If you’re the proud owner of a fur baby that goes woof in the night have you ever thought about teaching your dog how to balance on your paddle board? If your dog’s been giving you a dirty look every time you try and sneak out of the house to hit the water with your favorite standup paddleboard (SUP) buddies, then it might be time to introduce your pup to sup.
Place a dog on a paddleboard and what do you get?
No matter what you call it, it sure is cute and a great way to bond with your fur companion. So, if you’ve been paddleboarding for a while and wonder what is the next step to keep it challenging yet fun, and you’re not into SUP yoga, this just might be the perfect solution. Read my great companion article How to Steps for Getting Started with SUP Yoga.
Paddleboarder and writer Kim Campbell Thornton wrote an article on how to Train Your Dog to Ride a Standup Paddleboard where she mentions the importance of safety when starting out, “Be comfortable on a board yourself before you add a dog. It doesn’t take long to pick up SUPing, whether you’ve got two legs or four, but the better you are, the easier — and safer — it will be when you add a canine passenger.”
First you have to take into consideration the personality and abilities of your pet. Are they a weekend water warrior or a big fraidy-cat any time they see more than an inch or two of water in their bowl? You can’t just throw your dog on the board and expect her to be an instant SUP expert.
The first thing you want to do before starting SUP with your PUP is to invest in a good doggie lifejacket appropriate for the size of your dog. Dog PFD’s (personal flotation devices) are designed with a handle on top so if Fifi accidentally falls in the water while paddleboarding (NO!!!!) you just reach down to scoop her up out of the water and place her back on the board.
Get a Grip
You don’t need a special board to do doggie sup, a hardboard or inflatable (iSUP) work equally well. Just make sure whatever board you use has good traction where your dog will stand. Dog’s claws and smooth surfaces make for a slippery situation.
Unless your paddleboard has a full deck pad, you’ll probably want to invest in a non-slip mat to add to the very front of the board. You can find pup decks for SUP which are special traction pads you place on the front of the board to add more traction for your dog.
Also, if you’re going to be paddling mainly on the ocean, or in salty Intracoastal water, it might be wise to invest in a good pair of doggles – that’s swim goggles for dogs. They even come in polarized options so you’re doggies will be protected from both the salt spray and from the reflective rays of the sun bouncing off the water surface.
Dog SUP 101
Make sure your dog knows how to follow simple commands such as sit, lie down and stay before you try and bring him on your board. Now is not the time to bring out your adorable new 6 month old puppy you just adopted from the local animal rescue league, unless he’s just graduated top of his class at the local pet store’s obedience training class. You don’t want your energetic pup running all over the board, or worse, trying to hop off your board onto someone else’s board while attempting to say hello to their dog.
Also, you should be prepared to get wet when you first introduce your dog to paddleboarding. When larger dogs fall off the board, they’ll probably flip the board over taking you along. So make sure both you and your dog are wearing a personal floatation device just in case you do fall in – better safe than sorry!
Hang Ten (or 20) Indoors
You don’t want to cause any anxiety so it’s a good idea to gradually introduce your dog to SUP. Try the board on land (with the fin removed) and get your dog used to getting on and off the board. If your dog seems really skittish of the board, try bringing it inside your house for a day or two to help him get used to it.
Again, make sure you’ve removed the fin – then practice getting on and off the board indoors. Your dog will see you on the board and will eventually get curious enough to start hopping on and off the board on their own. This is good time to have lots of treats on hand – most dogs can be trained easily when using a food reward.
Initially you’ll want your dog to be near your feet – pretty close to where you stand up on the board. As you and your dog get more comfortable with PUP SUP, then you can get your dog to stand further forward.
Time to Get Wet
Once Fido is used to getting on and off the board, now is the time to head out to shallow water. A sandy beach at the lake, a shallow area along the Intracoastal waterway, or a calm day at the ocean are ideal. You don’t want your dog to be afraid of the water – beginners will more than likely fall off during their first few attempts – so shallow water is best.
Dogs have four legs to balance on so they should have no problem getting used to balancing on the board. It can get dog gone hot outside so you need to have a way to offer fresh water to your pup so invest in a collapsible travel dog water bowl. It also doesn’t hurt to have a treat or two to bribe them to get back on the board after a rest stop to stretch their legs – dogs can do and will travel when they see SQUIRREL!
Originally published at slothathletica.com