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Splash! The Dock Dogs are diving in!

DockDogs® is mostly a Spring and Summer dog sport with the official season starting in September through to March-April as a general rule. All it requires is enthusiasm and a love of water so this sounds like the perfect sport for Australians!

Officially fifteen years old, this sport began as a filler event in the 2000 ESPN Great Outdoor Games held in Lake Placid (New York). Back then, there were only 20 to 30 teams compared to around 18,000 teams now on the DockDogs® database, which compete with Australian teams across four continents.

The Outdoor World Record at the end of DockDogs® first official season (2001) was 22’4”. 

During 2003, a 54lb. Black Labrador Shakopee named “Little Morgan” and his handler Mike Jackson tied the World Record of 23’1” at their very first event.

In 2004, the Outdoor World Record was broken and re-set again by “Little Morgan” at 26'06". 

“Little Morgan” held that world record for the next 3.5 years. Though he passed away in early 2012,  "Little Morgan" has now entered the Hall of Fame and continues to be highly regarded in DockDogs® worldwide. 

He was was such a graceful jumper that his silhouette was used to design the DOCKDOGS® logo.

The current overall Big Air® Outdoor World Record is 31’ - set at Clark County Fair in Ridgefield, WA on 4 August 2012, is held by Diane Salts and her Whippet Cochiti. This same Whippet is a former Lure course champion who got into DockDogs to gain strength in training for Lure. Diane soon discovered that Cochiti was far more suited to flying than running. 

In 2013, Cochiti skimmed right out of the pool in order to get the toy! This jump wasn’t recorded due to the fact that she didn’t land in the water. Two competing pools had to be changed to a length of fifty feet to accommodate this light-weight skimmer dog...

Cochiti, the Whippet - Big Air® Outdoor World Record - Photo: Julie Ward

Over the years, DockDogs Worldwide began jumping at indoor events and decided to create an indoor World Record for BIG AIR® as we noticed a considerable difference in the dogs jumping abilities outdoor vs. indoor. With the difference in lighting, sound reflecting off the walls and noise being contained indoors, it made sense to have two separate records. 
The first indoor event was held at the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show in 2002 and was won by none other than “Little Morgan” and his handler Mike Jackson!

The current Big Air® Indoor World Record overall is 30’ 3” held by Yayohi (Belgian Malinois) and her handler Crystal McClaren. It was set at the 2015 DockDogs World Championships in Dubuque Iowa.

How popular is DockDogs in Australia?

In Australia, DockDogs premiered at the World Dog Games held at Homebush in October 2009. David Graham was the MC for the event and fell in love with the sport. David could see the great potential for the dogs of this country and has since endeavoured to create a DockDog community here. Then known as The Australian Canine Sports & Training Centre, he became the owner of the pool and now has the only sanctioned facility in this country at The Farmer Dave Dog Centre (sadly closed in 2017 due to Sydney's massive urban development).

Canberra Royal saw a special visitor to watch the dogs flying: former Governor General Quentin Bryce was watching in the splash zone when Nadia the Pitbull jumped so far that the Governor got drenched. She laughed and seemed to enjoy the splash even though this turned her lovely pink suit in a fuchsia colour!

Photo Credit: Roger Bishop
DockDogs is popular all over Australia with clubs operating in Sydney, Canberra, Queensland and Perth with new clubs starting soon in Melbourne. 

There are currently 100 members nationally and the teams keep growing each year.

We have seen some great achievements in local competitions with Blaze - a four-year old Kelpie mix owned by Alleigh,  jumping a whopping 27'7" to come the new Australian champion!

So how can your dog become one of these DockDogs high-jumping heroes?

As long as your dog has a toy drive and is comfortable in and around the water, then he can become a Dock Dog! 

Simply get in touch with your local club and arrange a time to come down to their training pool for a “Try-Out”. If both your dog and yourself fall in love with this sport then you can join the club and start training for fun or competitions. 

DockDogs® is unlike any other canine competition as there is a zero discrimination policy: i.e. dogs competing in the worldwide rankings can be any breed, any mix, any size and any colour providing they are over 6 months of age or older.

DockDogs is a great sport to keep your dog fit and healthy. It is a low impact sport with no injuries recorded from the sport. A lot of dogs who join the sport have existing injuries from other activities, however DockDogs seems to benefit them as there is a lot of gentle swimming involved. Please note that dogs that show signs of existing injuries are not allowed to compete.

What disciplines can your dogs compete in?

This dog sport is centered around three disciplines – Big Air (long jump), Extreme Vertical (high jump) and Speed + Retrieve (sprint).

#1. Big Air

The main event ‘Big Air’ is equivalent to a long jump for dogs, off a sanctioned 40ft dock into a 40ft pool of water. Each dog and their handler are a competition team and each team competes head to head against other teams to see who can jump the furthest distance. Each team is allotted 60 seconds to get their dog down the dock and into the water.

Over the week-end, teams will jump in ‘waves’ or heats and their results slot them into divisions. During the finals, they all compete against dogs in their own division, meaning there are winners across all sections of the jump spectrum. Internationally accredited judges will evaluate all jumps either manually or for the Nationals competition, electronically - using imported digital 90 frames per second video stop-action.

The distance is measured from the end of the dock to the part of the dog where the ‘tail meets the body’ when it enters the water. The current Australian record stands at a whopping 27’4” at the big end and 2” at the shorter end... yes a fat Labrador just fell in awkwardly. Measurements are based on the US standard of feet and inches, which make the records sound all the more impressive!

#2. Extreme Vertical

The second event is ‘Extreme Vertical’ and it is an all-ages crowd favourite! This is a ‘high jump’ for dogs with an apparatus jib hanging out over and above the pool with a bumper toy hanging down, which the dogs leap skyward to grab. 

Dogs have two non-grab attempts overall, which adds ‘an edge of your seat’ element. With time between the heights going up and the re-set of the bumper, the announcer takes the audience on a journey of each dog’s history with brand messaging, allowing a buy-in from the audience which all adds to the crowd's involvement.

#3. Speed + Retrieve

This event is like drag racing for dogs, or Flyball on water! 

Sensors on the dock relay the information back to the judging computer on both:

1) the handler's reaction time to releasing their dog when the traffic lights go from Red to Green at the end of the pool.
2) then the dog races down the dock, flies into the water then swims like mad to the end of the pool grabbing the bumper to end the timer.
This give a set of two scores to the judge: a reaction time score for the human and a speed score for the dog. 

DockDogs® clubs practice at locations as diverse as sanctioned pool facilities, backyard pools, dams, creeks and even jetties at the beach... 

Essentially all the dogs need is a platform to jump off and a body of water to jump into!

Photo Credit: Roger Bishop

Competitions are held monthly throughout the season and consist of a mix of National and Club competitions with participants drawn from the local clubs. 

Members are passionate about their sport and will travel and compete wherever there is an event on! You will see them popping up all over Australia: from North Queensland all the way to Perth. 

A performance crew is also available for demonstration events such as smaller pet festivals or corporate events.

If you are interested in getting involved or keen to start your own local club, please contact DockDogs Australia at  

We'd like to thank the President of Central Coast Dock Dogs for their contribution to this article.

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