SUP-er Dogs

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.

My tips:

  • 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.

Have fun!

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  • Anne Showalter Mueller
    Posted at 11 June 2014 Reply

    My 13 year-old shih tzu Pucci has been paddling for about 6 years.

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 11 June 2014 Reply

    My dog was a natural at balancing on a surfboard. She would have loved a stand up board with her person.

  • Barbara Gray
    Posted at 11 June 2014 Reply

    Our peke prefers the bow of my kayak. The towel is her cooler for the hot Mexican sun.

  • Tracey Quinn Kefford
    Posted at 11 June 2014 Reply

    Nice paddle board…. I’ve got the same board, just working on getting the dog ! Lol

  • Heather Drost
    Posted at 11 June 2014 Reply

    You just gave me incentive to finally get my board blown up!

  • babblegupper
    Posted at 11 June 2014 Reply

    My girlfriend took our dog for a paddle ride the other day. As you said, the dog was incredibly scared at first. Took few attempts to get her on the board first place. Anyhow still didn’t manage to actually stand on the board while dog was lying down still – had to hold her down all the time. Here are the pics of that epic failure

  • Jody - Where The Coconuts Grow
    Posted at 13 June 2014 Reply

    Hi Carolyn! Great article as always 🙂
    Betsy loves riding on our Tower iSUP too!
    Maybe our review of a few doggy lifejackets will be helpful when deciding on a new one for Paz:
    We also have some really cool floating leashes for Betsy and Gunner that will NOT tangle: They come in lots of colors, lengths and diameters with free personalization text too!
    Where The Coconuts Grow
    S/V Mary Christine

  • Heather Drost
    Posted at 11 July 2014 Reply

    Mine loves it too!

  • Kimberly Young
    Posted at 11 July 2014 Reply

    Oliver loves SUPing too! >> Lahowind

  • Elizabeth Aristeguieta
    Posted at 12 July 2014 Reply

    Glad you’re better Carolyn.

  • Donna Fisher Szabo
    Posted at 12 July 2014 Reply

    Glad to hear you’re doing better! Wonder who is happier – You or Paz? 🙂 Happy SUPing!!

  • Lisa Kelly
    Posted at 15 May 2015 Reply

    So glad to hear Paz is getting back to normal. I have a Chihuahua and I am worried when a large dog gets near Zorro. Where di Yuri ou get the back pack for her. I love it . Mt dog would live it too.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 16 May 2015 Reply

      The backpack that we have is made by Casual Canine, and I can’t find it being sold anywhere now. I don’t like their new ones as they don’t have nearly as much ventilation.

      These carriers from Pet2Go are very similar:

      One thing we learned: Add a towel or small blanket in the bottom for your dog to sit/lie on. It’s not padded and is uncomfortable otherwise. Also, while it is wheeled for you to pull like a suitcase, Paz at least HATES when we try to roll it. But she loves when it’s a backpack. It doubles as an airline carrier for her.

  • Gimme Shelter
    Posted at 16 November 2015 Reply

    Paz seems to be braver and a lot less old and grumpy than Tex.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 17 November 2015 Reply

      She definitely sleeps more than she used to, but she’s still pretty interested in exploring and trying new things.

  • SV Belle Ile
    Posted at 05 June 2016 Reply

    What brand of doggie life jacket is your baby wearing?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 05 June 2016 Reply

      I think it’s Outward Hound . . . for some reason there is absolutely no name on it. I do know that we bought it at PetSmart and it looks a lot like the Outward Hound ones they are currently showing (except that the new ones have the name very prominently). We took Paz to the store and must have tried on a half dozen before finding one that really fit well and she seemed comfortable in! This is one of those things that I think you just can’t buy online — you have to try them on.

    • SV Belle Ile
      Posted at 05 June 2016 Reply

      Thanks. Stella outgrew her first on and we bought the second one from West Marine. She will not move with it on.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 05 June 2016 Reply

      Oops, I just realized that I was looking at Paz’s current PFD and the pic is her old one . . .that was a brand called “Fido Float” and I think we got it in 2005 — don’t remember where. The new one, which fits much better, is the one from PetSmart. When we bought it, we made her walk around in the store with it on to make sure she liked it.

  • Barb Manning Kappe
    Posted at 06 June 2016 Reply

    Our Aussies love the paddle board

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