If you love stand up paddling and spending time with your dog, why not combine the two?
Stand up paddle boarding is a great way to spend some time with your pooch as you enjoy the sun, sea, and peace of the water. But before you grab your stand up paddle board and take your pup for a ride, you’ll need to make some preparations, and that’s where this guide comes in.
We’ll show you how to:
- Start paddle boarding with your dog
- Keep your dog safe on the water
- Prepare the necessary safety equipment
- Deal with mischievous pooches
- Use inflatable paddle boards with your dog
How to Paddle Board With Your Dog
Stand up paddle boarding is one of the most beginner-friendly watersports, and that’s probably why its popularity is soaring. When you have a dog in tow, however, it gets a little trickier.
Follow all of these steps to successfully paddle board with your dog.
Step One: Find the Perfect Paddle Board
Stand up paddle boardings come in all shapes and sizes as they are designed for a variety of reasons. Narrow stand up paddle boards offer greater speeds; wider boards are all about stability. For stand up paddle boarding with your dog, you’ll need a long and wide board. At the very least, it should be over 32 inches wide and 10-feet long, but if you have a bigger dog or limited experience, you should go even bigger.
Your weight also comes into it. You’re not going to sink a stand up paddle board because you’re too big, but if you’re carrying a few extra pounds and your dog is equally rotund, it will push the board lower in the water and may affect buoyancy. It’s best to offset these effects by choosing something wider, longer, and/or thicker.
Inflatable Boards or Hard Boards?
The idea of taking a dog on an inflatable stand up paddle board may sound like a recipe for disaster, but these boards are perfect for dog paddle boarding.
Inflatable SUPs are not flimsy. They are not toys. Inflatable stand up paddle board are strong, durable, and buoyant. More importantly, these boards provide optimal grip for your doggy’s little paws, helping them to maintain their balance as the board cuts through the water.
Look for stand up paddle board with full deck pads and pay attention to the weight, quality, durability, and width. If you Google the name of the board followed by terms like “dog paddle boarding”, you may find reviews, testimonials, and even videos from customers who have used that stand up paddle board for that purpose.
Step Two: Safety First
Can your dog swim? Are they comfortable around water? Are they obedient?
Stand up paddle boarding can be a relaxing and pleasant experience for dogs who like the water and have plenty of experience around beaches and pools. But if they are seeing it for the first time, have never swum, and are mischievous and disobedient, you’re asking for trouble.
Get your dog used to being around water and test their swimming skills in a safe and protective environment.
Most dogs are good swimmers, and that’s true even if they have little to no experience. You shouldn’t just assume that they will know what they’re doing, though, as they may panic as soon as they get near the water.
Invest in a personal flotation device (PFD) for both yourself and your pooch. If anything happens to them, the PFD will keep them afloat while helping you if you need to rescue them.
PFDs come in several forms, but the best option is a simple lifejacket. If your dog jumps or falls, they’ll stay afloat and it’ll be easy to get them back on the board.
If your dog is used to wearing clothing, they shouldn’t have an issue with a lifejacket. If not, put it on at home and during their walks, just so they get used to wearing it and you can be sure that it fits perfectly and won’t come loose when they start moving.
Step Three: Prepare Yourself
If you’re not an experienced stand up paddle boarder or a strong swimmer, you shouldn’t be paddle boarding with your dog.
The dog will distract you and test your balance. It’ll force you to think fast and make instinctive reactions. All of that requires a level of skill that may elude you as a complete novice, so it’s important to fine-tune your skills before you go stand up paddle boarding with your dog.
Learn how to stand and paddle. Get comfortable paddling for a few hours at a time. If you’re worried about your balance, try SUP yoga. It will strengthen your core and improve your balance while familiarizing you with the paddle board.
Step Four: Prepare Your Dog
The last thing you want when you’re dozens of yards from the shore is a panicking pooch, so you’ll need to prepare them for what’s to come, making sure they are comfortable with the equipment and the process.
Introduce Them to the Paddle Board
The more familiar your dog is with your stand up paddle board, the more comfortable they will be during the ride.
Place it on the floor in your home and let them lie on top of it. Let them sniff it, walk around on the surface, and even sleep on it. You’ll get an idea of how large the stand up paddle board is compared to them, but you’ll also turn that board into something familiar, making them less likely to panic on the water.
Master the Basics
Does your dog know how to “sit” and “stay”? These commands are essential for paddle boarding with a dog. You can’t hold them and protect them at all times, and so they must know how to sit still and behave.
They should also learn how and when to get off the stand up paddle board. If they jump off as soon as they get within a few dozen yards of the shore, they could throw you off balance.
Teach them new commands for getting on and off the stand up paddle board, using treats to encourage them. Dogs learn very quickly, and you can teach them these things on dry land before moving onto the water.
Trim, Treat, and Prepare
Not all dogs will be happy to sit still for a couple of hours, especially if they have a lot of energy to expend. If you have a particularly energetic pooch, tire them out beforehand. Take them for a walk on the beach, a run along the shore, or even a swim.
Stuff your pockets with treats just in case they run away or start being disobedient and be sure to trim their nails as well. Paddle boards are durable, but if you have an excitable large dog with long and sharp claws, there’s a high chance the stand up paddle board will scratch, ding, or cut.
Top Tips for Paddle Boarding With Your Dog
To maximize your dog’s enjoyment and safety when riding on a stand up paddle board, consider the following:
Don’t Force It
Some dogs are better behaved than others, and while some will enjoy the activity, others will hate it.
If your dog just doesn’t seem to like stand up paddle boarding and can’t sit still or behave themselves, it’s probably not for them and you shouldn’t try to force them. It’s okay to try once or twice and they might enjoy it more as they get used to it, but the whole point is to find an activity that they will enjoy while spending time with you. If they clearly don’t enjoy it, stick with daily walks and games of fetch.
Don’t Leave Them Unattended
Don’t leave your dog in the car for prolonged periods and don’t leave them unattended on the beach. If they simply refuse to get on the stand up paddle board, take them back home and call it a day.
Be Aware of Hazards
Look out for jellyfish, sea lice, and jagged rocks. Keep your dog away from anything that could cause them harm.
If it’s a hot day, keep them in the shade or let them play in shallow water. You should also look into pup-friendly sunscreen, which can be applied to exposed areas.
Take Fresh Water and a First Aid Kit
Always take fresh water with you while stand up paddle boarding.
Stand up paddle boarding can be hot and thirsty work, and if there is nothing to drink, your pooch may turn to the salty seawater.
You should also take a first aid kit with you just in case your pup (or you) suffers any cuts or grazes.
Wash Them Afterward
Wash your board and dog after stand up paddle boarding. The salt water can damage your board and your dog’s fur may also become matted and dirty.
Encourage Good Behavior
Every time they jump on/off the stand up paddle board at the right time, reward them with treats and cuddles. Reinforce good behavior as much as you can and tell them off if they start barking at other boarders, diving into the water, or leaving the board too early.
Get them Back on the Board
Dog life jackets often have handles that you can grab to haul them back on the board. Don’t wait for them to get back on by themselves, as they may scratch the surface when trying to pull themselves up.
FAQs About Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Dogs
If you still have a few questions about taking your pooch for a ride on a SUP board, check out the following FAQs:
How Long Should I Paddle Board with a Dog?
The first time that you go on a SUP with your dog, you should limit yourself to just 20 or 30 minutes. Consider it a practice session, one where the goal is to get your dog used to the board and process.
After that, it really depends on you and your dog, but it’s important not to stay out too long as they may get tired, hot, hungry, and restless, and that’s when they can start causing problems.
Can Dogs Be Too Big or Small For Stand Up Paddle Boarding?
Dogs of all sizes can be taken onto a stand up paddle board. Large dogs should be positioned toward the back third of the board while smaller dogs should sit nearer to the nose.
For larger dogs, look for a wider, thicker, and longer stand up paddle board.
Can Dogs Puncture Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards?
It’s highly unlikely that your dog’s claws will pop an inflatable SUP, but they can still damage it and so you should take care to cut their claws and make sure they don’t start attacking the stand up paddle board.
How Do I Get My Dog Back On A Stand Up Paddle Board In Deep Water?
Move to the middle of the stand up paddle board, grab the handle on the dog’s life vest, and pull it onto the board. Your dog will probably start to clamber onto the stand up paddle board with its front paws, at which point you can just lift the back paws on.
Stay sitting/crouched in the middle of the board until your dog has finished shaking, and then reassume your standing position.
Should I Use A Leash When Stand Up Paddle Boarding With My Dog?
You can use a leash to direct your dog to the board and as part of your training. However, that leash should not be secured to the board at any point as you will be jeopardizing your dog’s freedom of movement and could place it in danger if it falls or jumps, or if the stand up paddle board flips over.