Dock Diving, aka the Wet T-shirt Contest of the Dog World

Today I took three dogs to a dock diving seminar in Virginia Beach.  Two of the dogs with me were mine (Cherry and Smooch), and one belonged to a friend of mine– a duck toller named Titan.  I also had my husband and son, along with my friend’s son (the actual owner of Titan).   The four of us, plus three dogs and tons of gear, all piled into a rented Dodge Grand Caravan (long story for a different post!) and headed for the beach.

We made pretty good time, barely encountering any traffic along the way, and pulled up a few minutes before 10am.  This allowed us enough time to check in, show our rabies certificates, and eye the pool.  The pool was an above ground affair, with a large dock at one end (as one might expect).  There were distance measurements along the edge of it, and the instructor explained how the jump distances were measured.

And then he brought out one of his dogs to demonstrate.  Now, women would understand me on this one, so, if you look down and note that you are NOT female, just follow along.  Ok?  Ok.  So you know when you are at the beach, and you are feeling mighty good, all stretched out on your towel in your new bathing suit?  You know, that one that strategically hides your figure flaws, perhaps under a silly skirt ruffle thing, and has extra padding to hoist your no-longer-twenty-something boobs up to your chin?  And then, out walks this hot tanned blonde with an impossibly sculpted derrière in a string bikini, and every guy on the beach is staring at her as she saunters slowly past?  And sometimes she’ll even stop to let the wind catch her hair and work that angle for her audience?  Yeah, that’s what made an appearance.  The Weimaraner that came out of the building and joined the trainer on the dock (stopping occasionally to pose and work her audience) was that girl.  And she knew it.

The instructor gave this dog a little encouragement, and she literally flew to the far end of the 30ft pool, and gracefully swam back.  He repeated this a few times and then demonstrated her high jump.  This time she launched into the air like a rocket, grabbed the bumper off the post, and then offered a perfectly graceful landing into the center of the pool and leisurely swam back to the ramp.  She was smoking hot, and she knew it.

After that performance, we were all feeling a little outclassed. But we drove our 2 hours, and we were going to get our dogs in the pool. The crowd was mostly Dobermans, which was unsurprising given that the seminar was being hosted by a Doberman Club. There were a few labs though, as well as other assorted retrievers, my two amstaffs, and a ridiculously adorable lab/dachshund mix (picture a lab body on four-inch legs).

Of our dogs, Cherry was up first. Not being a string bikini clad Weimaraner, she was wearing the next sexiest thing she could find–her blue and yellow Premier Fido Float life jacket. She climbed down the ramp and into the pool readily enough, but the instructor was concerned that her life jacket restricted her movement. I removed it, and a somewhat less confident Cherry made her way down the ramp. She figured things out very quickly though and became more confident in the water than before. Cherry is all business and all drive, so when she decides that it’s in her best interest to do something, she does it as hard as she can, as fast as she can, and she will make it her mission to be the best at it. That Weimaraner may have been the hot blonde, but Cherry is the wild redhead. By the end of the seminar, Cherry had worked her way up to jumping into the pool, and was a fast enough swimmer that the instructor commented that she was a great candidate for the speed retrieve event.

Jumping was quite a bit harder for my little red girl. What grace and speed she displayed in swimming didn’t convey when it came time to jump off the dock. She was enthusiastic though!

Clearly she needed some work on her form. As the afternoon progressed, she got steadily better, but we still have a little practicing to do before we’re ready to compete!

Smooch didn’t think that this event was nearly as much fun. She doesn’t seem to be at all aware that she has a rear end, and that it can function independently from her front. (side note, this is a great thing to teach your dog, and had applications ranging from agility to obedience to…well…swimming! Clearly Smooch and I have some body awareness work in our near future.) When a dog is swimming efficiently, their topline is about level with the waterline, and all four paws are underwater. There should be minimal splashing. Smooch was really not using her rear effectively at all, and found herself swimming more vertically. The instructor was in the water with her, so he grabbed her tail and hoisted her to a more horizontal swimming position. Smooch managed not to drown (despite her best efforts), but she really never did get the hang of swimming well. For the time being, Smooch will go back to wearing the life jacket.

And then, there was Titan. Titan is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Now, I don’t profess to know much about retrievers (because I really don’t!), but I was under the impression that retrievers, as a whole, were water dogs. I was fully expecting our guest retriever to school my amstaffs on all things water related. Titan, however, had other plans. He did enter the water once, but he just seemed to prefer terra firma. His owner, a very mature 15 year old boy, took it all in stride and comforted his dog. We will try Titan again in a less crowded situation on our private dock.

Titan is also accustomed to swimming in muddy water, in which he can’t see the bottom. We think that the pool was a bit to clear for the plucky little toller. He did enjoy the ride, though, and managed to score plenty of salmon cookies from the boys.

On the whole, the seminar was a success for us. I learned a few things about dock diving. The two main venues are Dock Dogs and Ultimate Air Dogs. Apparently all dogs are welcome to compete in either venue; however, Ultimate Air Dogs is UKC sanctioned, which means (as far as I understand) that one has to be UKC registered in order to compete. Unfortunately, as I have amstaffs that are not dual registered as American Pit Bull Terriers, that pretty much shoots me in the foot from the outset. UKC stopped single registering amstaffs as pit bulls a few years ago, and as my dogs are intact, they are not eligible for UKC’s limited privilege registration. This leaves me with Dock Dogs.

I also learned quite a bit about the mechanics of canine swimming, and that I can trust Cherry to swim without a life jacket. Smooch, on the other hand, will be wearing her Ruff Wear Float Coat for some time to come!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned that, no matter how tolerant your husband is, there is no way to convince him to install a 40 foot Intex pool, complete with dock and ramp, in out back yard for my dock diving convenience. So, for now, we’ll be practicing on Lake Anna, off our dock, off the docks at the marina, or even off the swim platform of our little boat. Either way, I’ve been bitten by the bug, and will be back to watch and learn some more at the next competition. It won’t be long until you see Cherry out there, striking a pose on the dock, then gracefully launching across the water. She is, after all, my little red-headed vixen.


8 thoughts on “Dock Diving, aka the Wet T-shirt Contest of the Dog World

  1. I didn’t even know there was a high jumping part of dock diving. That Weim is amazing. I can’t wait to see Cherry getting into it!

  2. What a cool seminar! I don’t think my girl would come back up. She’d probably jump right in, but I might have to go in after her. I think she swims most like Smooch.

  3. ANY dog can jump with Ultimate Air Dogs, you do NOT have to be UKC Registered, that’s only if you want to earn UKC titles, you can still earn Ultimate Air Dog titles. I’ve been jumping with UAD since ’07 or ’08. It’s a wonderful, very inclusive, friendly organization.

    Enjoyed your post!

      • Oh, it’s says it at the top of every registration page, but I suppose you wouldn’t see that unless you were registering for an event :) It’s also sort of in the event rules, but not obvious. But I’ll make a suggestion to the web master that she put it some place more prominent. Where would you have looked for it, on the “About dock jumping and UAD” page?

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