5 things to know when paddle boarding with your dog
Paddle boarding with your dog is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors together. However, taking your pup for a spin on your paddle board isn’t a walk in the park.
Before you set sail with your dog, you will need to undergo necessary training in order for your dog to 1) feel comfortable on paddle board and 2) feel comfortable in the middle of a body of water.
But before you get started, you need to be comfortable paddle boarding before you include a dog. Paddle boarding is easy to learn (anyone can do it!), but the more experienced you are, the easier and safer it will be for your pup.
Paddle boarding with your dog will be simple if your dog is:
- Already a good swimmer
- Obedient with simple commands
- Not easily distracted
- Not over 100 lbs.
Below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to prepare your dog to go paddle boarding.
1) Get your dog comfortable with swimming
All dogs aren’t natural swimmers. There are some breeds that can’t even swim (and overheat in the sun) because of their body structure (bulldogs, dachshunds, boxers, pugs, etc.). If you have one of these breeds, you can get them a doggy life jacket for paddle boarding. However, all dogs (even if they can swim) should wear a life jacket when you paddle board. If you have a dog that needs to learn how to swim, follow these steps.
Also, its super important that your paddle board is a good fit for your dog. For instance, you might have a paddle board that lacks a large surface area for your German Shephard. A big board (1o foot + with a wider nose) for a big dog will be more stable and comfortable for you and your pup. In regards to paddle board choice, dogs prefer soft tops over epoxy because they’re less slippery. Inflatable paddle boards are also a solid paddle board choice for a dog.
2) Bring your paddle board inside your house in a comfortable area
What’s your dog’s favorite room to relax in? Lay your paddle board on the ground in that room (for a week) so your dog can become familiar with your paddle board. It’s inevitable that your dog will explore your board.
Depending on your dog’s personality, this step will give you a good idea of how easy or difficult it will be to get your dog interested in your paddle board.
3) Train your dog to get on and off your board
This is the most crucial step. After a week of your dog getting acclimated with your paddle board, it’s time to train your dog to understand to hop on (and off) your board when you want them to.
Note: Your dog should have basic obedience skills before you start training your dog to paddle board.
Get your dog their favorite doggy treat and place one on your board. It’s important to place the treat in-between where you would normally stand and the nose of your board (because this is where your dog will be standing or sitting while you’re paddling). There should be a command associated with telling your dog to go grab the treat. For example: “Jump up!”.
Once they hop on your board and eat the treat, give them one more to let them know that they did what you wanted. Then, make sure you give your dog another special command (“Off!”) when you want them to step off your paddle board. Reward them with a treat when this is done properly. Do this several times throughout the day for a week. If you’re successful with this, continue onto the next step.
If your dog isn’t cooperating with you, make sure you’re keeping this process light-hearted and fun, rather than demanding. Take it slow and we guarantee your pup will feel comfortable hopping on your paddle board in no time.
4) Practice standing and paddling on your board with your dog outside
Bring your paddle board outside and lay it on a flat service (preferably a patch of a grass). Use the same commands you taught your dog inside to get your dog on your board. Since this is a new environment, it may take a few tries to get them on your board.
Once your dog successfully hops on your board, proceed to stand where you would normally stand when paddling. If your dog stays in front of you on the board, give them a treat. After being successful with this a couple times, try rocking your board back and forth a little bit to imitate being on the water. Most dogs will hop off first time around, but just keep practicing. They’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
After your dog has passed this test, grab your paddle and mimic paddling so your dog gets used to the motion and the paddle moving around them.
5) Head to your favorite paddle spot
You’re almost there! Next, take your pup to a local water spot and practice the same steps with your board close to the water or slightly floating on the water (in a shallow part). You may need to practice this a few times before your dog feels comfortable near/on the water.
When you feel that you and your pup are confident, it’s time to hit the water! Don’t forget to put a life vest on your dog beforehand. Keep your first excursion short and give your dog lots of praise (& treats!) when you’re done. Once your dog gets used to being on your paddle board, the experience will be truly amazing. Enjoy!
What to bring
Now that your pup is a paddle board ready, here is a list of key accessories to bring with you on your next pup paddle.
- Dry Bag (for keys, phone, sunscreen, wallet)
- Doggy life jacket
- Doggy treats for good behavior
- Water bottle for hydration
Note: Always keep extra beach towels or a dog car seat protector in your car. These come in handy for those very sandy beaches and dogs with long fur (or if your dog has an affinity for rolling in the sand).
Best type of SUP for your dog
All paddle boards are dog friendly, however some constructions are more dog friendly others. Here are the three paddle board constructions listed in order from best to worst for your pup: