How to Teach Your Pup to SUP

Man’s best paddling buddy? Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

How to Teach Your Pup to SUP

By: Rebecca Parsons

Paddling with a partner is much better than paddling alone. Especially when your partner is furry and has four legs.

If you've ever ventured down to your local harbor, you've probably spotted plenty of people paddling with their dogs. While it may look like a breeze, teaching your pooch to paddle can be more challenging than you think.  We've rounded up a few tips to make the training process as quick and fun as possible, for both you and your pup. –RP

Board Selection

Selecting the proper board can make or break your paddle time with your pooch. Ideally, you'll want a big board that is flat, long and wide (the bigger the dog, the bigger the board). Basically, you just need something with stability–meaning no raceboards or surf SUPs.

A chunky, all-around board such as an inflatable or foamie should do the trick. Also make sure your board has a good deck pad that runs all the way to the nose—if it doesn't, there are dog specific ones available on the market.

Dogs love paddling too. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Safety

Just like you would never paddle out without first knowing how to swim, you'll also want to check pup’s abilities in the water. While most dogs can inherently swim, there are a few exceptions. Test out your dog's swimming skills before heading out.

Once you've confirmed that Rufus can indeed swim, you'll still want to purchase a doggie life jacket. Make sure it fits snuggly and has a handle (this will make it easy to scoop him up when he falls in). Also remember to never keep your dog's leash on while paddling, as he may get entangled in it should he fall in. And as always, you should wear a leash and PFD to ensure your own safety.

Skills

Although paddling with a dog onboard isn't incredibly difficult, it is definitely an added challenge. Before taking your pup out on the water, you'll want to make sure that you are confident in your own paddling skills. This doesn't mean you need to be a pro, but you'll want to feel comfortable on a board. Once you add a pup to the mix, your balance will be compromised and you'll probably be more focused on your fur baby than yourself.

Foam boards are perfect for paddling pooches. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Dryland Practice

Before heading out on the water, introduce your dog to your board on land and allow him some time to feel comfortable on it. Invite your dog onto the board and offer him treats to make the experience a positive one. Practice "sit," "stay," and "down" on the board and reward them with treats when he successfully executes a command. Stand on the board with your pup and practice both being on the board. Once you're satisfied, it’s time to test his skills on the water.

Take It Slow

For your first time on the water, keep your paddle short and stick close to shore. Make sure you're paddling on a calm body of water like a lake or harbor. Some dogs will take to it quickly, while others will require more time.

Talk to your dog while you paddle, reassuring him that it's okay and he's doing well. If you can get your dog to sit or lay on the front of your board, it will make things easier for both of you. However, some dogs will be too excited and will stand or walk around the entire time. But that's okay too, just figure out what works for you and your dog.

Paddling with a dog takes some time to learn, but is well worth it. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Practice

Each time you paddle, your dog will feel more comfortable and confident. Don't expect too much, too fast. Slowly increase the duration of your paddle sessions as your dog's skills improve. With time, your dog will improve and before you know it, you'll have the world's best paddle partner.

Related

Canine floatation devices for your SUP pup.

Watch: Hilarious music video of a paddler and his SUP pup.