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How to go Paddleboarding with your pet

Jenny Buckley |

Paddleboarding with your pet can be a rewarding experience, as both parties benefit from spending some quality time together on the water. There’s no greater bond between a paddler and their pup! But how do you train your canine companion to stay on board? And more importantly, how do you keep them safe? We look at some top tips on how to SUP with your pup.

Safety first

The best way to ensure your pet’s safety is to make sure they’re fitted with a suitable floatation device. Although dogs are naturally good swimmers, they can tire easily in the water. Most lifejackets/flotation devices for pets are fitted with grab handles which can make maneuvering your pup in and out of the water that much easier. A brightly coloured jacket also helps with visibility should you become separated from each other.

Ruffwear makes a dog life jacket that comes in six different sizes to fit all breeds comfortably. Available in three different colourways, the Float Coat™ has lots of useful added features including a telescoping neck to fit all neck widths, a leash fitting, and reflective trim for low light conditions in addition to the handle. Find out more about the Float Coat™ here.

With safety now covered, you’ll want to know how to best handle your pooch out on the water.

Practice makes perfect

Before taking any four-legged friend out with you on the water, you’ll need to get them used to the board itself for a couple of weeks so that it seems less intimidating. Inflate it at home and let them sniff and climb on of their own accord. A treat or two for encouragement is never a bad thing! Don’t forget, they’ll also need to get used to wearing a lifejacket. Put this on them when you run through the practice steps above so they can associate it with SUP. 

At this point, it’s also worth checking that your board is suitably wide enough for the pair of you, as well as the maximum weight it can carry.  Smaller dogs are capable of riding out front, on the nose of the board, whereas bigger pals should keep the weight distribution in the last third of the board. Check that there’s a decent-sized deck pad with texture for added grip. You’ll probably want to make sure any claws are clipped to avoid any scratching climbing on board. (Get that pup pedicure booked now!)

Top 5 Tips 


  1. When launching, hold the board and let your dog climb on in the shallows. When you’re ready, get on and paddle while kneeling to stabilise yourself and get used to the additional weight load.
  2. Paddle with your dog preferably in front of you and between your feet. It might take a bit of practice to adapt your paddle strokes around them.
  3. Be prepared for your pup to want to jump off at any given moment! Sometimes the lure of the water is too much for them. If they want a swim, let them and always help them to get back on board (hello grab handles.)  If they’re just too energetic and won’t stay still, try tiring them out on a walk first before paddling. Encourage them to stay on the board through a mix of commands and treats.
  4. Don’t spend too much time on the water for the first couple of goes. There’s a lot to get used to (for both of you!) So keep it short and remember to reward your pup for good behaviour and staying on board.
  5. When time’s up, keep in mind that many dogs will want to jump off as you approach the shore. This can be tricky, especially with larger pups as it can catch you off guard and throw you into the water! It’s best to get into a kneeling position to try to keep the board stable in anticipation of this as you head for home.


What if my pup won’t SUP?

While many canines love nothing more than cruising the water with their owner, there are the occasional few that don’t. If that’s the case, don’t force them – let them explore in their own time, or just accept it’s not for them.  Some dogs can be nervous at first, so it might just take them a little while longer. Be sure to reward them each time they resist the urge to jump off or when they clamber back on board after a dip. Sometimes all it needs is just a little encouragement.