What to expect:
When paddling with your dog, not only do you have to keep your balance, you have to counter balance with your dog’s weight/size. Some dogs will stay on the board almost the whole time and relax and some will want to go swimming! It just depends on your dog, but typically you want them to choose one or the other for safety. It’s recommended to try paddling first without your dog so you can get the motion of paddling, especially if you’re not sure how your dog will be, but be prepared your first time you’ll probably go for a dip in the water!
If you have a higher energy dog you may want to take a walk or play fetch before getting your dog on the board.
How to Prepare
So you probably don’t have access to a paddle board until you arrive, but there’s a few things to help mimic the movement on water. Wobble boards are great for to work on their body awareness by rocking back and forth. Any type of stability equipment like balance disc lined up and having them walk across. If you don’t have access to any of those you can even use couch cushions/pillows lined up on the ground and have them walk over. Those will all help build up their stabilizer muscles. You may want to practice with them!
A solid sit and stay is also essential before starting. Typically when getting ready to push off the shore and start your adventure it’s wise for you to start sitting down with your dog in a sit & stay in between your legs in the center of the board. This will give you a solid foundation. From there you can then adjust to standing on to your knees or feet and if your dog would like to stand up too. Ideally you want your dog to realize there’s water around them and know how big the board is so they don’t pace back and forth and hopefully relax or go swimming. If you think your dog is going to jump in, you may want to sit on the board for more support.
Another training exercise is targeting. You can practice them getting on and standing on a balance disc/pillow and holding, then release and repeat.
What to Bring:
- Towel for afterwards to dry off or for wet paws in the car
- If you wear glasses, an eyeglass strap is recommended
- Water for you and your dog and water bowl (you may want to freeze a bottle as it will probably melt quickly if it’s hot out)
- LIFE JACKET FOR YOUR DOG & YOURSELF
- Sunglasses/Hat (that you don’t mind losing if they fall off)
- Waterproof camera case neck holder – if you’re bringing your phone for pictures.
- Drawstring backpack or fanny pack- to hold keys, etc. If you don’t want to wear it, most boards have a elastic tie to secure things you may want to attach it with a carabiner for extra security or your sup instructor may have a box to hold the group’s car keys.
The lighter your load on your board, the better as less chance of things getting lost or damaged and don’t leave valuables in your car for less chance of getting broken into while you’re on the board. You might consider putting some sunscreen on your dog as well, especially if you have a lighter skin dog with short hair. Be mindful of the sun and the temperatures. That not only includes the time on the board, but before and after. While on the board splash some water on them and on the board to help keep them cool.
What to Wear:
- Life Jacket for your dog
- A Personal Flotation Device for you
- Barefoot or water shoes
- Swimsuit or clothes you don’t mind getting wet
- Sunglasses and/or Hat
A life jacket for you dog is a must even if they’re strong swimmers. Why? There’s a few reasons, one is it is so much easier to pick them up by the handle to get them back on the board because chances are your dog will go for a swim. Then of course safety, even strong swimmers can get tired and they may take in too much water “dry drowning” so the jacket helps keep them above water.
I personally like to wear short shorts and a tank top or long sleeves to avoid getting sun because I have fair skin. A dog new to paddling may become scared and scratch you while trying to get back on the board so you may want to wear long sleeves for that reason.
If you wear glasses/sunglasses a strap is recommended so you don’t lose them if you fall in. Same goes with a hat, wear one you don’t mind losing.
Depends on where you’re paddling at, but water shoes might be a good investment. I normally go barefoot and leave my sandals on land, but I plan on buying me a pair for the next time. The rocks walking up to the board aren’t that comfortable on my feet and there could be fish hooks around…. which is also good to scope the area first to help protect your dog’s paws as well.
Dog Leash or No Dog Leash?
Again this depends on your dog and their recall. I personally like to use no leash. Mainly so it doesn’t get tangled in their legs if they jump off. If you’re using a leash just make sure the leash stays above the water so there’s no chance of getting caught up and adjust accordingly if using a long lead. I do keep a slip lead in my pocket though just in case while loading and unloading back to the car. You’ll learn your preference for what works best for you and your dog the more you paddle.
Make sure to reward them with praise! It’s a new, fun experience and you’ll probably want to do it again because it’s so much fun to do during the summer! Also they probably will need a potty break or run around after being on the board and before the car ride back home. After paddling rinse your dog’s coat especially if you’ve been in salty water. I always plan accordingly to give my dog a bath when we get home or by the next day to get any sand, dirt and lake water off their hair. You may call your groomer in advanced to already schedule their appointment if you’re not comfortable bathing them yourself. If you’re dog did a lot of swimming you might want to massage them the next couple days to help with any soreness…. even the dogs who stayed on the board may be stiff as well…. you may be tight too! Typically people get sore in their lower back, legs and shoulders so make sure to stretch and stay hydrated!
Keep your dog up to date on their heart-worm and flea/tick medication and make sure the water you’ll be on is safe:
- No blue-algae water, very toxic and fatal
- Animals like alligators, jelly fish, etc.
- water intoxication
In case of an emergency it’s best to know where the nearest emergency vet hospital is beforehand and if you were to be injured someone to watch your dog.