Satellite Sports Network Words

The In's and Out's of Paddling or Surfing with your Pooch

by SSN Staff

If you have spent any time researching or participating in stand up paddle boarding you have probably seen somebody paddling with their dog on the board. This is actually pretty common and easy to do.

Bryan Thatcher CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr

Bryan Thatcher CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr

What Kind of Dogs Can Stand Up Paddle Board?

Nearly any type of dog can stand up paddle board with you. It is not unheard of to see a 100 pound dog on a stand up paddle board. Really the only limitation is the dog’s personality. If the dog has too much energy to sit on a paddle board, can not follow instructions to sit or lay down, or just keeps jumping into the water it might not work out.

Choosing a Paddle Board for Paddling with Dogs

To stand up paddle board with a dog you are going to want a relatively stable board, and you are probably going to want a board that is rated for a heavier weight than you typically would use (at least if your dog is large). A large dog on a paddle board that is just barely big enough to hold your weight is going to make the board unstable.

(Photo - Ruffwear)

Do Paddle Boards Need Anything Extra to Accommodate Dogs?

You will probably want some form of traction on the front half of the paddle board to give the dog something to stand on easily. This can come in many forms. There are softtop paddle boards which have a traction pad the full length of the board. It is also possible to buy a mat with suction cups that attach to the front of the board to give your dog traction without having to buy a board with a full-length traction pad. Also, there is a variety of traction pads that you can buy separately and attach to the board like this one  and this one.

(Photo - Funfix)

An extra accessory that you will also want is a life jacket for the dog. Even if your dog is a good swimmer a life jacket will be helpful if the dog is thrown from the board by a wave and loses orientation. Life jackets are also very helpful when you are trying to give the dog a lift up onto the paddle board from the water.

Starting a Dog in Stand Up Paddle Boarding

It is best to slowly work your dog into stand up paddle boarding. Let the dog stand on the board on dry land to get comfortable with it. When you let your dog try the board on water make sure that you start with calm, shallow water like a pond or bay and then slowly work up to wavier water as the dog becomes comfortable.

Your Surf Dogs first introduction to the surfboard and water should be on a lake, bay or swimming pool. Some place where the water is calm.

(Photo Chickybus)

First, put on their CFD and wade into the water about knee deep.If they don’t just jump up onto the board, (this would be awesome) then use your ‘UP’ command.Remember, lots of enthusiastic praise!When you get them up, position them in the correct spot and just push them around!If you have a large enough surfboard or a Stand Up Paddle Board, you can paddle your dog around in the calm water on a lake or in a bay or lagoon.This is a great way to get them use to the motion and balance that will be so important later.Paddling your Surf Dog around on a Surfboard, Paddle Board, Kayak or small boat is great way to introduce your Surf Dog to all the sensations they will soon be experiencing.When you think you’ve had enough, why not swim a little with your Surf Dog?It’s great exercise for both of you and a great way to bond & build trust!After all, you will both be swimming a lot in the Ocean!There are several ways to get your dog up onto the surfboard. Some are related directly to the size of your dog. What ever method you use, find out what works for you and do the same thing every time.

(Photo - B. Cleveland)

Carry Out

This works well with small dogs, as shin deep water for you is like overhead for them.You will need to carry the surfboard under one arm and carry your Surf Dog in the other.Do Not carry them by the handle of the CFD!Ever!The handle is just for emergencies!Hold them in your arm with your hand under their chest, keeping them close to your chest.This will make them feel safe and secure.This will be very important later when you are heading out into the surf.

When you get into deeper water you may need to lift them up onto your shoulder. (Clearly this only works with smaller dogs)When you get to where you want to start surfing, place the surfboard down in the water with the nose facing away from you. (The surfboard should always be facing Perpendicular to the waves, that is, facing the waves or facing the beach. If the surfboard gets sideways, a wave will lift it and hurl it at you. Ouch!!!)Hold and steady the surfboard with one hand, then gently place your Surf Dog in the correct position on the board. (Remember, the back 1/3 of the surfboard.)Don’t forget the praise and enthusiasm!You can also carry the surfboard with the dog all ready on it out into the water! (I don't recommend this for several reasons, but if you're going to do it, do it slowly and carefully so you don't scare your Surf Dog.)

Two Paws

You lay the surfboard in shin or knee deep water. (Too shallow and the fins will dig into the Ocean floor and you will go no where!)You stand to one side and towards the back of the surfboard with the nose of the surfboard facing away from your Surf Dog. Hold and steady the surfboard with one hand. Your Surf Dog walks up and places their front two paws on the surfboard. With your free hand, place your arm under the dog’s stomach and gently lift them up onto the board. During this time don’t forget to use the ‘UP’ command. I always stand on the back, left side of the surfboard holding the board with my left hand. I use my right hand (I’m right handed and my right arm is stronger) to lift my 85 pound dog. You might do the opposite and stand on the right side. Find what works for you and do the same thing every time.

(Photo - L. Dowding)

Jump On

Ricochet shows us how it's done. With the 'Jump On' technique, you start by laying the surfboard in shin or knee deep water. You will stand to one side and towards the back of the surfboard with the nose of the surfboard facing away from your Surf Dog. Hold and steady the surfboard with one hand or the other. Your Surf Dog runs to you and jumps up onto the board. (With or without the ‘UP’ command)

Tail Dip

Bruce and his amazing Surf Dog 'Buddy' Position yourself in front of the surfboard with the surfboard between you and your Surf Dog. Holding the nose (front) of the surfboard, you lift the nose slightly and dip the tail (back of the surfboard). The idea is that your Surf Dog will walk or run right up the back of the board. This works great when you’re in shin or knee deep water. Dogs who really like to surf, love to get on their surfboards this way. If you use this technique, only do it quickly to get your Surf Dog on the board, then immediately turn around and reposition yourself on one side or the other, in the back 1/3 of the surfboard to head out into the surf.Use this technique with caution.After your Surf Dog is on the surfboard, we do not recommend going out into the surf backwards.More on this in Chapter 8, Going Out.

Deep Water

At some point when you are really comfortable in the Ocean, you might find yourself out where it’s a little deeper. (Chest deep or deeper)You will need to get your Surf Dog back up on the board. (Like after a wipeout)Getting your Surf Dog back on the surfboard in deep water is a little trickier.Depending on the weight or you Surf Dog, a little strength may be required.There are a couple of ways you can try to see what works for you.        Dip    Retrieve your surfboard. Placing your arm over the surfboard, push the tail of the board down so your Surf Dog can swim up to and on to the board. They may need a little assistance. Place you hand or arm under their stomach and gentle help them up.        Two Paws Up    Retrieve your surfboard. Hold the surfboard steady with one hand. As your Surf Dog swims up, they will place their front two paws on the board. Place you hand or arm under their stomach and gently help them up. This is more difficult than it sounds but is worth practicing!