A paddle board can be a lifelong investment for both you and your pup. This activity combines extensive exercise with a new way to discover lakes and oceans. Take your dog along for the ride, but first check out these 7 critical tips before starting to paddle board with your pup.
#1: Master Dry Land First
Get started on dry land first by having your pup stand, sit, stay, and lay down on the board while giving lots of praise and love. Begin to establish a word for getting on and off the board. I personally use; “board” for getting on and “off” for exiting. Do this as many times as it takes to ensure that your pup is familiar and comfortable on the board.
#2: Have Board Confidence
Yes, paddle boarding is awesome for those who have already tried it! If you’re new to it, it isn’t as simple as buying a board and throwing your dog and yourself onto it. Board confidence is key – you must feel confident in order for your pup to have confidence, as well. Get a few lessons from a professional and get yourself paired up with the right board. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of navigation, paddling forwards and backwards, and feeling balanced on the board. It’s harder than you think!
#3: Practice Basic Commands
Paddling can be an exhilarating exercise for you and your dog both mentally and physically. In order to really enjoy the bond on the board, your pup should have a solid understanding of their basic commands. This means they have already mastered the art of sit, stay and down. With dogs, you always need to expect the unexpected. You never know what you might come across on the board that could spook your pup or get them excited (the water is full of birds, boats, people and other dogs!). Confidently knowing you can redirect your pup when something pops up gives you peace of mind and may just save you from a nose dive off the board.
#4: Have Water Confidence
You must love the water and feel comfortable in it. This may seem like a funny piece of advice, but you would be surprised how many people don't think they are going to get wet on a paddle board. You are going to get wet and you will likely fall off on more than one occasion, and so will your dog. Make sure you are confident when you do fall, this is where the importance of board confidence and basic command confidence comes into play. It sets you up for success when you do get wet and ensures your pup doesn’t get stressed out in the water.
#5: Invest in a Dog Life Jacket
Every paddling pup needs to wear a proper fitted life jacket with a handle built in on the back. Even with the most accomplished four legged swimmers, a life jacket is a necessity. When you fall off, the life jacket allows your pup to safely stay afloat while you get yourself back on the board. The handle provides leverage and support so you can easily pull your pup back on. Don’t paddle without one!
#6: Try a Test Run at the Beach
The best place to drop in is at a beach. This allows you to let your dog get comfortable on dry land with a gradual intro to the water, compared to a dock. Wade in with your board and practice calling your pup on and off. Let them get used to the movement under their feet now that water has been added to the equation. When you are ready have them sit in the center of the board where there is the most stability. With them staying in a ‘sit’ or ‘down’, push off and mount your board in a seated or kneeling position. Take your time getting comfortable here first and stay close to shore. Only when you feel in control and confident stand up and begin. Keep that core engaged you will need it for extra stabilization!
#7: Practice, Practice, Practice
Let the ultimate bond of paddling with your pup begin. Enjoy it, take it all in and have fun!
Marisa Pavan is the Founder & Canine Nutritionist of a Rawco, a raw dog food company from Ontario, Canada. She is a dog trainer and also owns a “open concept” pet resort where she specializes in pack work. When she is not in a pack of 40 dogs or giving nutritional consults you can find her on her paddle board with her pitbull Otis.