads on the snow and ice. So a coworker said they just opened this pool 8 minutes from my house. We went my dog after a few minutes was jumping off the dock so Becky and Rick who are the trainers there asked if I was competing that weekend? I was confused I had no idea what it was, or did we need training anything? Both of them said your dog is a natural and should compete. So Becky explained how to go on NADD and get a membership and how ti sing up for the competition. We did it and he got his 1st title DS, I was like this is so cool and the people were so nice that year 2018 we were competing in alot of venues and received a invitation to Nationals in Orlando, Florida. We were ecstatic that in the fall of 2018 we bred our Stud and got in son. This year we started him dock diving and he’s 10 months old out jumping his father and both got an invite to Nationals again. I can’t wait Thank you so much to all my dog friends and families for helping us with our dogs and thank you to Becky and Rick.

  3. Mary-Helen Hopkins

    Anji Porter, I never knew about this; you?

    • Anji Porter

      yes! It is so amazing to watch!

  4. Jim Bowser

    Darn, that dog in the pic has great form.

  5. avatar
    Adam

    It’s on ESPN2 now!!