Cats who dig surfing, an Australian duck who loves to swim in the ocean with his humans, ferrets who are always excited to go hiking, and macaws who come on road trips have all, at one point or another, been popular on the internet. When a YouTube video in which an animal does something unusual appears on our screens, complete with a catchy title and a cool thumbnail, we all click on it because it it’s got curiosity value.
Stand up paddle boarding with your dog may be just as fun, but it doesn’t quite hold the same clickbait value — because, as any dog owners who’ve discovered that they love paddle boarding intuitively know, there’s nothing more natural than SUP with your dog.
It just fits, much like peanut butter and jelly.
Never been paddle boarding with your canine best friend? You just know that he or she will get the hang of it in no time, and that your dog will enjoy stand up paddle boarding as much as you do.
Yet, there are a few things to take into account before you share your hobby with your dog — and this guide is devoted to making sure you and Fido will both be ready when the time comes.
- SUP with Your Dog: What Gear Will You Need?
- What Paddle Board Is Best for SUP with a Dog?
- What Other Gear Will You Need?
- Teaching Your Dog How to Stand Up Paddle Board
- Safety Tips for Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Your Dog
- A Final Word: Your SUP and Your Pup Can Be a Match Made in Heaven
SUP with Your Dog: What Gear Will You Need?
Nope — your pup won’t need their own SUP; they’ll be sharing with you. Despite that obvious fact, stand up paddle boarding with your dog in tow is nothing like paddle boarding on your own. You will inevitably be taking a lot more gear on your trip.
Some readers will already be avid SUPers. Others, however, are going to be completely new to stand up paddle boarding, and know that it’s something they would love to explore with their dog from the very outset.
They may be in the better position to get started with a dog-friendly SUP setup, because they’re starting from scratch. Here’s a look at the ideal setup for folks who want to stand up paddle board with their dogs.
What Paddle Board Is Best for SUP with a Dog?
With an extra passenger on the stand up paddle board, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Some dogs do indeed lay down on a stand up paddle board and chill there for the entire duration of the ride. Others are more active; they want to see exactly what’s going on, and will walk around on the SUP. Either way, you won’t have the same balance you achieve when you’re SUPing solo, and a board with extra stability matters a great deal.
- You want your dog to be able to ride the SUP with ease, and that means that hard top rigid stand up paddle boards are essentially out. Many dogs seem to do best with soft top rigid SUPs, which offer a soft cushion while also providing some grip. Inflatable SUPs can work great as well, but you won’t want to go with cheap two-layer ones.
- You’ll also need enough space for your dog, and that may mean opting for a bigger SUP.
- Finally, you’ll need to take a board’s weight limit into account. Can your stand up paddle board support you and your pup, as well as all of your gear? Weigh yourself and your dog beforehand, just to be sure.
What Other Gear Will You Need?
You’ll need everything you’d usually take to go stand up paddle boarding, like a dry bag, sunscreen, and your phone, but your dog will also need a life vest that is properly fitted and a leash. As a training aid, it’s very much recommended to bring some motivating dog treats onto your stand up paddle board.
Your dog will likely be incredibly excited to be teaming up with you for a SUP trip, and keen to take in everything the environment has to offer. Teaching your dog how to stand up paddle board isn’t difficult, as such, but it’s a process.
Treats help with that. Bring fresh water for your dog, just as you would for yourself, if you’re SUPing in salt water.
Teaching Your Dog How to Stand Up Paddle Board
Is your dog a good boy or great gal who trusts you implicitly and will follow you anywhere, sticking to the rules you set for your pup no matter how exciting everything gets? In that case, your dog is a great SUP candidate. Before you dive off the deep end, go through this process to get your dog set up for everything he or she needs to enjoy paddle boarding safely.
Make Sure Your Dog Is a Good Swimmer
If you’ve already taken your dog swimming plenty of times, you’ve ticked this box. If not, though, that’s a good first step — not all dogs are great swimmers, although many instantly take to the water like a pro. Those dog parents who simply aren’t sure which category their dog falls into should leave the paddle board at home for now, and try going swimming with their dog (or allowing their dog to splash around in a smaller lake) first.
Should you have a dog that’s unlikely to be able to ever swim well, such as some pugs, you can still take your dog paddle boarding. Good training and an excellent life jacket just become much more important, plus you may want to stick close to shore.
Dog, Meet SUP
The next step lies in allowing your dog to get familiar with your stand up paddle board. Place your SUP down, along with the paddle, and just let it sit there. As a good doggo, your pup will definitely want to find out what this new thing is, and sniff around it. They may lie down on it, walk around it, and generally come to accept its presence. Progress!
Because your dog will need to wear a life vest when you go SUPing — even if they’re a great swimmer — the next phase would be to put your dog in the vest and to let them get familiar with the way it feels.
Train Your Dog to SUP
Next, you’ll want to make sure your dog understands when to get onto the SUP, and when to get off. Many experienced paddle boarders who enjoy the sport with their dogs recommend a specific command for the purpose. As an example, “board” to get on, and “off” to get off. These commands should be associated solely with paddle boarding, and differ from those you’d use to get your dog off the couch or out of a car.
Practice this outside, but off the water, before you take your dog paddle boarding. Ensure 100 percent compliance before you take the plunge.
(Optional): Allow Your Dog to See Your SUP in Action
Take your partner, or a friend, to a great spot — like a local lake — that your dog is ideally already familiar with. Allow them to watch from the shore while you show paddle boarding in action. Your dog will put two and two together and understand that the paddle board is destined for the water.
Yes! Time to SUP with Your Pup!
Still feeling confident? Great! Your dog is likely ready for the water. Stick to calmer waters, and stay close to the shore, and put everything you’ve taught your canine into action. See how it goes, and watch how your dog reacts every step of the way.
If everything goes swimmingly, you can just keep going. If your dog seems unsure, or moves around the board, you can keep doing obedience training. Some dogs are initially scared by the paddling motions, and will have to get used to them. It’s important for your dog to stay out of the way of the paddle, as well as away from the nose of your SUP, and these are perhaps the two key areas to keep working on.
Once your dog masters the stand up paddle board — and follows your instructions every time — it becomes possible to take them out onto the sea or ocean, or to slightly choppier waters. You’ve reached the end of a very exciting journey, and as all the best travels do, you’ve just opened up new horizons. You and your doggo are ready to take on the world on your SUP, and you’ll have the best of times.
Safety Tips for Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Your Dog
When it’s done right, stand up paddle boarding with a dog isn’t just fun, but also a very safe activity to enjoy with your dog. To get there, though, it’s important to keep an eye on safety at all times.
Don’t just buy the first dog life vest that you see at your local pet shop (yes, fortunately, more and more carry canine life vests), or order it from Amazon. Make sure that your dog’s life vest fits snugly, so that he or she cannot worm themselves out of the vest — which would defeat the entire purpose.
At the same time, make sure the flotation device isn’t too tight for your dog, which would make them uncomfortable the entire ride. The best dog life vests have handles that allow you to life your dog out of the water safely, and you may need this feature even if your dog is a great swimmer.
Time flies when you’re having fun, so it’s easy to forget just how much time you are spending out on the water. For some dog breeds, stand up paddle boarding comes with a significant risk of sunburn, and that’s bad news. To be on the safe side, get your dog a sunscreen lotion for dogs.
Swimming is one of the biggest perks dogs get from stand up paddle boarding. Although many dog owners prefer to tether their dogs to a leash, in a bid to ensure they cannot stray too far, that can get in the way of your dog’s enjoyment. SUP with your dog is most enjoyable for dog-human pairs that trust each other completely, and that means that your dog should not need a leash to listen to you.
Best case scenario? You keep your dog on your SUP with you, give him or her permission to go for a swim when you’re ready, and call your dog back after a while. When you do, your dog should get back on the stand up paddle board right away — all without a leash.
Never forget to praise your dog for good behavior, which will help your pup fall in love with the SUP and feel like they have just been on a very important mission. Dogs who truly love stand up paddle boarding will be safer riders, so this is a safety tip as much as anything.
A Final Word: Your SUP and Your Pup Can Be a Match Made in Heaven
Since stand up paddle boarding has exploded in popularity, roughly a decade ago, plenty of people have introduced their dogs to the sport. You may already have seen this in action, but if not, just do a Google Image search. It’s impossible to miss the fact that paddle boarding just seems to be made for dogs.
Paddle boarding, in combination with an enjoyable swim, will give your dog plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise. Your dog will be proud to have accompanied you on your ride, and look forward to the next trip. Being active is as important to your dog as it is to you, and SUP is a wonderful outlet for them.
You, meanwhile? You get to enjoy a sport that you love while knowing your dog doesn’t have to pace around, waiting for his or her human to come back and perhaps getting into all sorts of trouble. You get to have your dog right by your side, where they belong — no matter where you go.