Not only has SUP opened up a new world and new experience for 100s of 1,000s but in addition family members such as the faithful family dog have now become a common travel companion on many a SUP board. In Japan it’s such a big thing, that there are social media platforms dedicated to the art of paddling with your dog and even clubs which meet to paddle. So big is the interest, at one time we had requests to make ‘dog-friendly’ boards to meet demand.
As quirky as it may sound, no one likes to leave the family dog behind on a hot summers day, but if you head out for a paddle, what can you do? Well, they can ride along with you. Some breeds that are natural water-dogs are perhaps easier to have on-board and there’s certainly a size limit if you own a very large breed, but up to about 20 kgs, it’s possible to enjoy having your dog on board. Many dog owners who take dogs on paddleboard adventures have noticed it’s easier for the dogs to stand on inflatables, rather than on laminated boards.
You could consider a PFD (floatation device) which often come with a handle for you to take ahold of your dog if it falls over the side. Better not to tether your dog to the board either. Most of all they must learn to remain seated and not run around, otherwise it’s tough to maintain balance. The younger you can begin to have them on-board with you, the better as they will learn balance skills as they progress. If you cannot stand up paddle with your dog, consider paddling on your knees, being careful with the paddle. Train them to follow a commands to stay on the board or to jump off or even to get back on.
Be sure your dog ‘likes’ water and is a proficient swimmer well before you take them on water. The more confident they are with water and swimming, the more likely they will see SUP as an extension of a water related activity. Ultimately you are introducing and sharing your lifestyle with your dog in which it will be a happy participant.
You could follow these steps if concerned – some dogs need none of this regime and if already fully familiarised with water, will often take to SUP naturally.
Step 1: Familiarisation – place your board with the paddle in an open area where your dog is likely to see it and get curious. Let them sniff and smell it for as long as it takes to see it as normal.
Step 2: Get them comfortable with their PFD. Make sure it fits properly, let them wear it around the house. Once comfortable repeat Step 2 while wearing it.
Step 3: Your dog should learn where you want them to step on and off the board. Use commands easy to learn and remember, “on” and “off” and use hand motions the first few times, perhaps offer a treat once onto the board.
Step 5: Once comfortable on the board for extended periods, sit or stand on the board behind them so they get the feeling of sharing the space on the board with you.
Step 6: When standing on the board behind your dog, add a gentle rocking motion encouraging them to stay with the command you have chosen. They will learn to be OK with the rocking motion.
Step 7: Pick up the paddle and stand on the board behind your dog. Make the motions of paddling and reassure them the paddle is safe, moving the paddle over the dogs head.
Step 8: Bring your gear and your dog to a calm paddling area. Run through all of the steps above, still using treats, on a dry area near the water.
Step 9: Once comfortable near the water, bring the board into the shallows and straddle the board with your dog in their proper position. By introducing them to the water with you paddling from a sitting position, the board won’t rock as much and they can slowly become accustomed to the feeling.
From here progress to standing and paddling with them. This inclusion in your fun on the water together, can be truly rewarding and the dog will soon let you know if its loving the experience! All in all you will form a new level of bonding doing something you both can love!