Stand up paddleboarding is becoming increasingly popular and it's a great hobby that keeps you fit, gets you out in nature, and allows you to explore the beautiful waterways we have here in Europe.
You can definitely go stand up paddleboarding with your dog. It's a fantastic way to get out exploring with your best friend on four legs. However, there are some considerations, precautions, and preparations to make before you head out on your SUP with your dog.
In this article, we've provided 5 steps to take to ensure that you and your dog stay safe, happy, and get the most enjoyment out of your time on the water…
1. Choose the Right Paddleboard
First and foremost, you must select the correct paddleboard for you and your dog. The best paddleboards for dogs are longer and wider. This makes them far more stable for you and your pooch and ensures you stay upright even if your dog is a bit fidgety.
You should also ensure that the paddleboard in question has appropriate grip for not only you but your dog as well. This ensures that your dog will stay more stable when you hit more turbulent water or a wave or two. Look for a SUP that has a full deck pad that’s grippy or at least something with half a deck pad that allows your dog room at the front of the board to sit tight.
If you already have a paddleboard that you want to use with your dog and it doesn't have a deck pad, you can use an old yoga mat or camp mat and some adhesive tape, velcro, or suction cups to provide a firm grip for your dog.
2. Make Sure Your Furry Friend has a Floatation Device
Second, make sure your dog has a PFD (a personal floatation device). Even if your dog is a confident swimmer I would recommend getting a PFD. When a paddleboard capsizes it can disorientate your furry friend and make it difficult for them to recover in the water.
Pooch PFDs also usually have a handle or two that allows you to give your dog a helping hand back onto the board if they decide to jump off and chase that tempting-looking duck across the lake… This is perhaps one of the main reasons I use a PFD with my dog when I go kayaking. It’s much easier to lift your dog back onboard with something to grab other than their slippery belly.
3. Preparing to SUP with Your Dog
It’s important to prepare your dog for SUP’ing. There are a few preparations that are essential before you head out on the water with your dog. Here are the four prepping points that we feel are essential before heading out on the water:
A) Make Sure Your Dog is a Confident Swimmer
This one should go without saying, make sure your dog can swim before heading out on the water. You should also ensure that your dog isn’t afraid of the water and actually enjoys being close to it. Making sure your dog is a good swimmer and isn’t afraid of the water will ensure that he/she has an enjoyable experience.
It’s not fair to bring a dog that’s terrified of the water out on your SUP and likewise, it’s unsafe to bring a dog out on a SUP that doesn’t have any swimming experience. If you’re struggling to train your dog to swim or enjoy the water, definitely seek help from a trainer before heading out on the water.
B) Trim Your Dog’s Claws
Make sure your dog’s claws are trimmed short and dulled down. This will prevent any unwanted damage to your paddleboard such as scratches, rips, and tears in the deck pad. A dog with trimmed claws is less likely to damage you and your paddleboard while out on the water.
C) Give Your Dog Some Exercise Before Heading Out
If your dog is particularly energetic make sure to give him or her a run before you get on your paddleboard. Although SUP’ing is great exercise for you, your dog will be sitting down inactive for the duration of the ride. The last thing you want is a dog on board with barrels of energy.
If your dog hasn't been worn out effectively before you go paddling you could encounter issues out on the water. Your dog may become fidgety, uncomfortable, or worse, he/she could decide to go for a swim or chase the local wildlife!
Dogs with bounds of energy don’t like to sit still and this is definitely a problem when it comes to balance. If you don’t fancy getting wet, then make sure your dog is sufficiently exercised before you head out.
D) Make Sure You Have a Pocket Full of Treats
Finally, before you head out on your SUP with a dog, ensure you have a large pocket full of treats. If you've never been SUP’ing with your dog before your dog isn’t going to be used to the experience and sensation. Having treats to hand will allow you to reinforce good behavior and calm your dog down if he or she gets excited, anxious, or fidgety.
4. Introducing Your Dog to the Paddleboard
So, how do you introduce a dog to paddleboarding that’s never been on a SUP before?
This step is simple but it may take some time. Before you head out onto the water with your pooch you must introduce him or her to the SUP beforehand and ensure that they are completely comfortable with it.
Get your dog into a PFD and lay the paddleboard out on dry land. Introduce your dog to the board and reward him/her when they stay on it. Command them to sit toward the front of the board and reinforce this with plenty of treats!
Practice commands for getting on and off the SUP. This is essential if you want to mount and dismount together without going for a swim! Create simple one-word commands for this such as “on” and “off”. Practice these commands until your pooch knows exactly what they mean.
Once you’re happy with your dog’s progress, get in the water with your paddleboard floating and you standing in the water. Get your dog to sit in position and push the board around so they can get used to the feeling of floating. Reward them for behaving and staying in position. If your dog jumps off, show them back on the board and start again, rewarding good behavior.
Once your dog is fully used to the board you can start to venture out with your pooch to explore on your paddleboard. Take it easy at first, go out for short periods, and stay close to land. Once the dog’s confidence builds, you’ll both be touring around and exploring for years to come.
5. Safety Tips for SUP’ing with Your Dog
Finally, it’s important to consider these three safety tips before heading out with your dog:
Dogs can actually burn just like humans, especially in areas with less fur. Using dog-friendly sunscreen to coat your dog’s belly and other sensitive areas will prevent burning on hot days.
Even if your dog hasn't burned before, they’re more at risk when out on a SUP because the sun’s UV rays reflect off the water. Make sure to protect your pooch from harmful rays in warm weather.
Make sure to rinse your dog off with fresh water after heading out stand up paddleboarding. In freshwater, it’s usually fine to let your dog dry off provided they aren’t dirty. However, in saltwater it’s essential to shower them after a SUP session.
Saltwater can irritate the skin and paws of your dog. After being out on the ocean be sure to rinse your dog off well, paying close attention to sensitive areas such as the paws, ears, snout, and belly.
Be aware of hazards that could injure you and your dog. Jellyfish in particular can be extremely harmful for dogs. If you know your local coast has a large population of jellyfish at certain times, it’s best to avoid paddling at the coast.
Hot sand is another hazard that can often be overlooked. If you’re on a beach in hot weather try and keep your pooch in the shade or in the water to avoid burnt paws.