You’ve got a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and you’ve got a dog. You’ve seen the pictures of dogs riding with people, but you’re not really sure where to start . . .
I’m certainly not an expert on how it goes with all dogs, but I can give a few tips based on our experience with Paz (three things to know about Paz: she’s small — 7 pounds — 9 years old and loves riding on the bow of the dinghy).
First off, I haven’t yet heard of a dog that didn’t love going for paddleboard rides. I’m sure there probably are a few, but chances are that your dog will enjoy it.
As Paz and I ended our first little ride, I put her on the dock then cleated the bow line off. By the time I had that done, Paz had jumped back onto the board with me. Yeah, I think she liked it.
- Be comfortable on the paddleboard yourself before taking your dog. You don’t have to be expert, just comfortable and not wobbly or falling.
- Pick the right day for the first ride: calm — even glassy — water that’s not cold. If possible, stay in water that’s shallow enough for you to stand up in so that if you fall it’s easy for you to stand up and help your dog.
- Your dog should wear a life jacket that fits and he/she is comfortable in.
- We put a leash on Paz but don’t hold it or tie it to anything. Should she fall in or the whole board capsize, it’s much easier to grab the leash than to get to her. We don’t tie it on, however, to lessen the chance of it tangling.
- Always wear a tether (board leash) to attach the board to yourself. If you capsize, you’re going to be dealing with the dog first and don’t want the board getting away from you!
- Remember that getting on the board the first time is going to be a little scary to most dogs — the board is less stable the the dinghy or your boat.
- As you talk to your dog, keep your voice calm and cheerful. Make getting the board ready and getting on it seem fun. Be reassuring.
- For at least the first ride, it helps for you to get on first so that the dog isn’t by him/herself initially.
- Most dogs have to be lifted on the first time. Paz now jumps on about half the time and the other half asks for help but definitely wants to get on.
- Since the board gets more stable as you start moving, begin paddling as soon as practical.
- Kneel (butt on your heels) to paddle initially — the lower center of balance will make the board more stable and you’ll be right near the dog. For the first few minutes, Paz just sat between my knees and didn’t move an inch. I kept talking to her.
- As you switch which side you’re paddling on, be careful not to hit your dog with the paddle or drip water on his/her head.
- Once it was apparent that Paz was comfortable (looking around,walking on the board, lying down — you’ll know), I began kneeling more upright to paddle, then stood up.
- The big thing is to make sure the dog is comfortable and confident at each stage before moving on to something tippier. Some dogs take to paddleboarding very quickly — almost instantly — while others take a little more time. Trust your instinct.
- As you return to the boat or dock, be careful to approach slowly so that you don’t bump hard and make your dog fall. I find it’s much easier if I kneel down before I get to the dock/boat so that I’m more stable, too!
Paz is now known on the lake for Hanging 10 — yep, she loves to walk out right to the very tip of the boat and just stand there as if she’s queen of the world!
A couple of final notes:
DOGGIE LIFE JACKET: Obviously, you don’t want an inflatable one for SUP-ing. This is one of those things that’s tough to buy online. You really need to take your dog into the store to get one that fits, is comfortable and is right for your breed. Make sure it has a way to stay fastened as the dog moves around — one of the problems with Paz’s old one was that the zipper tended to come unzipped and didn’t have a strap to hold it closed. Duct tape held it on until we got a new PFD for her.
OUR BOARD: Our board is the 14′ Tower Xplorer Inflatable SUP. Tower also makes a 9′ 10″ inflatable board. I’ve had questions about whether “inflatable” means that it’s a toy — no, it’s built similarly to an inflatable dinghy and are very rigid and durable. If you’re interested in one, click here to go to the Tower website.(Update: I now have the shorter Tower board as it fits better on the side deck of our boat.)
BOARD LEASH: Typical surfboard leashes aren’t long enough for the greater length of SUPs, particularly if you get the longer 14′ “racing” board. We have a FCS leash that velcros around an ankle and both of us find it comfortable and easy to use. The best price I could find on it is through Amazon : FCS Racing SUP Ankle Leash.