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How I SUP with my dog (and CAT!)

Jenny Buckley |

A blog written by the amazing Amber. She regularly paddles with her dog and more surprisingly, her cat, Ollie. In this weeks guest blog Amber chats to us about how she paddles with her pets. Take it away Amber…

If you’re like me then your dog is your best adventure companion. Paddleboarding is a great away to get outside with your dog, explore lakes, ponds, and rivers, and to keep cool over the warmer months. It is also an amazing way to still have your senior dogs included in your adventures. My dog, Ariel, loves to able to relax on our board, watch the sunset out on a lake, and being able to hitch a ride to backcountry lakeside camping spots! It has made her senior years full of fun adventures and has given us a way to explore so many new places together. Her best friend, my cat Ollie, also joins in too! He is more like a dog than a cat, loves to be included, and oddly enough loves the water.

If you’re wondering how to get started with paddling with your dog— here are some tips below!

Recommended gear:

  • Treats!
  • Floating toys
  • Lifejacket
  • Dry bag
  • Sunscreen
  • Bluefin SUP

Training begins before the water

Prior to even launching your board into the water, you should get your pup accustomed to it on land.

Always have treats ready and a positive attitude- SUPing should be a fun experience for you and your dog. Every time your dog shows any interest in the board you should reward them with a treat. Next, have them sit on the board and then go through other basic obedience commands such as lay down and stay. If your dog knows any fun party tricks you can practice them as well! You can next try sitting and standing on the board with them. Your dog should be rewarded with their favourite treats and this should be a fun way to correlate the paddleboard with positivity!

Get your dog an appropriately sized lifejacket with a handle

Just like us, your pet should also have their own PFD. A lifejacket with a handle can literally be a lifesaver. If your dog falls off or just enjoys jumping off to swim, the jacket will keep them afloat and the handle will help you assist them back on the board.

I can’t recommend enough practising recall each and every day. A strong recall is essential in case your dog ends up in the water… some have the instinct to swim to land rather than back to the board.

Get your dog used to wearing their lifejacket outside of the water and reward them with treats as you’re putting it on.

Exercise prior to paddling and plan to take breaks onshore

If you have an energetic dog, exercising them prior to paddleboarding may help your ride go more smoothly. You can take them for a walk, hike, or run before hitting the water. If your dog loves swimming, bringing a floaty toy to have them play fetch with before you launch is a great way to burn some energy as well! Plan to make stops along your paddle to let them stretch their legs or get some time in swimming. 

Keep it short and sweet to start!

Your first few excursions should be short and sweet! Have your treats easily accessible to reward your dog throughout the paddle from beginning to end. A fanny pack is a great way to have treats ready to dish out! When you are first getting on the board, have its nose towards the shore and reward your dog with a treat when they get on. It helps if you hold the board steady for them and start in a sitting or kneeling position. Don’t worry about trying to stand upright away, it might take a little time to figure out what works best to balance you and your dog. Sit, lay down, and stay commands will be key here!

I’ve found my centre of balance to be right behind the carry handle as Ariel loves to sit towards the front. I keep my dry bag at the back of my board.

Check the weather

Windy days can make the water very choppy and make paddling difficult. Check out the weather forecast prior to any paddles. Warm, sunny days, with little to no wind, are my favourite paddling days. Ariel and I both prefer smooth, flat water to rough, choppy waves. Keep in mind that larger open bodies of water and areas that allow motorized boats tend to become rougher. Early mornings and around sunset usually will have calmer water – plus watching the sunrise and sunset from your board is always worth it! Pull out of a map and make a list of places to explore!

Have fun

You AND your dog should both be having fun! Make the experience positive by incorporating many treats, play breaks, and lots of love!

Happy paddles!

Amber, Ariel, & Ollie

Checkout Amber, Ariel & Ollie’s adventures here.