Taking your dog out stand-up paddling with you can be an awesome outdoor adventure for both you and your pup. The trick to making it a fun and rewarding experience is to train your dog well before he ever gets on the water.
The 5 steps below are a good guide to follow it has worked well for many Dog SUPers and their owners.
5 Steps Guide
Keep your board in the house for a week in an area your dog is comfortable with.
The point of this is to help your dog get used to the board and to see it as a fun and safe thing. Let your dog explore the board on his own at first. He will probably sniff it all over and may or may not try to walk on it.
Place a treat on the board
- After a day or so of this place a treat on the board so that your dog must walk on it in order to get it. Once he’s on the board give him another treat. Ask him to sit, give another treat.
- Do this periodically throughout the day. If your dog still seems uncomfortable with the board, take the process a little slower. If your dog easily gets up on the board for his treat continue on.
- Always keep the energy light and make the board a fun place.
- Once your dog is comfortable sitting on the board on his own, practice with his lifejacket on so that he learns to associate the lifejacket with the whole process.
Have special commands for getting off and on the board.
- Having a special command for getting on and off the board during this process is quite important.
- If your dog should jump off the board because he sees a duck while you are paddling in the water, he may throw you overboard as well.
- Give your dog a special command for getting on the board to get his treat.
- Then make sure you give another special command when you ask your dog to get off. Each time he gets a treat when this is done properly.
- If your dog jumps off the board before you have given the command then there is no treat.
- Ask your dog to get back on, sit, and stay. Then give the command to get off. Overtime you will be able to lengthen the amount of time he stays on the board before asking him to get off.
Practice sitting, standing and paddling on the board with your dog.
- Once your dog is comfortable sitting on the board in the right spot by himself now you can practice sitting and standing on the board with him.
- Ask your dog to get on the board and sit in his spot. Then sit on the board behind your dog. Give him another treat when he stays in place with you sitting behind him.
- When he is comfortable with that, try standing and rocking back and forth a bit.
- Some dogs are better with this than others, so if your pup is having trouble, just take it slow and go back a step if you need to.
- Try to keep the environment positive and rewarding as opposed to setting him up for failure.
- Once he is comfortable with this step you can practice the paddling stroke with your SUP paddle while standing to get your dog used to the paddle moving around him.
Head to the water.
- Next take your dog to the water with the board and practice the same steps with the board close to the water or slightly on the water.
- Go through each step to make sure he responds the same way in a different environment.
- Depending on your dog’s nature you may need to practice this a few times before you ever actually get on the water.
- When your dog feels comfortable and confident give it a shot. Keep your first outing short and give your dog lots of praise when you are done.
- Expect a few mistakes and possibly a few wet tumbles.
However once your dog learns what is expected of it, then the experience is truly awesome.
- It is highly recommended that your dog wear a PFD while stand-up paddling. This will ensure that your dog is safe should he fall or jump in the water or hit his head.
- It is also highly recommended that you never keep your dog hooked to a leash while on the board. If your dog should end up in the water accidentally the leash could strangle him. Train your dog before getting on the board so that the leash is not necessary.
- If your dog is scared of water then that will be your first obstacle to overcome before ever getting on the board. Seek the advice of a dog trainer if your dog has a major fear of the water. Get him comfortable with swimming first, then try the board. He will never be comfortable however if he is still fearful of the water and the experience will not likely be fun for either of you.
- Make sure your dog’s life jacket fits properly and let him get used to wearing it, both on land and in the water, before you go out on the board.
- Have water available and offer it frequently. If your dog gets thirsty, he may try drinking salt water, which can lead to toxicity. A few gulps won’t hurt, but watch for vomiting and early neurological signs of salt poisoning, such as dullness and depression.
- Salt can be irritating to paws and skin, too. Rinse salt water and sand from your dog’s coat after a swim, and always clean and dry his ears. Water trapped in the ears can result in a bacterial ear infection, particularly if the water is at all contaminated.
- Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur and pink skin, can easily sunburn. Some dogs have just a thin coat of hair on their bellies, and reflected light from the water can burn their undersides as well. Limit your dog’s exposure during peak sun hours and apply sunblock to the ears and nose (and belly, if needed) 30 minutes before going outside. Dogs can be protected from sunburn by vests that block ultraviolet rays and sunscreen made with dog-repellent ingredients to keep them from licking it off.
- If your dog is predisposed to eye problems, you may want to invest in a pair of Doggles to protect his peepers.
- Running on sand is strenuous exercise. A dog who is out of shape can easily pull a tendon or ligament, so keep a check on your dog’s activity. Hot sand can also blister tender paw pads.
- Scan the water and sand for jellyfish. Be aware that sea lice can cause itchy red bumps on dogs.
- Never, ever leave a dog unattended in your vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures.
Note: Inflatable SUP’s tend to be ideal for paddling with a dog. They provide great traction for their paws and are quite stable.
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