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The Complete Guide To Paddle Boarding With Dogs

The Complete Guide To Paddle Boarding With Dogs

You love to SUP, and you love your pup, so what could be better than teaching your pup to ride along on your paddle board adventures? Paddle boarding can be a great way for both you and your pooch to get exercise and enjoy time together in the great outdoors. 

If you’re thinking of taking your dog out on the water, these tips will help make teaching your dog to ride on your stand up paddle board easy, safe, and fun for both of you.

Before You Hit The Water

What You Will Need

Introducing Your Dog To The Board

Preparing To SUP With Your Dog

Getting On The Water

How To Paddleboard With Your Dog

Safety Tips

What You Will Need To Paddle Board With Your Dog

The right board

The best paddle boards for dogs are wider and longer boards because they are more stable. When you’re choosing a paddle board for you and your dog, it’s best to look at a board that is least ten feet long and 32 inches wide. Boards over ten feet long are the most stable, which makes them a good choice when you’re taking your dog along for the ride.

When choosing a board, make sure you consider your weight, as well as the weight of your dog. The larger the dog in comparison to the board, the more unstable it will be. Paddle boarding with large or multiple dogs is no problem as long as you have the right board. Part of making sure your board is pup ready is to select a board with a full deck pad for traction, like a Betty, Blend, Kona Wood, or Wahine Wood board.

A man and large dog riding on a stand up paddle board

Good surface grip

Many paddle boards may not provide much grip for your dog's paws. Get a paddle board with dog appropriate grip to make sure your buddy doesn’t go sliding off when you hit a wave. The best SUPs for dogs are boards that have a full deck pad, or at least an extended deck pad. Inflatable boards typically come with extended deck pads. If your board does not have a large enough deck pad, there are other options. Old yoga mats or bath mats with suction cups are great alternatives.

PFD (Pooch Flotation Device)

Many dogs are good swimmers, but since the paddle board adds an element that your pooch isn’t familiar with, it’s a good idea to get a life jacket. A dog jumping off a tipping paddle board could get disoriented. Put the PFD on at home to make sure it fits and so he can get used to it before going in the water.

A dog riding a stand up paddle board while wearing a life jacket

A canine companion

Don’t forget your dog! 

Introducing Your Dog to the Board

Paddle boarding can be an overwhelming experience for your dog. Things as simple as wearing a life jacket or standing on the board can increase fear if these experiences are new to him. To make the transition as smooth as possible, use these tips to introduce your dog to the sport before getting on the water.

A dog standing on a paddle board on the beach

1. Teach your dog basic commands

Before you and your dog get out on the water, make sure he has mastered basic obedience commands like “sit” and “stay”.

2. Master your paddle board

Don’t get on a SUP with your dog until you’re confident using one by yourself. You should be comfortable standing up, paddling, and turning. Make sure you can also fall and get back on from the water. Dogs will mirror your stress if you are not comfortable, and being on a stand up paddle board with a dog in tow will only make things more difficult for beginners.

3. Introduce your dog and board

Before hitting the water, introduce your dog to the board on solid ground. Put the board in an area of the house where your dog is comfortable. Allow him to sniff it, look at it, and explore it on his own terms. It’s not a problem if he doesn’t jump right on at first - it’s just there for him to get used to.

4. Put treats on and around the board

Once the board has been in the house awhile, put a treat on it to encourage your dog to walk on. Tell him to sit and give another treat. After repeating this, he should be somewhat comfortable with the board. Take it slow and don’t force him. The board should be fun for the dog. He shouldn’t feel afraid or pressured.

5. Do a dry run

When he’s comfortable, put on his life jacket and get him on the board again. If you do this several times, standing on the board with his life jacket will feel more natural. The only difference when you are out on the water will be the surroundings.

6. Practice commands for getting off the board

Before you get out on the water, practice a special command for getting off the board, and only reward him when he jumps off on command. If he gets off without the command, lead him back on the board and try again. After a while, he should get the hang of it.

7. Reward good behavior

Teach your pup to jump off the board only when commanded, and reward him with a treat or praise when he does. A lot of the time dogs get excited and jump off the board when you’re getting close to shore. This can throw you off balance and into the water, which can be more dangerous near the shore.

A dog riding on the nose of a stand up paddle board

Preparing to SUP With Your Dog

    Before paddle boarding with your dog, ensure he is comfortable swimming. If he is a weak swimmer or afraid of water, the experience will not be enjoyable. Allowing your pooch to swim on his own several times should be enough to help him get over any fears. If he just can't get used to the water on his own, consult a dog trainer for advice.
    Anyone who has ever swum near a dog knows that shorter nails are better than long, sharp ones. By keeping your dog's nails short and dull, you will minimize the chance of the finish of your board getting scratched, or your deck pad torn.
    Bring treats out on your adventure to continue rewarding good behavior. That way, if your dog likes to jump off into the water when he’s not supposed to, you can train him to be a better passenger over time.
    Play a game of fetch or go for a swim together before getting on the board to tire your dog out. Energetic dogs do not like to sit still on SUPs, which makes it hard to keep your balance. A tired dog is less likely to throw both of you into the drink.
A dog looking into the water over the edge of a paddle board

How to Paddle Board With Your Dog

  1. Have your dog stay on shore as you go out on the board. Wave to him, laugh, and smile so he knows that it is fun and not scary.
  2. Hold the board still in shallow water and allow your dog to get on. Walk the board through the shallow water and allow him to jump off if he wants.
  3. When you’re both ready, get onto the board with your dog. Start out paddling on your knees for better balance.
  4. Stand up with your dog between or at your feet. Get used to paddling without accidentally hitting him with the paddle.
  5. Small dogs can sit on the nose of the board. Once you’ve mastered keeping the paddle away from your dog, he can sit in front of you on the board. For better weight distribution and balance, large dogs can sit on the back third of the board.
  6. Keep it short the first time out. When you get back to shore, reward your dog and give him praise. It may not go perfectly the first time out, but it’s all part of the learning experience.
  7. Be prepared for your dog to jump off at any time. The board will move a lot when a large dog jumps off, and when it happens you may fall in as well. Make sure that you’re only standing on the board when in deep enough water and away from any hazards like boats or people.
  8. If your dog jumps or falls off the board, help him back on the board. This will help make sure he doesn’t scratch the board’s finish trying to get on. Life jackets will usually have handles for you to grab onto.
  9. Bring water out for both of you. If you are paddling on the ocean, your dog might try to drink the salt water. Taking in too much salt water can cause further dehydration (and other health issues). Changes in mood or behavior may be an early warning sign of salt poisoning.

Pro Tip: be patient. Not all dogs were born to ride. If it isn’t clicking, don’t force it. Getting frustrated will make the experience unenjoyable for both of you.


A small dog on SUP nose on a lake

Safety Tips For SUP’ing With Your Pup

    If you’re going for several hours, bring along a portable first aid kit. Paddle boarding should be fun and relaxing - you don’t want to be rushing back to treat injuries. First aid kits can also help you make temporary repairs to torn or damaged equipment.
    Dogs are at risk of sunburn just like humans, especially on their bellies. Some dogs have a very thin layer of fur in that area and can be burned by sunlight reflected off the water. Apply sunscreen to any exposed areas and try not to spend more than a couple hours in the sun at a time.
    Only stand on the board when in open water, away from docks, shallow water, boats, people, or any other potential hazards. This is always recommended when paddle boarding, not just when you’re with a dog. However, it is especially applicable with a pooch that could throw off your balance at any time.
    Paws and skin can be irritated by salt. After being in the water, rinse the sand and salt water off, and make sure not to neglect the ears. Ear infections can result if water is left trapped in your dog’s ears.
    If you are on the ocean, sea lice can irritate dogs and jellyfish pose a hazard for both of you. Hot sand can also harm your dog’s paws. If he is standing on the beach, try to keep your pup in the shade or even in ankle-deep water.
    We all know this, but it’s always worth remembering! In the warm weather, it can only take a matter of minutes for a dog to get heat stroke if left in a car unattended. Only have pets in the car if you’re in there with them with the windows open or air conditioning on.
A woman and dog paddle boarding on crystal clear water

Get Out On The Water!

Don’t leave your best friend on shore next time you’re out on your paddle board. If you follow these tips, you and your favorite four-legged friend will be ready for epic adventures on the water together.

Have a suggestion we missed, or a great picture of you and your dog stand up paddle boarding? Comment below, or email us at info@cruisersup.com