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Ever wanted to SUP with your pup? If standup paddleboarding is one of your favorite activities, you’ll love it even more when your best four-legged friend joins in.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to standup paddleboard with your dog in a way that’s safe and fun for all.
Learn how to standup paddleboard
Standup paddleboarding with your pooch will be safer (and more fun) if you’re already a capable paddler. Before you introduce your dog to standup paddleboarding, practice falling off your paddleboard safely, maneuvering the board, and paddling in rough conditions. This foundation is essential.
Some dogs are naturals when it comes to staying still on the board — but others will surely test your balancing skills.
Get the right gear
Standup paddleboarding with your dog is a bit different to standup paddleboarding on your own. You’ll likely need a larger board as well as a few extra items. Here are the things you should consider:
- The right-sized SUP: Depending on the size of your dog, you might need a board that’s larger than the one you’d use if you were standup paddling on your own. Soft-top or inflatable standup paddleboards tend to be best as they’re less slippery than epoxy or fiberglass boards. Small dogs may not have much of an impact on what board you choose. If you have a medium or large dog, you’ll want a board that’s long, wide, and stable (around 11′ long and 30″ across). Note that the larger and wider the board, the slower it will be to maneuver. We recommend the Isle Explorer.
- Adjustable paddle: You might need to kneel at times to keep the board stable. Get an adjustable standup paddle for maximum convenience — and make sure it floats!
- Dog life jacket: Choose a life jacket that is snug (but not to the point of chafing) with handles on the jacket so that you can lift your dog onto the board when needed. Have your dog wear this a few times before going into the water, so that they’re comfortable moving about the world in their new outfit.
- A personal flotation device: Safety first! You should always paddle with a PFD.
- Non-slip deck pad: Boards can be slippery for pup paws–especially in choppy water. Outfit your board with a non-slip deck pad so that they can stay stable.
- Waterproof backpack: Keep a bottle of water, foldable bowl, and treats in a waterprooof backpack.
- Sun protection: It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re standup paddling. Slap on a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen before you paddle out. If your dog is susceptible to sunburn, be sure to put some dog-safe sunscreen on them as well.
- Doggles: Some pups have sensitive eyes. A pair of doggles (yes, dog goggles) will protect them from sun and spray. You can even splurge on a polarized pair!
Puppy steps: Get your dog used to the water
There’s always a chance that you’ll be knocked off balance while standup paddleboarding and fall into the water. In this case, your dog should be a comfortable and capable swimmer. Falling off the board (when it inevitably happens) should be a fun, not frightening, experience for your dog.
Even if your dog is a natural born swimmer, it’s always smart to have them wear a canine flotation device.
Kylie, owner of a German Shepherd named Moose says, “Dogs that don’t like to fully submerge in the water often make for great SUP buddies because they’re less likely to bail the board. Moose is great because he loves the water but won’t jump off on purpose.”
Teach your dog the proper commands for the standup paddleboard
First, teach your dog the basic commands of “sit,” “lay down,” and “stay.” Once they’ve mastered these, introduce fun games that involve the standup paddleboard. While the board is still on land, have your dog walk onto the paddleboard and give them a treat after they sit, lay down, and stay. This will make the board a fun and exciting place for them.
When it came to getting Moose comfortable with the board, Kylie says she used a mix of toys and treats.
You can also teach your dog commands for getting on and off the standup paddleboard. This will hopefully prevent overly-enthusiastic dogs from jumping off the board whenever they see an enticing bird near the water. We recommend using “on” for on and “huli” for off.
Move the board into shallow water and repeat the game until they’ve mastered each command. Keep your tone positive and give plenty of praise for your dog’s good behavior. If your dog is frightened, take a step back and master these skills on land or in ankle-deep water. Move the board while they’re on it to get them used to feeling off-balance. Once they’re enjoying standup paddleboarding in the shallows, you can move to deeper water.
Keep it mellow
We all started as beginners. For your first few SUP sessions, stick to shallow and calm water — like a lake or bay. The more you practice, the better your dog will get at climbing back onto the board and staying balanced. Once you’ve mastered the calm water, you can gradually venture out to small waves and calm rapids.
If you’re having trouble balancing with your dog on the board, get onto your knees to keep a lower center of gravity.
Getting back onto the board
No matter how skilled you are at paddling, eventually one (or both) of you will fall into the water. In outrigger canoeing, they call this a huli!
While small dogs tend to be easier to paddle than large dogs if they’re staying put, hyper ones are known to run around the board and actually make it more unstable. There are so many factors that go into how the experience paddleboarding with your pooch will be — you’ll never know how your dog will behave until you try!
To get you both back onto the board with the minimum amount of chaos, climb onto the board and kneel down. Paddle over to your pooch and coax them onto the board. Assist your lil fella by pulling them up by their life jacket. It can be a bit startling the first few times but you’ll soon get used to getting on your board with ease.
Many thanks to our models, Kylie and Moose.
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