If you and your pup are the sporty, adventurous type, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) could be the perfect way for you to explore the great outdoors together this summer.
Like most things that are worth doing, it takes a little bit of practice and it’s very important that you do some training before setting sail to make sure that the experience is both rewarding and safe.
Fortunately, we have you covered with these easy steps that will turn you and your pup into SUP pros in no time.
Make sure you are in control
This is key if you want to be sure that you and your pooch will have a fun and safe SUP experience. As always, you are going to be responsible for your dog’s safety when you’re out on the water, so we highly recommend that you are a confident paddle boarder yourself before getting him to join in. It’s easy and anyone can learn to do it but the more experience you have the better. It’s also vital that you and your pup have a strong bond and that he will obey your commands even when you’re in a new environment.
Choose the right paddle board
Boards come in all shapes and sizes and it’s a great idea to ensure that yours is a good fit for you and your pup. It’s all about finding the right balance. If your dog is in the larger side, a board that’s 10ft+ in length with a wide nose would make for a much smoother ride. Dogs also tend to prefer soft top boards over epoxy as the surface is less slippery, helping them to feel more secure. Inflatable paddle boards are a fantastic option for dogs as they provide great traction and stability.
Get your dog comfortable in the water
Not all dogs are natural born swimmers. In fact, some breeds such as bulldogs, dachshunds and boxers find it next to impossible. If you’re thinking about giving SUP a try but you’re unsure of your pup’s aquatic prowess, then it’s always best to assume they might need a few swimming lessons to make sure they are happy and confident in the water. You can find out how to be an excellent teacher by checking out our essential guide to swimming safety. We also recommend that whatever your pup’s ability you kit him out with a doggy life vest to be on the safe side.
Bring your board indoors
The aim of this is to get your pup used to the board and to teach him that it’s nothing to be afraid of. Try keeping it in an area of your house that your dog feels comfortable in for a week or so. First, leave him to investigate himself, then after a couple of days you can start to build some more positive associations with the board while practicing some basic commands. Try placing a treat on the board where you would like your pup to sit. Once he’s on the board, give him another treat, then ask him to sit in the right spot and reward him again. The trick here is to be patient and to keep these interactions light and fun. With so many treats on offer your pup will soon think the board is a pretty great place to hang out. When it looks like he’s getting comfortable, you can then also try this activity with his life vest on, so he can begin to associate his new get-up that with this rewarding experience.
Teach your pup good board etiquette
Wherever you’re paddle-boarding there are bound to be distractions that your pup will want to chase. To stop you both from toppling overboard, he needs to know that you are in control of when he can and can’t get on and off the board. As part of your training, give your pup a special command to get on the board and give him a treat. Ask him to sit and stay on the board in the correct position, then use another command to tell him to get off. Reward him with a treat every time he does this correctly. If he jumps on or off the board without you giving the command, no treat. He’ll soon get the idea.
Practice sitting and standing together
Once your pup has mastered sitting and staying in the right spot, you can practice sitting and standing with him on the board. Try rocking the board and using your paddle to get him used to the movement.
Head to the water
When your dog is completely comfortable being on the board, it’s time to head to your favourite paddle boarding spot. Here, you should practice the same exercises you’ve been doing at home, with your board close to or floating on shallow water. It may take your pup a while to get used to the new surroundings so be patient and remember to keep all of your interactions positive and upbeat while he gets accustomed. Once you’re certain your pup is happy in the new environment and responding correctly to you commands, you’ll be ready to give paddle boarding a shot. Start out with a short first trip and be sure to give your dog plenty of praise and treats when you’re done. Keep practicing, gradually increasing the length of your excursions each time.
It may take time and effort to get the hang of paddle-boarding with your pup, but when you’re gliding around together on a crystal-clear mountain lake or out on the open sea, we guarantee it will all feel worth it.
Here are the top things to remember when paddle-boarding with your dog:
- There’s really no substitute for training
- Never keep your dog hooked to a leash while paddling
- Doggy life vest
- Plenty of fresh, clean water to keep you and your pup hydrated
- Be sun savvy