There are two things I love in this world, paddleboarding, and my dogs! Why not combine the two? Paddleboarding can be a great way for you and your furry friend to spend quality time together. There are a few simple things you can do to see if it is the right fit for your best bud!
Get your dog used to the water. There are a million places you can take your pup to get acquainted with the bay. San Diego is super dog-friendly and offers a huge array of places for fido to learn to swim! My pups LOVE Dog Beach, located in Ocean Beach, and Fiesta Island located in Pacific Beach! Make it fun, bring a ball or favorite toy, and go play in the bay or ocean with your dog to build up trust and confidence. Swimming is a great way to exercise your pup without putting pressure on their joints!
The next thing you will need once you make sure your pup likes getting his feet wet. Also if you have a certain breed that is more of a sinker than a swimmer, then you need a doggy life vest. These are very important! Please don’t skip this! Any pet store can help you make sure that your dog has the right size and fit! You will want to make sure the vest fits snug, but not tight enough that it leaves rash marks and has a handle on the top portion of the vest. The vest may take some time to get used to, so reward them with a treat when you put it on them. Now my pups understand that when they see the vest this means it's a fun time!!!!!
Now we move on to getting them used to the board. This may take a little time, but if you make it a rewarding experience you will have a SUP pup in no time. Grab your board, and lay it out on the ground without the fin on it with the deck side up. Then, take a seat on your board and invite your doggo to climb up there with you. Offer a treat when they get up on it. They will start to learn that the board is a positive place to be and pretty soon you won't be able to keep them off your board lol.
Time to take them for a test SUP! Grab your pup, a leash, their vest, and head off to a dog-friendly place to launch. Don’t forget the treats as a reward! Before you launch, make sure the conditions are good and you have let someone know you and your bestie are paddling, where you are paddling, and when you plan on returning (you can find more tips on our "10 Ways To Stay Safe On The Water" blog). Put your board in the water and invite your pup on the board. This will take a little time and a few tries because you are now in the water. Just remember patience and positive reinforcement are essential. Once your pup is on the board, reward them with a treat or some pets! Depending on your dog's comfort level at this point, you can start your paddle, or just hang close to shore to keep working on PAWSITIVE reinforcement.
Placing your dog in the right spot is also very important, especially if you have a big dog, you want to make sure the weight is distributed equally. I always put my shepherd and my golden in front of me on my board and I sit back a little. This also means I can keep a better eye on them and everything around me. For the first couple of paddles, I would suggest kneeling or sitting, just in case they decide to move around or jump off as this can easily knock you off your board too. Both of my boys LOVE to jump off and go for a swim and that is totally ok by me. It is actually a lot easier than you may think to get them back on the board. The key is to bring them to the center of the board and use the handle on top of the life vest to pull them back on.
If you want to keep them on the board, that is fine too. Whatever you are comfortable with. Just remember this is all about you both having an enjoyable experience. So make it fun! Follow these 4 simple tips and you should have a paddle boarding doggo in no time!