Teaching your dog to paddle board can take a lot of effort, time, and love. But paddle boarding with your dog can be one of the most adventurous and memorable experiences for both you and your pup.
In this guide, we will walk you through how to train your dog for SUP boarding, the experience when you are finally out on the water, and some pitfalls and how to deal with them with your pup together. We will also link to other resources such as blog posts and videos to help you improve your paddle board experience with your furry pal.
What It Takes to For Your Pet to Become Comfortable with Paddleboarding
1. Taking Your Time is Important
We all know too well how your pet loves you unconditionally. Taking the time to help them develop good behaviors and listen to commands is important. Especially when they are excited and frisky to be out in the open water. Being patient and thinking about the long term will ease the frustration of small failures. It will also make it enjoyable when you both succeed through each step of the training.
2. Positive Reinforcement is Necessary
Dog training 101 states the need for positive reinforcement for developing good behavior. Your pet can be comfortable with paddleboarding if you can tell them they are a good boy or girl, receive treats for positive progress to a desired behavior, and gesture in ways to let them know they are doing the right things. Sweet talk your dog and pet them frequently, especially when they make eye contact and stay still on the board until you command otherwise. Your pet will learn, love, and enjoy paddleboarding in no time.
3. You Can’t Force Your Dog Into Liking It
Dead ends can happen. There will be cases when a dog does not like water, or want to be around water. Knowing when you have tried everything to make your pup comfortable and when you are forcing it is important. As much as we want our pets to enjoy the water the way we do, sometimes it isn’t happening. At least, in the time frame you want them to be comfortable within. There is always another day to build trust!
The Step-By-Step Guide on Teaching Your Dog to Paddle Board
If you want a video breakdown of how to teach your dog to paddle board, we posted the two-part YouTube videos by Chris De Aboitez from SUP DOG OZ on how to train your pet. The series is 9-minutes long and is worth the watch. Read on for more details on the step-by-step process.
1. Getting Familiar with The Area – Letting Your Pup Explore The Shoreline
For first time puppers at new bodies of water, letting them explore the shoreline will help familiarize them with the area. This will make it easier for them to get comfortable with the paddle board and being on the board when it is out in the water.
Let your pet explore on their own or walk around with them on a leash. Going a little further than usual will help them with their curiosity so it doesn’t become overbearing when they are on the board. The bit of exercise help reduce excessive movement that might throw the two of you off the paddle board.
2. Starting Off with Comfort To The Board – Walking On and Off and Around
Whether your dog is new to paddle boards or have had trouble in the past, the goal is to get them comfortable around the board they will eventually be on. Keep them on a short leash and walk with them back and forth over the paddle board. You may notice them curious about the board and sniff it. Other times, they may want to avoid the board entirely and that’s OK. We want them to get used to the paddle board until they can walk over it like a stepping stone.
3. Building Trust and Familiarity with Command – Teaching Your Pup to Sit, Lay Down, and Stay On Board
On this step, we work on teaching your pet to stay still on the board. This training will be useful when you are on the paddle board out in the water. The last thing we want is for your pet to hop off unexpectedly, throwing you off balance.
Your pet might wander and follow you off the board. Adjust their body and command them to stay. Then give them a treat for waiting patiently.
Walk around them a few times. Hop on and off the board. They should stay seated on the paddle board until you are confident they are waiting for your command.
4. Starting Slow – Paddling While Kneeling With Your Dog Close
Now that your pet is comfortable being on the paddle board, you can try for the water. Kneeling down with your pet between your legs can help reassure them that everything is fine. Keep the leash attached to your pet, and use your knees and feet to hang onto it. Be sure not to make it too tight.
With your back to the water, you can use your paddle to push off from the shoreline. Practice switching your paddle from side to side so you don’t hit your pet. Then, when you are ready, you can stand up with confidence.
Stay close to shore in case something unexpected happens. You can paddler further from the shore when your pet is visibly comfortable and enjoying the scene.
5. Rinse and Repeat – Standing Up And Going Back to Shore
It’s time to get rid of the leash, and make mistakes. Your pet will know what you want after some practice and feedback from you. You can paddle some distance from the shoreline and take your time. Keep a close watch to how your pet behaves, and if you notice any behavior that isn’t safe for the two of you, be sure to let them know.
We will be excited for the two of you becoming comfortable around the water and on the paddle board!
Note: We want to get rid of the leash for safety hazards in case your pet falls off and be strangled by it.
6. Enjoying The Ride – Treats, Verbal Cues, and Gestures of Appreciation and Love
Congratulations! You’ve done everything you can to train your pet. From here on, it’s all about enjoying the ride. There might be occasional incidents so sometimes you will revisit SUP training with your pup. And that’s okay.
Continue to use treats for training them to do things the safest way. Use verbal cues for climbing on the board, off the board, and while on board. And be sure to gesture and pet them for looking up to you and listening to your commands. Also, for having a great time!
A Great Two-Part Series on How to Put Your Dog On A SUP
Chris De Aboitez from YouTube Channel SUP DOG OZ created a great video content on training your dog. During the 9 minutes, he demonstrates how to train your pet to become comfortable each step of the way, and then trains someone else to do the same. If you have the time, it’s definitely a great to watch and notice how he teaches the pups on the show.
Some Challenges You Can Expect When Training Your Dog For SUP Boarding
Wandering Pup On Board
Your dog may wander around a lot, and this isn’t if left unchecked. Walking around causes imbalances and might throw both of you off the board. This will take practice close to the shoreline, but training your dog to sit and remain still when you command them to will make the experience much more pleasant.
They can look and turn their heads, but avoid letting them wander around. Don’t forget to give them a treat for their good behavior!
Pup Hopping Off the Board
This is similar to wandering around on the board. A common behavior is for pets to hop off the board when you approach the shoreline. This can throw your balance off. We also don’t want this to happen when you are out in the open water far away from the shore, so training to get rid of this behavior is important.
The best way is to stay at the shoreline. Train your pet to stay on the board. Try to hold the back from jumping. Tug their leash when you notice your pup is about to hop off. You can do this by dissuading the moment they get up from a sit position, and then practicing to wander around them. While out of the water, and then when you are in shallow water. Use your paddle if they wander to the nose of your board, as if they are about to hop off.
You will notice over time your pet will look at you for some signal. A unique gesture is perfect. Pet them for looking at you. Then, treat them to reinforce good behavior for staying still until you give them a command. They are working just as hard to understand you, too!
How to Help Your Pup When Falling Overboard
Dogs may wander around a lot, so a more stable paddle board is best. Your pet might be uncomfortable at first, so a lot of training and love is needed to get them used to standing on a paddle board and swimming in the water. However, even with the most stable of boards, your pet might find themselves overboard. Remaining calm and focused on the problem at hand will help you pull them up properly without causing a panic.
Most life jackets for dogs have handles at the top. Never grab your dog by their collar, but by the handles of the life jacket. The collar will choke them and make the experience unpleasant while the handles will lift them from their bottom. Wearing the right lift jacket for your dog will keep them safe from drowning and make it easier to lift them back on top of the board.
Scratches and Dings on Your Board
Dog claws can be an issue for inflatable paddle boards, so a traction pad for your deck is needed for your pet’s grip and sharp claws. If you aren’t using an inflatable, then you still might want a deck grip pad to prevent scratches and shredding up your new board. Foam and hard boards made from epoxy, carbon fiber, or fiberglass are susceptible to scratches. Paint can also scratch off over time, too. Repairing them is essential to prevent water from entering the board. Here is a video by Jimmy Blakeney from BIC Sport demonstrating how to repair a hole in a foam board:
Preparing to SUP Board with Your Dog
The Essentials Checklist
- A decent personal flotation device for you and your pup
- A great paddle board for dogs
- Paddle and ankle leash
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, water shoes if necessary
- Yummy treats for your pet
- A dry towel for later along with…
- A dry bag for your personal items (wallets, keys, phone, water bottle to stay hydrated)
Safety is a priority. Owning the right adjustable life jacket for yourself and your dog can save you during tough times. The right life jacket for your dog will fit snug to keep the afloat even during exhaustion or injury, and will give you handles to pull them back on board when they fall off.
If you don’t have one already, owning a suitable paddle board for your pet can make a huge difference in the early moments of paddleboarding. We wrote more in our guide on paddle boards for dogs, so here is the gist of what you want to look out for:
- It can support the extra weight of your pup, which is especially important for breeds over 100 pounds
- There is a great degree of traction to prevent your dog from slipping during paddling, with a traction pad preferably, and
- Lots of deck space is available for both equipment and for your pup to curiously wander around on during quiet times
As for the rest of the items, they should help make paddleboarding much more comfortable and easier for the both of you. You can use treats to reinforce good behavior from time to time.
Our Closing Thoughts
Paddle board adventures with your pet is a rewarding experience. You get to bond over exploration and fun on the water. First and foremost, is properly training your pet to behave in ways that helps the both of you. In this guide, we look at what it takes to train your dog to be comfortable with paddleboarding, a step-by-step guide from getting comfortable with the board and finally paddling away, video demonstrations on how to command each step, and an essentials checklist for preparing to SUP board with your pup. We hope this guide helps get you started on paddleboarding with your dog, and that you and your pet enjoy the experience as much as it was for us to write this guide.
If you need a recommendation, we highly recommend choosing the best stand up paddle boards for dogs. They are easy to inflate, carry, and don’t require a lot of space for storing. The material is also highly durable, bouncing off rocks and logs without problems. The more modern PVC is also strong against dog claws, so puncture is unlikely. The large deck space and no-slip surface also helps with balance and shaky dog legs.