New training, dock diving aquatic centre making a splash with dogs in Mount Forest

MOUNT FOREST – A new training and aquatic facility for dogs is bringing waves of happiness to Dawn McMurray, whose career revolves around canines. 

“This is something I love, and I like to see people have fun with their dogs,” said Dawn, who owns Roc’n Duke’s Pet Supplies along with husband Phil Heuckroth and daughter Lindsay McMurray. 

Dawn hopes the facility will create a community for her fellow dog lovers. 

She is a registered breeder of working line German shepherds, plus a certified dog trainer of all breeds in obedience from the puppy stage through to advanced, including trick dog classes. 

But it’s her work training dogs for dock diving that is encouraging more dog owners to get into the sport.

“At home, we have a full regulation pool and dock for our dogs to train, but in winter months we can’t use it,” Dawn explained.

It was the expansion of her family’s pet supply business that opened the space for her to make a year-round dog aquatic centre a reality for the community.

“When the neighbouring unit became available in our Mount Forest location, I talked my husband into getting a pool, and that way we could do indoor dock diving,” Dawn explained. 

“It’s not the full regulation size because the building was only 50 feet wide, so we went with a 30-foot dock and a 20-foot pool. So, it’s great for people to start learning how to do it. And then in the summer we can extend their membership to the pool we use at our house.”

Dock diving is essentially playing fetch with a dog in a pool, but with competitive disciplines that include rules for height, distance and time. 

It’s big business in the dog sport circuit. One of the largest organizations for international competition is DockDogs, out of the United States. In September, they hosted The World Dock Diving Championships in Dubuque, Iowa.

According to DockDogs, there are three disciplines for competition.

 “Big air” is basically long jump for dogs. The dog runs along the dock while the owner tosses a toy for the dog to leap and catch in the pool. The dog’s distance is judged from the end of the dock to where the tail set of the dog breaks the water’s surface. 

“Extreme vertical” is like high jump for dogs. The dog starts off at the 20’ mark on the dock and jumps up to grab a bumper toy, which is extended about 8’ from the end of the dock over the water, at a height of 4’6”. The bumper goes up in 2” increments as they compete to reach the bumper.

“At the world championships, I believe they just broke the new world record at nine feet in the air that this dog jumped to grab the bumper,” Dawn said, clearly impressed by the feat. 

Speed retrieve is a timed event, with a bumper toy suspended 2” above the water at the far end of the pool, with a starting light indicator above it. The dog begins at the 20’ dock starting line. 

When the light turns green, the handler releases the dog to the pool. The clock stops when the dog has successfully pulled the toy from the speed retrieve bracket.

Dawn has helped several dogs compete at this level and has bred some of the dogs competing at dock diving events across Canada and the U.S. 

“It’s really serious,” Dawn said, noting she competed with her German shepherds until the pandemic cut down the travel, which she said was extensive because the closest dog aquatic training facilities to her home in Fordwich were Alliston, Barrie or Caledonia. It was a lot of travel with several dogs in the car along for the ride. 

“That’s when I decided, the dogs are getting their own pool,” Dawn said. 

“It’s becoming a really huge sport for dogs,” she said, noting her new aquatic centre has members with dock diving competitors who can now train their dogs all year round and are willing to travel from regions as far as Hamilton, Barrie and the Toronto region for the opportunity. 

“We do have people who are coming here and they’re almost two hours away.”

Dock diving – A popular canine sport is making waves in Mount Forest at the Roc’n Duke’s Pet Supplies new Training and Aquatic Centre. Submitted photo

But it’s not just the competitive types that Dawn wants to make a splash in her new facility. She wants to build a community for those dog owners who just want to get out and be active with their dogs.

“It’s nice because pet people can do it,” Dawn said, noting that as a participant in other canine competitions, she knows people are serious about their dog’s status. 

“But this is something that normal pet people can do and have fun with your dogs. They don’t have to be really serious about it and there’s not a lot involved in it. It’s just really getting your dog to feel comfortable to jump off the pool.” 

It doesn’t matter what breed of dog, what size, or what skill they have because dock diving is for any dog that likes to play in water, Dawn insists.

“We have little dogs in there, and last night there was a great Dane in there,” she said.

For dogs and their owners who are new to the sport, Dawn offers training sessions to help the dogs feel comfortable jumping off into the pool.

“A lot of them are very nervous, so we get them to started jumping off the ramp first. And then when they’re ready, then we start to get them to jump off the dock,” she explained. 

“The last thing you want to do is have a dog on the dock and push them and frighten them, and that’s the end of it.”

The pool is heated, Dawn said, which is great for dogs and their owners.

“If people want to go in with their dogs, if it’s a new dog that is learning how to swim, they can go in with their dogs, that’s no problem,” Dawn said.

The Roc’n Duke’s Training Facility aquatic centre operates on a membership basis, which allows people flexibility to book time to use the pool.

Dawn and her team will host a free open house event on Oct. 30 from 12 to 3pm. The facility is located at 219 Industrial Drive, in Mount Forest.

For more details visit RockNDukesPlace on Facebook or To contact Dawn and her team, call 519-881-9738 or email

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