A Beginner’s Guide to Stand-Up Paddle Boarding With Your Dog
Looking for something new to try with your dog this summer? How about stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)? There’s a lot to love about this increasingly popular water sport, and dog owners are catching on.
The next time you’re on the water, bring Fido along! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a SUP newbie, this guide is for you.
Is stand-up paddle boarding right for my dog?
The best part about SUP is that anyone—and any dog—can do it. That is, any dog who’s fond of the water. If your dog isn’t keen on swimming, paddle boarding may not be the ideal summer activity for him.
That said, there are ways to encourage your hesitant pooch to enjoy the water. While you should never force your dog to swim, a little coaxing never hurt anyone. Pick a practice site that’s calm and easily accessible to your dog—like a quiet beach or pond, if possible. Let your dog get used to the water on his own terms, and reward him with plenty of treats and praise afterwards.
Another consideration is your dog’s size. That’s not to say your beefy Boxer can’t learn to SUP—this sport is for small and large dogs alike. But you may need to go with a larger board. Most paddle boards can accommodate 200-300 pounds, so please shop accordingly.
The benefits of stand-up paddle boarding with your dog
Aside from being a total blast, SUP offers a full-body workout for both humans and man’s best friend. Your dog will work his core and leg muscles while improving his balance (not a bad way to burn some calories, if you ask us).
Learning a new skill is also mentally enriching for your dog. SUP requires focus and practice, which can help ward off canine boredom and anxiety.
For most people, being on the water is the ultimate stress reliever. SUP is a relaxing and tranquil activity that will leave you feeling centered, refreshed, and at peace.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of stand-up paddle boarding with your dog is the bonding that occurs. As you and your dog work as a team to stay balanced, you’ll need to anticipate one another’s movements. Trust also comes into play, which acts as glue between a dog and his owner.
SUP boards are easy for your dog to access, and they provide him more freedom to move around than a canoe or kayak. With practice, the sport is fairly easy to pick up. It’s also the perfect activity when you’re trying to practice social distancing.
What you need to SUP with your pup
Getting into SUP shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
Life Jackets: Even the strongest canine swimmers need to be suited up with a dog-specific PFD. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly, and let your dog try it on at home to get used to it ahead of time. Some jackets come with a handle on top, a handy feature if you ever need to lift your dog out of the water.
The right board: To SUP with your dog, you need a stable board. Look for paddle boards that are longer and wider—aim for a minimum of 10 feet long and 32 inches wide. Weight is also a factor. A larger dog (or multiple small dogs) will require a larger board to keep from tipping over.
Waterproof bag: If you’re embarking on a longer trip, you may need to pack some water, treats, bowls, and waste bags. A dry bag will protect your gear.
For best results, proceed slowly
We know you’re eager to be on the water, but everyone will fare better if you ease your dog into the sport at his own pace.
Before hitting the water, let your dog become acquainted with the board and his life jacket in the comfort of your living room. Allow him to sniff and explore the board until he understands that it doesn’t pose a threat. Place some treats on the board to encourage your dog to get on it, and praise him when he does so. Same things goes for Fido’s life jacket: let him get comfortable with his new ensemble beforehand.
Once your dog seems at ease with things, it’s time for a dry run. Stand on the board with your dog as if you were on the lake, and practice paddling and rocking. After several practice sessions on dry land, your dog will be ready for the real deal.