What could be greater than your love for your dog? Man’s best friend, a furball of love, they truly do make your day running to greet you at the door. Nothing can come close, except maybe the love you feel for SUP… Luckily, there is a way of combining the two which is paddleboarding with your dog.
While it may sound incredibly stressful to try and coax your pup onto a paddleboard and bring him along for the ride, it is gratifying, and dogs love it too. However, it is not as simple as heading to the water, so read on to learn how to pull this off.
Find the right board. Obviously, depending on the size of your pup, the best paddleboards for this are wide and long to provide as much stability as possible. It is best to go for a board at least 32 inches wide and ten feet long, as this is a firmly stable choice.
As well as this, you will need a decent surface grip for your dog’s paws to hold on to if the water gets choppy. For this, the best boards will have a full deck pad or an extended deck pad, which inflatable boards tend to have.
Find a lovely, dog-friendly beach. In the Florida area, for example, many beaches have limits on dog walking, or at least restrictions indicating that they must be on the lead at all times, leaving you a little confused with regards to taking them to the sea.
All of the beaches in St Augustine are actually dog friendly, so this is an ideal place to visit if you are looking for somewhere to take your pup. While some beaches, such as Crescent Beach, have lead restrictions, others, such as St Augustine beach, are entirely pet friendly.
Introduce your dog to the board on land. Before heading out to the water, it’s a good idea to get your dog used to the scent of the board in familiar territory so that they will see the board as a safe space and be happy to return to it. To do this, place the board on solid ground and allow them to sniff and look at it. To encourage them to stand or sit on the board, place some treats around it, praising and encouraging them to feel safe around it.
A dog life jacket is always a good idea if your dog feels tired or injured. They will feel the most comfortable if they have been introduced to this on land. Let them try it out around the house and get used to its smell and feel.
Teach and practice commands for jumping on and off. When dogs jump on and off your board whenever they feel like it, it can unbalance you, sometimes even throwing you off. Choose a special command such as ‘jump on’ or ‘off now’ that the dog will recognize once in the water. I recommend practicing this on land as well, making your transition to the water as smooth as possible. Use treats to praise them each time they get this right, and spend time each day reminding them of the command to embed it into their memory.
Prepare for the water. You will want to prepare your pup when the day arrives with relatively calm weather. Trimming their nails can be a good idea to ensure that they don’t scratch or tear your pad deck.
Take lots of treats and poo bags for the beach as well. Since they will spend a lot of time on the board, it is best not to treat this outing as their walk. Take them for a walk before paddleboarding to tire them out a little. This will make them less likely to keep jumping on or off the board without warning, making your trip easier and in control.
Begin in shallow water. Walk out into the water with your dog already on board. If they want to jump off, allow them to. Try to simultaneously say your ‘jump off’ command to further enforce the phrase.
Once they seem comfortable, you can get onto the board with your dog, getting both of you used to the balance and where you need to position yourself. Small dogs can sit on the nose of the board, while larger dogs fit better on the back third of the board. They may seem confusing at first, but after a few attempts, they will jump on and know where their spot is and what is expected of them. This is where it will all fall into place.
Head out into the water, keeping it short. For your first time, I wouldn’t recommend venturing out too far. Take your dog on a short route, and head back after maybe twenty minutes. Be prepared for your dog to jump off any time, and be on hand to help them back in. After a time, more muscular dogs will be fully capable of climbing back on themselves, but other dogs will still need you to pull them out of the water. The lifejackets make this more manageable also.
Use sun cream and stay hydrated. Finally, don’t forget that although dogs may have thick coats on, they still have skin the same as ours that can be quickly burned by the sun’s rays that are made stronger by the water’s refraction. Apply sun cream before heading out, and take some for good measure.
Do not allow your dogs to drink salt water if you paddle in the sea or ocean. They will become dehydrated. Take a collapsible bowl and water, and encourage them to drink from this instead. Don’t forget yourself either! Drink lots of water on your paddleboard, and keep yourself protected from the sun with a good SPF.