First and foremost, Have Fun! Splash Dogs is an exciting activity for you and your dog. When you attend your first event try to stay open to other competitors at the event. Many experienced "teams" (dog & handler) are very helpful but if you have any questions please talk to a Splash Dogs Staff member for more information.
Remember that "dock jumping" is a dog event. There will be a lot of dogs in attendance and they get very excited being around the dock jumping area. There may be dog owners who are not as "leash" attentive as you are. For the safety of you and your dog, maintain a short leash, 4 feet or less and be very aware of the space around both of you from other handlers and their dogs. Pay attention to how your dog is reacting to all of the excitement and handle them appropriately. Abusive behavior is not permitted.
First things first. before you take your dog up to the dock, you will want to introduce them to the exit ramp. This will help them understand how to get out of the pool and helps you gauge whether the dog is comfortable and ready for the dock or not. When it is your turn, let the pool "wrangler" know that you would like to let your dog go up the exit ramp and into the pool before attempting to jump off the competition dock. If there is no "wrangler", just let the person behind you in line know what you will be doing so that they know what is going on.
Take your dog to the base of the exit ramp, unleash them and while holding their collar lead them up the ramp and do a short toy toss (4-5 feet) into the pool. You are looking for that first leap into the pool from your dog. Watch how they swim out for their toy, call them once they grab their toy while showing them the exit ramp. Help them out of the pool, grab them by their collar and lead them down the ramp. At the bottom releash them and praise them for a job well done. If your dog was hesitant on entering the water from the ramp, spend a few turns focusing on getting your dog comfortable retrieving their toy from the exit ramp. Once they are comfortable and launching consistently from the ramp, you are ready to take them to the dock!
Don't be surprised and be very, very patient. . .. It is not uncommon for a dog that has been jumping into lakes, rivers and marinas to hesitate jumping into a "clear" pool for the first time. If your dog does hesitate at the end of the dock. . . please be patient and keep the distance they have to cover short. If your toy is already in the water, ask the wrangler to get it for you and try a much shorter throw. Throw it just far enough (3,4 or 5ft) so your dog is really encouraged to go and get it.
Help your dog by laying on the dock and reaching down to the water splash some water towards the toy. Use a lot of verbal encouraging to elevate your dogs excitement level. Try pulling your dog back a few feet from the end of the dock, "jazz" them up for the toy, release them and run up to the end of the dock with them to encourage them to jump. Do this a couple times. But please, NEVER ever push or throw your dog off the dock into the water.
Remember to help your dog out of the pool. . . As exciting and fun your first jump experience is, don't forget to go to the exit ramp to help your dog out, leash them up quickly and praise them for a job well done. Many new handlers watch their dogs from the dock and forget to help them out. . . I've seen more than a few dogs climb the side of the pool and fall 4 ft. to the ground. Remember, you and your dog are a "team". . . don't fail your team member at this point.
Don't "over jump" your dog. . . With all of the excitement and fun you and your dog will be having, don't forget that unless your dog is very well conditioned, like any athlete they will get tired, fatigued and sore if you jump them too much. This is even more important if you are doing multiple days of competition. Pay close attention to your dog's walk, run and resting in between jumps. Be sure to "warm up" and "cool down" your dog with a short walk, jog or toy play before and after jumping. Towel off your dog between jumps. You are a competition "team" now and your dog is your "franchise" player. . . care for them well.
Go potty!. . . Before jumping, before getting in line, both you and your dog should use the restroom. Do this as part of your "warm up" exercise and you'll never be embarrassed while on the jumping dock.
Remember your comfort. . . there will be a lot of "down time" waiting around for your turn to jump so don't forget shade. A canopy, "easy up" or nearest tree is essential. Many of these competition venues are out where there is no shade, be prepared. Drinking water or refreshments are also important. Chairs, hats, sun screen, sun glasses, towels, ground cover whatever you need to be comfortable, bring it. You'll be safe if you count on nothing being provided there and be happily surprised when it is.
About Splash Dogs
Splash Dogs is a nationally recognized dog enthusiast company that organizes and promotes dock jumping events across the United States. Splash Dogs strives to provide a family oriented competitive atmosphere. Splash Dogs tracks overall event and individual rankings as well as offering a multi level titling program for all participants.
Splash Dogs is home of the SD Ruler.