Meet Duke and learn what it takes to be a Dock Diving dog
Today we’d like to introduce you to a special dog by the name of Duke. He’s a Belgian Malinois who recently discovered his passion, dock diving. Not familiar with the sport? Read on to learn more about Duke and his dock diving adventures!
Duke, how did you get started in Dock Diving?
I started dock diving at the end of July 2016. I was just a young pup at 9 months old (I am much more wise and mature now at 13 months old!) I guess I was causing a lot of ruckus at home because Mom was constantly looking for new ways to keep me busy! She stumbled upon a dock diving event online, in Dayton, Ohio and next thing I knew we were driving about 4 hours to this really cool place with all kinds of people and other dogs. I was allowed to run off a long dock and jump into a giant pool of water after my favorite toy! Talk about FUN! It was the start to something really special! I tried it several times that weekend and had such a great time with my family. Mom and Dad both acted as my handler at first but then they let my best buddy Zakary (my 14 year old human boy) have a turn and we made such a great team that he and I have done all of the events together ever since.
Can you tell us a little about Dock Diving and which events you participate in?
Sure! There are several different organizations that hold events all over the country. Each organization runs things a little differently from the next, and call their disciplines different names, but for the most part the idea is the same.
In general, dock diving has 3 main disciplines. Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve. Big Air is where you run and jump off a 40 ft dock, into a 40 ft pool, chasing after your toy that your handler throws in the air. They measure how far you jump into the pool by where your tail set (where your tail begins) hits the water. My 1st Big Air jump was 12 feet 4 inches in Dayton. My personal best is now up to 25 feet 4 inches!
Extreme Vertical might be my new favorite event. They hang a bumper in the air over the water, 4 feet from the end of the dock and see how high they can raise it (2 inches at a time) until you can’t grab the bumper anymore. They set you up about 3 strides from the end of the dock and use all your might to jump up and knock the bumper off the apparatus. Mom insisted that we wait until I was a year old to try EV because she was concerned about me being too young and didn’t want me to get hurt. So I have only tried it once so far at an event in Columbus, Ohio in October. They started me at 5 foot 2 inches and I got all the way to 7 feet! I am looking forward to trying out more EV in the spring of 2017 when I am a little older.
Speed Retrieve is also a lot of fun. They hang a bumper at the end of the pool and see how fast you can get to it by timing you. I have tried that about 3 times now and my fastest run is 6.1 seconds! There is also Air Retrieve through the NADD and Dueling Dogs which is part of Dock Dogs. Dueling Dogs is similar to Speed Retrieve only you are actually racing side by side with another dog on the dock. It is like drag racing for dogs! Another one of my new favorites!
What is your training routine like?
Well, I am always very active. Each day we try to get in at least 2-3 hours of exercise. I have my human boy throw me the tennis ball 20-30 times to get warmed up. Then we will go for a walk or a hike in the woods to the creek behind our house with my sister, Lucy! If the weather isn’t very good then we play indoor “find it” or some other form of mental stimulation. We have another indoor game that involves some crazy contraption that I have to manipulate in order to get the treats out of.
Mom or Zak (when they are trying to relax and get tired of me dropping endless toys on their lap) will toss the toy down the stairs and I run up and down retrieving it. I could do that all day if they would let me! We also practice our dock routine on land several times each week. Zak thinks it is to help me with my obedience on the dock but it’s really for him to practice his timing and his throw. I let him think that I am the one who needs the practice though!
We try to get actual dock practice in at The Gated Dock with our Trainer, Marie Buckingham, at least once a month. Her facility is located in Shelby, Ohio and she has all of the different disciplines of dock diving there.
Do you always do what your handler, Zakary, asks of you?
LOL! Well, I really try to! Zak works so hard with me on my commands that I really do want to please him and for the most part I am very well behaved. There are some times that it is really hard to keep my composure, especially at the big events, because I am just so excited from the big cheering crowds and can’t wait to compete! When I see the pool and the dock I know exactly what is coming next and so sometimes you will see me dragging him to the steps at competitions.
The other thing that is hard sometimes is to wait for him to give me the release cue. When he puts me in a down/stay at the beginning of the dock and he walks to the end, getting ready to release me to chase the toy, I tend to “creep” or “army crawl” towards him because I just can’t contain my excitement and am chomping at the bit to get that toy! But I really do love my boy and I will always give 110% of any task that Zak asks of me!
What is your favorite part of competing?
I really enjoy everything about it. What could be more fun than getting to play on the dock with your best friend? But my favorite part of competing has to be the time I get to spend with my family. I get their undivided attention all weekend long! We spend hours together in the car, driving to the next event. We always have such great adventures! Whether it is visiting a new city, eating at a new restaurant or exploring a new hotel. I also enjoy meeting all of the people and other dogs. We have made some really great friends in such a short time!
Duke, you’re very athletic! How do you stay healthy and fit?
Well, thank you for noticing! I am pretty good looking, aren’t I? 🙂 I am a Belgian Malinois, most of us are pretty fit because we are such an active breed. Keeping busy with all of the different activities we do is a big help and Mom really monitors what I eat. She says “only the best for you Duke” but then never lets me have any pizza crust on pizza night. That pizza sure smells a lot better than what I get! Not sure what that is all about!
Besides Dock Diving, what are some of your other favorite activities?
I love playing fetch, long walks, and playing “find it”. I also love antagonizing my sister, Lucy, does that count? To keep me busy this winter we are starting nose work classes, which I am super excited about. I am also being trained as my Mom’s service dog so that is a lot of fun too! Next year we hope to start exploring search and rescue work. It would be great to use some of my skills in a way that gives back to the community!
Do you have any advice for other dogs who would like to try Dock Diving?
Yes! Get out there and try it! You will have such a great time with your humans, I promise you! All you need to have is a high toy drive and a love of water. Even if you don’t think you love water, keep trying! My sister Lucy is still timid of the water but she keeps trying and one day I know she will be jumping with me too! It is such a fun family activity. You don’t have to be the biggest jumping dog to have a great time!
Getting outside, enjoying the sunshine, playing with your humans, there is nothing more enjoyable! Once you try it, you will likely be as addicted to it as I am! If you are not sure how to get started you can check out the different organizations websites for upcoming events. You can also reach out to me on my Facebook or Twitter page I would be happy to help you find a facility in your area to give it a try! I hope to see you on the dock soon!