The first objective. Having a good time with your dog is the first and most important objective. We want you and your dog to have fun and enjoy the sport of dock diving.
Definitely arrive early. Getting to the event well before your scheduled competition time will allow you to make the most of practice time. And more importantly, it gives you and your dog a chance to relax and become comfortable with the new surroundings, the excited energy of barking dogs, and the pull of the water. Arriving early also gives you a chance to set up your crating area, potty your dog, familiarize yourself with how the event flows, and ask any questions. If you have any questions about the flow of competition, jumping techniques, scoring or facility amenities, don't hesitate to ask us.
Respect other dogs. All dogs are required to be on a 6 foot leash, however, it is easy for a dog owner to become distracted and have a dog sneak behind him to visit with another dog. Due to the nature of the event, some dogs may be very excited and not handle a greeting from another dog in a polite manner. It is also a possibility that a dog may become loose during the competition. Be aware of the dogs around you, and also dogs that may inadvertently be running free.
The inexperienced dog. If you are new to the sport of dock diving, we are here to help. Just let us know if you need some assistance. Your dog should be comfortable in water and a proficient swimmer. Some people are tempted to try dock diving even if their dog has never been in the water before. This is asking a great deal from your dog. If you have a dog that has zero experience with water, this is not the place to start. Start out in a lake or pond with easy access and exit areas where the dog can learn to be comfortable in the water and perfect his swimming skills. Or contact a dog training facility with a pool. Some facilities have dock diving classes as well as swim sessions where dogs and handlers can hone their dock diving skills.
Your dog's comfort...and yours. It is tempting to jump your dog in several sessions each day, but unless your dog is conditioned to do so, this may be too much. Remember that for each session you are entered in, you will get a minimum of three jumps, at least one practice jump and two competition jumps. Combine that with hot summer weather and the excited nature of the event, and you have a recipe for a really tired dog. It is best to give your dog a rest between sessions so that your dog is at his best in each session. It can be a long, uncomfortable day if you come unprepared. Many people set up camp when they arrive. EZ Up's, blankets, lounge chairs, and battery powered fans can make for a pleasant, comfortable day. Of course, you want to bring water, food and treats for you and your dog. And don't forget a selection of your dog's favorite floating toys. Since this is a water sport, you and your dog will get wet. Wear clothing and shoes that can get wet, and bring towels for drying off. Also, do not wear flip flops. They are dangerous to wear while trying hold back a dog on slippery surfaces and stairs.
Take advantage of practice time. If you arrive early, and time permits, we hold a practice session before each competition session. This is a great time for you and your dog to get a chance to get over some of the jitters by becoming comfortable with the dock and pool. You and your dog may not be familiar with the dock surface, the ramp or the pool itself. Practice time gives you an opportunity to show your dog how to get out of the pool, try out different techniques and get comfortable with the pool water. If you've never been on our dock, show your dog how the ramp works before you send him sailing into the middle of the pool without knowing the way out. Watching a dog struggle to find his way out of the pool can be very stressful for everyone involved. You can toss your dog's toy a short distance into the pool. Let your dog jump into the pool. Kneel next to the ramp and call your dog to you, showing him the ramp and guiding him in. Lots of "Good Dog!" and a few pats on the head and most dogs will have the hang of the ramp. Many people are surprised when their dog hesitates at the end of the dock. The dog that always sails off the pier at the lake may put on the brakes when they get to the end of the dock and see all of the clear water. The way the water in a pool looks is very different from the muddy water of lakes and ponds, and some dogs aren't sure what to make of it. Usually these dogs will jump just fine after they get a couple of practice jumps in and realize that the clear water is just as wet as lake water. If your dog is unsure about jumping, start small. Just a short toss of the toy into the pool. You want to set your dog up for success. Splashing water toward the toy sometimes can help encourage your dog to go get the toy. And of course, using a toy that your dog absolutely loves helps too. Never, never, never push your dog into the pool. If you are having difficulty, we will be available to assist you.
Waiting to jump. Be sure to potty your dog and yourself before your competition. There won't be time once the competition starts, and each competition can run from a half hour to forty five minutes. You won't make many friends if your dog eliminates on the dock...it can be a little distracting to other dogs running down the dock. Respect other dog's space as they are exiting the stairs. Remain at least 8 feet away from the bottom of the stairs and be aware of dogs and handlers coming down. Be sure to check the white board so you know where you are in the line up of dogs waiting to jump.
The Competition. Pay attention to when your name is announced as "next up". Wait for the last team to clear the stairs. Carefully make your way up the stairs. Unleash your dog, and hang the leash over the rail so you don't trip on it. Relax and get your dog into position. Look to the judge to make sure you are cleared to jump before you release your dog. The video recording system we use to record the length of your jump has to be reset after each team. If you rush up the stairs, run to the end of the dock and release your dog too early, your jump won't be recorded. On the flipside, it is also important to remember that you have 90 seconds on the dock before we call "time". Once you release your dog and have a little celebratory dance that he did it, remember to get into position to help him out of the water and leash him up before he rockets down the stairs into the waiting group of excited dogs. Carefully make your way down the stairs and back into line for your second jump. Your dog's distance will be announced and recorded on the white board. After both rotations have been completed, the first, second and third place winners will be announced and ribbons will be awarded. Even if you haven't placed in the top three, there is a chance you could still move to the Final Jump Off. The top five dogs in each division will be invited to the Finals. The "Bubble Board" will be posted after each session so you can keep an eye on your placement. If you are close to the top five, you might want to stick around. Some dogs may not return for Finals and then we will take the next dog in line so we end up with five teams from each division.
If you have any questions before, during or after the event, let us know.
Good Luck and Happy Dock Diving!