First and foremost, Have Fun! Golden Retriever Tracer, shown on the right, is just trying out Dock Diving, so Mom has to keep it light hearted. Stay relaxed and "open" to other competitors at the event. Many experienced "teams" (dog & handler) are very helpful should you have any questions about jumping techniques, how an event is run and what the procedures are.
Remember that "dock jumping" is a dog event. . . there will be a lot of dogs attending and they get very excited about being around the dock jumping area. There may be dog owners who are not as "leash" attentive as you are. For the safety of you and your dog, maintain a "short" leash and be very aware of the "space" around both of you from other handlers and their dogs. Pay attention to how your dog is reacting to all of the excitement and handle them appropriately. Just as we do at the Sparks Marina, have your dog on leash until you are "cleared" to get in the water and the dog getting out of the water has been put back on leash.
Show your dog how to get out of the pool. . . Just as we do at Sparks Marina, before your very first practice jump, show your dog the exit ramp. Let the pool "wrangler" (the person at pool side who is responsible for getting "teams" up to the jumping dock and helping dogs get out of the pool) know that you would like to let your dog go up the exit ramp and into the pool before attempting to jump off the competition dock. If there is no "wrangler", just let the person behind you in line know what you will be doing so that they know what is going on. After the dog before you is out of the pool and leashed, take your dog to the base of the exit ramp, unleash them and while holding their collar lead them up the ramp and do a "short" toy toss (4 to 5 feet) into the pool. Just as we do on the docks at the Sparks Marina, we are looking for that first leap into the pool from your dog. Watch them as they swim out to their toy and call t! hem "hard" as soon as they grab the toy while showing them the ramp out of the pool. Help them out of the pool, lead them by the collar down the ramp, re-leash them and praise them for a job well done. Now you are ready to go directly up to the competition dock for your first jump. You don't need to wait in line again. What we are accomplishing here is: showing your dog how to get out of the pool safely; getting your dog acclimated to the temperature of the water; familiarizing yourself with the exit ramp set up and area around that part of the pool; and calming both you and your dog for your first jump. Remember, use a short toy toss, a long toss may seem rude to the next person waiting in line. H3D club members are one of the few people who practice this, but it is very important. Hopefully H3D club members can lead by example and show other competitors a safe and correct way to compete.
Don't be surprised and be very, very patient. It is not uncommon for a dog that has been jumping into lakes, rivers and, in your case, a marina to hesitate jumping into a "clear" pool for the first time. If your dog does hesitate at the end of the dock, please be patient. If your toy is already in the water, ask the wrangler to get it for you and try a much shorter throw. Throw it just far enough (3, 4 or 5 feet) so your dog is really encouraged to go and get it. Help your dog by laying on the dock and reaching down to the water splash some water towards the toy. Use a lot of verbal encouraging to elevate your dogs excitement level. Try pulling your dog back a few feet from the end of the dock, "jazz" them up for the toy, release them and run up to the end of the dock with them to encourage them to jump. Do this a couple times. But please, NEVER ever push or throw your dog off the dock into the water. If your dog fails to jump, leash or lead ! them by the collar down from the jumping dock to the exit ramp and have them retrieve their toy from there. Again, praise them a lot, this will encourage them to launch from the jumping dock on your next try.
Use your practice time wisely. . . Just as we do at Sparks Marina: "step" off the distance from the end of the dock to where you are going to start your dog's starting point. Look around and see if there is a marker to remind you where you are. (I use the poles that hold the ropes or mesh on the side of the dock. They are usually 4ft apart) Have a family member or club member watch you and your dog while executing your first jump to watch for things you can adjust. Things to watch for: is your dog jumping near or at the end of the dock or are they jumping "early"; is your toss motion smooth, fluid and straight; is your dog accelerating and jumping without hesitation. You can try to "fix" these things with the help of an experienced handler or make note of it and we can work on it during practice at the marina. If you use the "sit/stay" method, you may use the pole at the end of the dock to stabilize yourself before "releasing" your dog from their "sit" and tossing their toy.
Remember to help your dog out of the pool. . . As exciting and fun your first jump experience is, don't forget to go to the exit ramp to help your dog out, leash them up quickly and praise them for a job well done. Many new handlers watch their dogs from the dock and forget to help them out. . . I've seen more than a few dogs climb the side of the pool and fall 4 ft. to the ground. Remember, you and your dog are a "team". . . don't fail your team member at this point.
Don't "over jump" your dog. . . With all of the excitement and fun you and your dog will be having, don't forget that unless your dog is very well conditioned, like any athlete they will get tired, fatigued and sore if you jump them too much. This is even more important if you are doing multiple days of competition. You may notice that many of the major pro competitors come on the last day only and jump their dog only a few times outside of the competition. This assures that their dog is well rested and prepared to do well. Pay close attention to your dog's walk, run and resting in between jumps. Be sure to "warm up" and "cool down" your dog with a short walk, jog or toy play before and after jumping. Toweling off your dog between jumps works for Ka'ua and me. You are a competition "team" now and your dog is your "franchise" player. . . care for them well.
Go potty!. . . Before jumping, before getting in line, both you and your dog should use the restroom. Do this as part of your "warm up" exercise and you'll never be embarrassed while on the jumping dock.
Remember your comfort. . . there will be a lot of "down time" waiting around for your turn to jump so don't forget shade. A canopy, "easy up" or nearest tree is essential. Many of these competition venues are out where there is no shade, be prepared. Drinking water or refreshments are also important. Chairs, hats, sun screen, sun glasses, towels, ground cover whatever you need to be comfortable, bring it. You'll be safe if you count on nothing being provided there and be happily surprised when it is.
That's about it. . . bring any questions or things you want to work on to dock practice and we can work on them. If you can, tell the registration people and the announcer that you are a High Desert Splash Dog member. This helps bring recognition for our club and possibly new members. [Splash Dogs lists their applicable General Event Rules and Titles & Divisions.]
Check out Simon the Golden Retriever at the Pearland Texas Dock Dog competition, the first one held in the South. This was his first jump.
And, check out Golden Retriever Ginny. This was her longest jump of 18' 10" at the Dock Dogs competition in Bel Air, Md in August 2008.
Lots of Great Resources