Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a great water activity to get outside on warmer days, but it's even better when you get to bring your pup along. SUPing with your dog can be super fun and rewarding because you get to have even more adventures and new experiences with your pup.
However, teaching a dog to stay on the stand up paddle board and cooperate with you can be another story. To help make sure your dog's introduction to SUP is fun and safe for everyone involved, we talked with long-time SUP'er and Rex Specs’ Operations Manager, Steve Bourdeau, to get his recommendations on how to bring your pup out on the water with you.
Bourdeau has been taking his dogs stand up paddle boarding with him for 10 years, with his first dog, Remi, and now with his two dogs Yogi and Echo. The trio go on SUP adventures all over the mountain west on lakes and mellow rivers.
Ready to get on the board with your dog? These are the steps you should take to have a fun and safe time with your pup.
Bordeau and his dogs on a BOTE Board
Bourdeau stresses the importance of basic obedience when it comes to SUPing with dogs. "They must know when to sit and stay to make it easier to start to paddle with them."
If your dog has trouble concentrating or following your commands on dry land, it's hard to expect your pooch to be able to listen to your command on the water. Make sure the basics like sit, stay, lay down, and come are rock solid before you add the paddle board into the mix.
Let Your Dog Get Comfortable with the Stand Up Paddle Board and Water
The first time your dog interacts with the paddle board and paddle, you want to make sure your dog is in a safe space and is relaxed and comfortable. Give your dog time to sniff the paddle boards, play around them, and stand on them if they want.
Bourdeau says when he was introducing Yogi to the SUP, "I let him play on and around the boards while they were on grass outside my condo while I used the paddle to hit a tennis ball around."
Bourdeau started SUPing with his pups when they were young (less than a year old) and recommends this if possible because your dog will be able to learn and adjust quicker. However, we absolutely believe an old dog can learn new tricks — just remember to take it slow.
You'll also want to make sure your dog's comfortable around and in the water before taking out the SUP. While you'll definitely want a PFD (pup floatation device) for your dog, it's still a good idea for them to be able to swim at least short distances.
Get the Essentials for Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Your Dog
Along with your normal SUP essentials like the paddle board itself (wide and extra sturdy solid or inflatable paddle boards are best with dogs), sun glasses, bathing suit, sun screen, life jacket, etc. you'll also want some special equipment for your dog's safety and enjoyment.
Specifically, Bourdeau recommends these main essentials:
- Doggy life jacket
- Extra treats
- Poop bags
- Rex Specs
"A lifejacket is a must," says Bourdeau. "It's much easier to pull them up on the board with the handle and a little floatation than trying to pull them up without it." Bourdeau uses a Ruffwear Float Coat life jacket because it has a comfortable design for the dog and a sleek, easy-to-grab handle.
Bourdeau always uses Rex Specs to protect his dogs' eyes from the sun and water. Because the sun reflects off the water, the glare can be extra strong and be a problem for your four legged best friend. "Yogi has pink skin around the edges of his eyes and he used to squint non-stop before we started using Rex Specs," says Bourdeau.
Tips to Hit the Water with Your Pooch
Once you've done all the leg work, it's time for the actual leg work — standing on the board! Easy to say, but in practice it can be more tricky than you think. That's why we have some practical tips for when you're actually on the board with your dog.
1. Start Short
When you hit the water with your paddle board and pup for the first time, only go out for a little bit. It'll take some time for your dog to build up the confidence and muscle stability to go out for longer and you don't want to stress your dog out on the first run.
2. Leave Toys at Home
Bourdeau says balls and toys can often just distract your dog while on the board.
3. Keep Fido in the Center
Try to have your dog sit or lay down between your legs in the center of the board. "This allows you to counterbalance any sudden movements they make much easier than if they are moving around on the end or the front of the board," says Bourdeau. If your pooch is in between your legs, it also means they're easy to grab if your dog falls or decides to jump in the water.
Once you both get the hang of paddle boarding together, you can start playing around with the best placement given the weight of your dog, but start off keeping your pup close. Later on, you can get even more advanced and add a hammock to the board for ultimate chill.
4. Use Your Best Judgement
Bourdeau says, "If it's windy, wavy or there is a fast current, think twice about taking your dog out on the water that day." Even expert paddle board pups can get in trouble if the conditions are dangerous and your dog's safety is most important.
With you and your dog on the board, the SUP will naturally be less stable, so even if it's a condition where you'd be comfortable on your own, you need to consider the weight and movements of your dog too.
5. HAVE FUN!
Stand up paddle boarding with your dog is just another way you can bring your furry best friend along for an adventure, so remember to enjoy it!