Dock Dog diving
Turns out, many Kerries naturally LOVE water and love to retrieve.
In my life, I have had 3 such Kerries- Bianca, Kiara and now Gio.
Gio's older brother Rowan (Fermanagh) loves water too and turns out, Aran's double
granddaughter Bean is right there with them!
And now, there is a sport called DockDog bringing all water sport enthusiasts and their
DOCKDOG Gallery- enter
Thank you Margo (Fermanagh/Rowan) and Sara (Bean) for sharing your experience!
Rowan loves water and retrieving, and was wildly excited to be competing, so much that he
wanted to stay in the pool and swim around with the bumper in his mouth! We practice every
week at a private farm in Puyallup, and I take him to Puget Sound and let him swim and retrieve.
He has the heart and soul of a Chessie or a lab!
Last weekend (April 14-17) there was a National Dockdog competition sponsored by
DockDogWorldwide at the Puyallup, WA Fair. We competed on Thurs and Sun, two waves
(four jumps) per day. Rowan's longest jump was 16.4 feet; his next best was 16.1 feet. He
qualified for the finals, and placed 6th in his class.
I love doing the sports with my dogs where their breed isn't the typical breed you see
participating. I do weight pulling with my Rottie boy and Bean is also a weight pull dog in training.
I decided to look for another sport where Bean might also be the first in her breed to be titled and
I looked into dock jumping. With the Kerry being the all around working and retrieving dog for
the farmer, I thought this would be a good fit. I contacted the local club, Keystone DockDogs,
because I wanted the proper introduction and foundation work since I knew I'd be competing
with Bean. I was told there was a member who put some time in at a nearby dog pool to help
with newbies in the sport and I was put in contact with him. He was excited to see a Kerry getting
involved as he had never seen one competing.
Dock jumping is a great sport in that there is very little training involved in order to compete. It's
not about training the swimming and retrieving or the dog having an abundance of energy, it's
about their DESIRE for their toy and tapping into that desire (often called a “toy drive”). It's not
like agility, rally, or formal obedience; once they are jumping, you enter! Bean LOVES to play
and LOVES her toys, so for me, it was easy from day one. She FLIES off the dock. However,
no two dogs are alike and what is “easy” for one owner may not be “easy” for the next. This
does NOT mean one is a better candidate than the other and it is important to not get discouraged.
There are three sanctioning organizations in dock jumping: DockDogs (dockdogs.com), Ultimate
Air Dogs (ultimateairdogs.net), and Splash Dogs (splashdogs.com). I chose to compete in
DockDogs because they have regional events as well as traveling nationally, and I can join a local
club (Keystone DockDogs). However, UAD (and now SplashDogs) is partnered with UKC and
one can earn UKC jumping titles so I will compete in UAD in the near future. For DockDogs, a
membership with DockDogs Worldwide is required to have the titles recorded and the title goes
with the team (handler and dog), not just the dog. For UAD, if you want it to earn UKC titles you
must submit your registration number when entering, but UAD does have their own titles.
A title is awarded after the team earns 5 legs in one division:
Super Elite 25' and up
The dock is 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 2 feet above the water surface (this may vary slightly
with each organization). In DockDogs, the body of water can be either a pool or a lake at least 4
feet deep. The competition is called a wave, with 2-3 waves per day and practice time in
between. In each wave you have two jumps with the longer of the two jumps being your official
score. The jump is measured from the end of the dock to where the tail set enters the water. This
way, all the dogs are judged fairly against each other. The handler has 90 seconds on the dock to
work with the dog, which some people use to play with the dog and build up his energy.
The top six dogs of each division move on to the finals, so a jump of 8 or 9 feet could easily be in
the Novice Finals. There is then an award ceremony with the winners of each of the divisions.
There are two techniques used in preparing the dog to jump. One is called The Chase and the
other is called the Place and Send. The Chase method is where the dog is placed at one end of
the dock and the handler stands at the other end of the dock with the pool. The dog is released
and the toy is thrown as the dog is about to jump, creating a jump with nice height and
(hopefully) distance because the dog follows the toy, trying to catch it. This method takes some
mastering because timing is critical and an “off” toss can affect the performance of the dog. The
Place and Send method is where the dog and handler go up to the edge of the dock and the toy is
thrown into the water. The dog is encouraged to see the toy in preparation to jump. The handler
then takes the dog back to the desired point on the dock and releases him.
Dock jumping is a lot of fun for both you and the dog, and jumping with the first titled Kerry
Blue (confirmed by DockDogs) makes my experience even more special.