This weekend an Ahwatukee Foothills athlete will compete in a sporting event at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, but instead of tossing a football he will be playing with a dumbbell.

Arthur, a golden retriever who lives in Ahwatukee Foothills with his owner Sara Kuzenko, always has loved jumping in the pool in his back yard, but now his fun pastime is a sport growing in popularity. It’s called dock diving. The object of dock diving is to have the longest jump or “biggest air” off of the dock into a pool of water.

Kuzenko and Arthur, who is a rescue dog, came across dock diving when they were participating in a dog show in January. Arthur regularly competes in obedience, rally and hunt tests.

“Dock diving allows him to unwind and have fun,” Kuzenko said. “In general golden retrievers love to be in water, and their love for retrieving is what drives them to get the toy that is thrown off the dock in dock diving.”

When competing in dock diving, dogs are asked by their owners to sit, and then the owner walks to the end of the dock and throws the toy out into the water for the dog to retrieve. With practice the dogs become comfortable and jump farther.

Dog owners are allowed to bring their own toys to encourage their dogs to jump off the dock, and Kuzenko and Arthur use a tennis ball in the shape of a dumbbell.

“They have coats to protect them from the cold water so they don’t shiver or get cold,” Kuzenko said. “He goes swimming in our pool at home on his own free will almost every day. In a way he does get to practice by jumping off the pool edge, but the dock in actual competitions is very large.”

Dogs of any size or breed are welcome to participate, but only if they are comfortable jumping off of the dock.

“It is important to note that the dock-diving officials don’t allow the dogs to be pushed off the edge of the dock, so there is never any harm done to the animal,” Kuzenko said. “The dogs have to jump off the dock of their own volition.”

Dock-diving competitions take place worldwide with sanctioning bodies on several different continents, and Kuzenko said she believes it will continue to grow.

“The popularity stems from the crowd appeal because it’s big air and excitement, just like the extreme sports you see on TV like skateboarding,” she said. “People tend to love dogs, and it’s fun to see how the athleticism and competition really gets the dogs going.”

This weekend’s dock-diving competition will take place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in conjunction with the International Sportsmen’s Expo. Admission to the expo is $15 for adults and free for children 15 and under. Dock-diving events will take place on each day of the expo, Friday through Sunday.

“Everyone loves watching the dogs because they’re so cute chasing their toys,” said Lisa Starek, public relations and communications specialist for Dock Dogs International. “It’s definitely a family event, and we encourage people to come and watch on Friday (today) and then bring their own dogs on Saturday or Sunday if they want to compete. Be prepared for really cute dogs jumping off docks.”

For more information on dock diving, visit  

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