Dog lovers want to share everything with their fur-babies, their love, their food, their beds, and of course, their hobbies! Stand Up Paddle boarding can be an amazing time to bond with your dog, and your Instagram page is just not complete without a funny picture on the turquoise water on a blue sky sunny day of your sup pup standing on the front of your board, tail wagging and tongue hanging out in a goofy grin! This is the image a lot of dog owners go out with, rent a board for the day, or take their dog along for the maiden voyage with their proud new first board, and disaster ensues. I have seen and heard of such disasters where a dog lover and their pup take off into the blue yonder and then a slight wave comes, wobbles the board, the dog jumps off, the board tips, the human falls off ass over tea-kettle, the board shoots away, the dog is scared and books it to shore, the human has lot their paddle and panics, unleashes themselves from the board and swims after their dog who is a much better swimmer and has already made it to shore where they are shaking water all over upset passerby’s and the Stand Up Paddle boarder is in limbo with no board, no paddle, no dog, and no dignity.
Don’t let this happen to you! Be prepared with all the foresight and practice to have a successful first outing with the guidance of an expert SUP instructor/Fitness instructor PLUS an expert Dog Agility and Sport Trainer/ SUP with Pupper, who can not only make your experience more like that first perfect insta-pic, but also Take that perfect picture for you 😊
The Most Important things to Consider when Paddle boarding with your Pooch
Your faithful friend counts on YOU to be the Alpha, in charge, confident in your skills and able to care for them. So, on a paddle board, are you? Do you have confidence in your skills and abilities? If you are generally good at things and are generally coordinated and you feel like this will just be another fun thing to do with your dog and with the right support, this clinic will help it be a fun, successful introduction and a great way to meet new paddling partners! If however, your gut instinct has you questioning your ability, you don't want your perceptive pup to share in your self doubt- It is best to take an introductory SUP lesson and get a handle on your own skills so you and your furry friend will have a Pawsitive experience :)
Paddle Boarding is an active sport, standing on a mobile surface, moving through the fluid bumps and turns takes a lot of core engagement and taps into muscles that you may not regularly use. This is a great thing for you, but did your pupper know exactly what you are signing them up for? If your dog is more of a couch potato and does not usually engage in core activation training, exercise some compassion for your canine companion and allow them to sit or lay and understand if they have had enough for one day. It is always a good practice to leave the fans wanting more!
Your dog might be a good boy, but they are not a good Bouy. One question I hear a lot about SUP with Pups is, "Should I leash my Dog to the Board"? The answer is you should put a leash on your dog, but DO NOT tie it to the board. You can tuck the end of the slack leash under your knee when you get started and use it to correct your dog should they get up from the position you ask them to stay in. If you do topple your board, you do not want your pup to panic if they are unable to swim free, or even worse, get struck by the board or tangled in your SUP leash. Psychologically, wearing the leash also puts your dog into a 'working' mindset, vs a 'freeplay' mindset, helping them to readily obey your command to keep them safe in this new endeavor.
You may wonder, how much gear/accessories do you really need? Remember that commercial "You can breathe without a tic-tac, but I wouldn't recommend it"? There is the very basic requirement of having a Paddle Board and a Paddle if you want to Stand Up Paddleboard, a Dog if you want to SUP with your Pup, and a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) plus a whistle if you want to satisfy the Transport Canada regulation and avoid a fine. Any responsible SUP enthusiast and instructor would also encourage you to wear your SUP leash to avoid losing your board should you fall- it can sometimes shoot away from you at a weird angle and be a hazard to folks nearby, or float away in current or blow away in a breeze. Swimming after a lost board, especially with a paddle in your hand can be exhausting, even if wearing your PFD. Imagine also worrying about your best friend in the water while your paddle goes one way and your board the other? SeaGods SUP always includes the leash with our boards, because we want you to have fun and play safe. Now how about Fido's leash? There are tons of floating leashes on the market, and this is a nice touch if you want to spend the money, it is usually softer for under the knee at least, but not necessary. Do you need a Life Jacket for Fido? It is not regulated by Transport Canada the same way yours is (You don't have to wear it, just have it on the board) but whatever your reasons are to protect your life with your PFD (or not) you can extend that coverage to your loyal companion who may or may not be a confident swimmer. Personally, I always put a life jacket on my little miniature schnauzer Sasha, because she liked it and had more fun toodling around in the lake when her beard stayed dry- plus the handle on the back was super convenient way to lift her out of the water without getting scratched by her paddling paws. Deck pads for dogs- the deck of a hardboard can be slippery, especially to fur and nails. You can buy a custom pad with your dog's face surrounded by their favorite treats printed on it! All it takes is time and money- No jokes, if you want this to stick to the deck of your hardboard I can do it for you for a measly $300. An alternative to adding a pad to the nose is keeping your dog on the padded area around your feet where they won't slip. Other options are to use good ol' fashioned surf wax on the nose, (ugly but effective) or a suction cup tub mat (also ugly but effective). Otherwise, an iSUP is the best bet for letting your pup explore the board, once your skills are ready for the extra challenge of added motion on the board.
What to wear, what to wear... It does not really matter exactly what you wear as long as you stay in the guideline of willing to get wet. If paddling from shore, you will have to walk your board out at least a little deeper than your fin ( usually 9 inches long), so be prepared to get wet up to your knees. You can wear anything from a bikini/banana hammock to a wet suit or dry suit! I usually go in my swim suit and running shorts when it is hot and 3/4 length yoga pants and a rash guard when it is a bit cool. In the winter I wear a 3mm wet suit with gloves and booties. But, you wear whatever makes you comfortable, as long as you are prepared to get wet.
Have Fun, but Play Safe! Everything is more fun with a friend, especially when that friend has four legs! Safety comes in numbers however, and having another person to paddle out beside you is reassuring and great backup. Check the conditions, the weather forecast for wind, the local currents and tidal exchanges, have local knowledge of the area you are paddling, be aware of boat traffic, underwater obstacles and rip tides.
The best thing you can be is prepared. Prepared to have a great time, meet new friends, learn new skills and get some great pictures to post!