A Complete Guide To Paddle Boarding With Your Dog
Ask any dog lover out there, and they’ll tell you that an adventure becomes so much better when you take your furry best friend along with you. This applies to paddle boarding, too.
But is it safe to paddle board with a dog?
Can you go paddle boarding with a dog?
Yes, you absolutely can take your furry companion paddle boarding with you–be it a German Shepherd or a Shih Tzu. However, you need to choose the right paddle board and train your pup beforehand to do it safely. The following sections cover everything you need to know about taking your dog out on the water with you.
Benefits of Paddle Boarding With Your Dog
Stand-up paddle boarding is an incredibly fun activity to start with your pup. It offers:
- Exercise. Paddle boarding is a great workout for you and your dog. Just like humans, dogs engage their core and leg muscles to balance on the stand-up paddle board (SUP). For an added physical benefit, you can even hop off and go for a short swim.
- Bonding. Since it’s going to be just you and your dog exploring the open waters, paddle boarding allows you both to spend some quality time together without any distractions–something that your pup will love.
- Mental stimulation. Being out on the water gives your dog new places to explore and smell. And all the new wildlife they will see will certainly give them something to focus on.
- Relaxation. Dogs get stressed and anxious, too, but the tranquility of the water can help them relax.
Choosing the Right Paddle Board for You and Your Dog
Choosing the right paddle board for you and your dog is a lot like choosing your dog in the first place. All types of dogs can go paddle boarding–small, medium or even large dogs–provided you find the right board size to handle your dog’s weight.
What size paddle board do I need to go paddle boarding with a dog?
To ensure that there’s enough space for you and your furry companion to stand and move around, you need to look for paddle boards that are wide and long. Look for a board that’s at least 10’ long and 32” wide, which is enough to fit most dogs, including large ones, and even multiple dogs.
You’ll also need a stand-up paddle board that can accommodate the combined weight of you, your dog, and all your gear. A general rule of thumb is to choose a paddle board that has a weight capacity of 350 lbs.
Inflatable vs. solid boards for paddling with your dog
SUP’s usually fall into two categories: inflatable boards and solid boards. Inflatable paddle boards are ideal for a SUP adventure with your dog because they’re super durable, have a full deck pad, and a surface that provides a good grip for your dog’s paws. Inflatable boards also tend to be 6” thick, which adds to their stability.
As for solid boards, while they’re certainly durable, they aren’t very dog-friendly as their surface becomes slick when wet, which can cause your dog to go sliding off into the water.
Maddle boards are wide, stable, and scratch resistant, making them the ideal board for paddling with your dog.
Essential Gear for Paddle Boarding With Your Dog
As with any adventure, paddle boarding doesn’t come without its risks, especially when you bring your four-legged friend along. To ensure that you both have a fun and safe experience without worrying about all the what-if scenarios, here’s a list of gear your dog needs.
Wondering what you need to bring for yourself? Check out our essential SUP gear checklist.
Dog Life Jacket
A life jacket for your dog is always essential when you’re on the water. Some dog breeds tire out quickly, some get overheated in the sun, and some simply can’t swim very well. So, in case your dog jumps or falls into the water, a life jacket will give them some extra buoyancy till you can bring them back on board.
Life jackets come in different sizes, so you should choose one that fits your dog. Look for a life jacket with a handle on top so that it becomes easier for you to pick your dog up and place them back on the board.
Dogs can get agitated and anxious in unfamiliar areas. For some, being out on the water can stress them out at first. Having a leash in hand will help you ensure that they don’t jump into the water, while getting their sea legs.
Get a long, retractable leash that doesn’t restrict your dog’s freedom, but also allows you to control them when necessary. Remember to never secure your dog’s leash to the paddle board.
Like humans, dogs can get sunburnt, with their ears, nose, belly, and paws being particularly vulnerable spots. So in addition to your human sunscreen, make sure you’re carrying pet-friendly sunscreen to save both of you from over-exposure to the sun.
Look for dog sunscreens that have FDA clearance so that you know they’re safe for your furry best friend.
If your dog is thirsty, they might try to lap at the salt water, which is extremely dangerous for dogs. A few gulps of it can cause diarrhea, while large amounts may prove fatal. So it’s always important to carry a water bottle and bowl that they can drink from instead.
For older dogs or dogs with existing eye conditions, exposing their eyes to UV rays can cause further damage. Moreover, dog breeds that have protruding eyeballs, such as pugs and Boston terriers, have a higher risk of developing eye ulcers and cuts. Dog sunglasses–or doggles, as they’re called–will protect your pup’s eyes.
Dogs can be fussy, especially in a different environment. The key is to reward them for listening to you, so always carry a bag of your dog’s favorite treats. Make sure that the dog treats won’t disintegrate when wet.
When going for longer trips on the water with your dog, you should carry additional items such as a dry bag, poop bags, spare towels, and dog toys.
Training your Dog for Paddle Boarding
There’s a little more to paddle boarding with your dog than just getting all the necessary gear, plopping your dog onto the SUP and setting off. You need to train your dog and get them prepared for the activity so that they know what to expect.
1. Get your pup used to water
Ideally, your dog should already love being in the water and know how to swim before they go paddle boarding, as it’s dangerous to go on a SUP otherwise. In case they don’t, and are skittish around water, you can slowly accustom them to it over time.
Start slow by introducing your dog to shallow water like a kiddie pool or your bathtub. Use a toy to make your dog feel comfortable in the water. Gradually increase the water level and depth, till your dog can easily handle going to the beach. You can also use this opportunity to let them get used to the life jacket.
If your dog doesn’t know how to swim, you can hire a dog trainer to help them develop the skill. Don’t go paddle boarding till your dog is a confident swimmer. Remember to never force your dog if they don’t take to the water. Always respect their limits.
2. Practice basic commands
Before you head out on your SUP adventure, you need to make sure that your dog has the basic commands like “sit,” “down,” “come,” and “stay” down pat. This will help you communicate with your furry companion and take control if something goes awry.
To handle unexpected situations, you can also teach your dog a special command or two. For example, you can have a special command to indicate that it’s time for the pup to stop swimming and get back on the board.
3. Introduce your dog to the SUP on land
Before heading out into the water, you need to familiarize your dog with the paddle board in a comfortable environment, such as your home. Place your SUP in the living room and let your dog sniff and explore it on their own terms. Placing their favorite toys or treats on top of the board will encourage them to climb on top of it, and soon enough, they’ll come to associate the paddle board with a positive experience. Get your dog to jump on and off the board using the commands you practiced.
4. Do a dry run
Take your SUP and your dog, along with all the necessary gear, to the beach to do a dry run. A dry run is where you put on your life jackets, prepare yourself for paddling, and get on the board with your dog… except, you don’t actually go out in the water.
Practice doing this a couple of times so that it feels more natural and comfortable for your dog when you actually decide to get into the water. Try out the commands you practiced with your dog during your dry runs and reward them when they follow it perfectly. This way, they’ll know not to jump off the board before you reach the shore.
5. Teach your dog to jump back up onto the board in shallow water
Your puppy is now ready to go paddling in the water! Pick a shallow spot for the first trip so that your dog can swim and easily touch the bottom. This will help build up their confidence.
Once you’re in, run through the same commands you practiced so that the dog gets the full experience and properly understands what to do when paddle boarding. Allow them to swim around for a bit.
The next step is to teach them to jump back on the board–something that you’ve only practiced on dry land so far. Sit on the middle of the board with it facing your dog, and hold on to it from both sides to keep it stable. Then give your dog the command to jump back on.
Once they have their front paws on to the board, hold on to the handle in their life jacket and give them a gentle tug. Don’t let go of the handle till your dog’s completely on board, and don’t get up till they shake the water off. Reward them with treats, practice it a few more times, and you’re good to go.
If you live in Ontario, here are 20 stunning spots to go paddle boarding with your dog.
Tips for Paddle Boarding with your Dog
Here are some tips to make the paddle boarding experience enjoyable for you and your canine companion.
- Keep the first trip short and slowly increase the duration over time once they get used to riding on the board.
- Trim your dog’s nails to minimize the chances of tearing your deck pad.
- Check the weather before you head out as going out in harsh weather with strong winds and currents can be dangerous for the both of you.
- Tire your dog out by playing with them before you hop onto the board. Energetic dogs find it hard to stay still even when paddle boarding.
- Keep your dog away from the nose of the paddle board to keep the weight distribution balanced. Additionally, larger dogs will make the board move more than a smaller dog. A good rule is to ensure you’re standing in the middle of the board with your dog close to your legs so that the board remains balanced without tipping over.
- Carry a whistle with you to signal for help in case of unexpected situations.
- Carry a towel with you to dry off your dog once you get out of the water.
Paddle your way into a great SUP adventure with your dog
The only thing better than paddle boarding is taking your dog along with you. As long as you get the right board size, make sure to pack all the essential gear you’ll need, and give your pup a little practice beforehand, paddling with your dog can be a very rewarding experience.
Want to have a happy paddling experience with your pooch? Not only do Maddle boards come in a variety of designs, they have everything you might need for paddling with your pup.