This weekend we got the opportunity to practice dock diving with our pups at The Paw in Mankato. The practice time came along with a one hour coaching clinic with Tom Dropik, founder of SportMutt, Inc.
The clinic was geared to focus on getting the most distance out of a dog that is already successfully jumping. We found the training to be invaluable, as we almost immediately saw improved performance from our dogs!
For Raleigh, we learned that we needed to focus more on keeping her driving all the way through the end of the dock – she had been slowing down considerably towards the end of the dock, often in anticipation of us throwing the toy. To do this, we moved her start position a little bit forward so that she is closer to the optimal 5 strides of running prior to the jump. Additionally, we threw the toy immediately upon releasing her so that she had no reason to slow down in anticipation. As she gets more comfortable with driving all the way through, we will start to throw the toy later and later so that she’s ultimately able to follow the toy off of the hand.
These tips had an immediate improvement, as Raleigh really fell into a groove of running to the end of the dock at full speed. She even appeared to be out-jumping Iggy, which was unheard of last summer!
We also learned that Iggy needs to be trained differently than Raleigh. Raleigh was a bit more cautious and focused on the toy, whereas Iggy’s problem was the exact opposite – he tended to focus more on bombing off the edge, and didn’t give the toy so much as a passing glance. To help him, we were instructed to hold the toy until he was a little less than halfway down the dock before throwing it. This helped to keep his head up and watching the toy, and unleashed his natural chase instinct. Even still, we need to work at home on increasing his toy drive – playing tuggy, tossing it for him to chase, and keeping the toy away from him except for special occasions.
We noticed with Iggy’s progression of jumps that he was starting to rear up and jump with better form. While this doesn’t necessarily lead to more distance immediately, it provides the foundation for improvements to be made as he grows more confident and driven to chase the toy.
In addition to enjoying the practice time, we were also thoroughly impressed with The Paw’s facility. The area in which we were practicing included an indoor, dog-friendly pool and a dock that can be lowered from the ceiling. It made for a great place to escape the bitter cold and have some fun with our dogs!
We’re now anxiously awaiting warm weather so we can get back out there and keep practicing. And judging by how exhausted our pups were last night, I think they are too! Check out the video above to see a couple of Raleigh and Iggy’s practice jumps!