Because your canine athlete might want more than a walk around the block.

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dog dock diving into a pool to retrieve yellow plastic toy
Credit: Portland Press Herald / Getty

Is your dog always the first one to jump into lakes or pools? If your dog lives for watery games of fetch, you may have a champion dock-diving dog in the making. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dock diving is one of the most popular canine sports, and it's easy to see why. Watching dogs leap into the air is a pretty majestic thing, not to mention the fun of seeing them make a big splash. Should you and your dog dive into this sport too?

What Is Dock Diving?

Dock diving is a diving competition made for dogs. They run the length of a dock (a platform) and jump into a pool to retrieve a toy that's been thrown in the water. The dive (or jump) is measured based on height and distance, according to North America Diving Dogs. Some competitions also award the dog that's quickest at retrieving an object.

Besides being good exercise, dock diving is fun for water-loving dogs who are toy-driven, says Linda Torson with DockDogs Worldwide. And, it's a special way to spend time with your pup.

Dock Diving Gear for Dogs

It's ideal for dock diving practice to have a pool or lake that your dog can practice jumping in to retrieve a toy. But, cautions Torson, don't send your dog running down a diving board designed for people.

"It's too narrow and might be too high up. Our docks are two feet [above] the water surface," she says. "Have your dog jump off the side of the pool instead."

Besides a body of water for your dog to make a splash in and your dog's favorite floatable, retrievable toy, you don't need any other equipment. You can even train your dog at home without a pool or lake. What Torson calls "land work" is good for practicing your pup's sit and stay cues as well as retrieving and making sure your dog is fit and ready for competition.

Best Dock Diving Dog Breeds

Popular breeds for dock diving include the Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois. "Whippets have been recently taking the sport by storm too because they're extremely fast and athletic," Torson reports.

But what's more important than breed is whether your dog likes to swim. Not every dog enjoys getting wet. Breeds that are more likely to take to the sport include those with a history of pulling waterfowl from ponds and lakes including golden retrievers and Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers or other breeds that thrive in watery settings like the Portuguese water dog

How Dock Diving Training for Dogs Works

Assuming your dog knows how to swim (and can't get enough of it!), the first step is to teach your pup the dock-diving technique. Keep training positive and fun and master each of the following steps before moving on to the next one:

1. Play with your dog's favorite toy on land.

Get your pup excited to chase the toy in your hand and then raise it in the air to get your dog to jump for it. Give lots of praise when your dog jumps for the toy.

2. Move playtime to the shoreline.

Repeat the actions in step one but in a little bit of water so your dog gets comfortable with splashing around.

3. Try the first cued jump.

Have your dog sit on the shoreline while you stand in a little bit of water with the toy raised up in the air in front of you. Cue your dog to come get the toy. When your dog jumps into the water to get it, go nuts with praise.

4. Make it more challenging.

Progressively move your dog further back on dry land and continue increasing the height of the toy.

5. Try doing the jump off a dock.

Position your pooch at the jumping-off point of the dock. Throw the toy about five feet from there. If your pup doesn't jump, go back to working on the shoreline. If your dog does make the leap, congrats! Now you can work on having your dog sit a little further back on the dock and throwing the toy a little farther in the water.

The key is to build your dog's confidence with practice and by keeping it fun. DockDogs has affiliate clubs across the country, which is a great place for newbies to go. They hold training sessions and fun jumps, so your dog can get experience on an official dock.

If your pup loves water and toys, why not give it a try? It's good exercise for your furry pal and an opportunity for you to meet other pet parents. But most importantly, it's a blast!