How to Share Paddle Boarding Adventures with Your Pup
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has grown a lot over the years, and as most dog people do, we want to share this new, fun activity with our four-legged friends. SUPing is a great way to get out of the house, beat the heat, and get in a good workout. When we have our dogs join in the adventure, we are helping them in more ways than you probably know. SUPing is not only a great workout for dogs, it's a great way to work on impulse control and focus in different situations. It also builds confidence and teamwork skills between you and your dog. Here's an outline to help you get started SUPing with your pup.
Of course, with any new activity comes new gear, but we don't recommend going out and buying a SUP right away! Rent a couple boards first to see what you like and what works best for you and your dog. Most rental companies don't mind if you take your dog with you, and often times, they will help you choose an appropriate board with more grip for your pup. We recommend getting a pretty big board to start off with. The bigger the board, the more stable you and your dog will feel. You want to be able to focus on the task of SUPing and not worry about being on a board that is too squirrely. We also recommend that both you and your dog wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) at all times.
Now the fun stuff, how do you get your dog comfortable on the SUP? The first thing you're going to do is keep your board on shore and remove the fins (this is super easy to do!) and lay the board flat, deck side up. This gives your dog a visual reference of where they should sit on the board. Grab a high value treat, like a Zukes Z-Filet, and give them rewards for walking onto the board. This may be difficult for some dogs, so take your time and use lots of treats to help them realize that the board is a positive thing to go onto. When you have them freely walking onto the board, work toward having them lay down. Having them practice a down when the board is on shore will help them to learn that when they’re on the board, they should lay down. This association will help everyone to stay on the board when you're on the water.
The next step is getting the board in the water. Keep the nose of the board on shore so it doesn't float away on accident. Then, repeating the same protocol as above, get some high value treats and reward your dog for getting on the board when it's floating. This part is easier if you have someone helping to hold the board steady.
When you have your dog offering sits and downs on the board when it's on shore, you can go ahead and join them on the board and take off. We recommend to start off sitting on the board. That way, you both can get a feel for the board and you don't fall off when your dog moves around. When you're floating around, try shifting your weight back and forth. This will help your dog get used to the feel and movement of the board. As with all new skills and training, take your time and have fun working toward your goal of standing up and paddling around with your dog.
Not only is paddle boarding a fun outdoor activity to share with your pup, it also provides some training and physical benefits. Paddle boarding is a low impact sport that is great for working out and stabilizing the muscles of older dogs and puppies. If you have a senior pup who can't handle big hikes or trail runs anymore, paddle boarding is a great way to get them outside and moving around safely. It's also a good way to help your pup get some physical activity and cool off on a hot summer day.
SUPing is one of those excellent endeavors that provides training opportunities as well as outdoor recreation for you and your furry best friend! As with all activities, remember to keep your dog safe and happy. Stop on shore regularly for potty breaks, bring lots of yummy treats to help with training, remember the appropriate gear, and don't forget the sunscreen!
Blog author Amber Pickren, BA, CPDT-KA, is the owner of GentleCanineLLC in Durango, Colo. After earning her bachelors in Psychology, Amber found her passion working with dogs and has never looked back. Since 2004, she has been training dogs, specializing in behavioral issues. When she's not busy helping other pet parents with their dogs, she can be found running and climbing around Durango with Sadie, Lily and Imogene.
Maria Christina Schultz, author of "How to SUP With Your Pup", also contributed images to this post.