How to SUP with your Pup

As summer comes too quickly to an end, I thought I’d fit in a recreational article on getting outside with your furry family member before the snow flies—before it’s too late!

Stand-Up Paddleboarding is not merely for people, it’s also an excellent outdoor sport shared with your furry four-legged family member.  With proper preparation, gear, and water training, SUP with your pup is a fun way to combine keeping fit with your love of the great Canadian outdoors.

Prior to entering the water, familiarize your dog with your Stand Up Paddleboard on land.  Doing so provides a safe, calm environment in which to use the reward system to train your dog.  Place your board either on the ground in the back yard or on the floor in your living room, space permitting.  Let your pup have a good sniff and become acquainted with the board.  By encouraging your pup to stand or sit on the board and rewarding him or her with a treat, he or she will be eager to hop aboard once in the water.

The next logical step before heading out for a paddle is to ensure your dog feels comfortable swimming and playing in the water.  Although certain breeds do not mix well with water, if your dog is already an accomplished swimmer, this stage is simple.  And don’t worry about what age to start your dog on a SUP as they can learn a new sport at any age.  However, the earlier the better so you can begin great new water explorations.

For additional peace of mind, schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.  He or she can confirm whether or not your canine is ready for water adventures.

Additionally, be sure to invest in necessary safety gear for your dog’s welfare.  A brightly coloured life jacket that fits your pup comfortably is crucial.  One with a handy handle on top makes it easier for you to lift him or her out of the water as necessary.  You may also decide to invest in a neoprene pad for your dog’s comfort.  Complete with a non-skid backing, the material repels water to keep your pup drier while riding.  Additionally, a collapsible bowl is perfect for keeping your dog hydrated for any outdoor activity.  Bring along fresh drinking water since who knows what may be floating in the body of water you plan on exploring.

You should also consider a stable paddle board with a foam or rubber deck for your dog’s comfort and traction.  Inflatable paddle boards are ideal due to their soft platforms and stability.  You don’t want your fur-buddy slipping all over the place on a hard, smooth board.  Remember that longer boards, generally ten to twelve feet long, offer increased stability.  Consult with a knowledgeable salesperson in-store before investing in a dog-friendly board.

As a precaution, avoid leashing your dog to the board as he or she may become dangerously entangled.  Check park rules and regulations ahead of time where you plan to paddle.  And never force your dog onto the board as this can prove traumatic.  Continue offering positive, calm reinforcement, in addition to small treats to warrant your pup knows SUP time is fun time.  Also, be mindful of where your pup sits or stands so you don’t inadvertently bump your fur-buddy with the paddle.

Undoubtedly, all dogs are different and some calmer than others.  In the beginning, practice paddling with your dog in shallow water near shore to become accustomed to riding on the board together.  Practice balancing maneuvers, especially when your pup decides to leap into the water unexpectedly.  Remain patient and expect a wet mishap or two.  On the other hand, your dog may be fine to sit and chill the entire ride—lucky you! Smaller dogs can sit almost anywhere on the board, including the bow, while larger dogs should remain near the back third of the board for optimal balance.

There’s not much else to do other than paddle and have a great time! Relishing moments together in nature is important to the well-being of both you and your canine.  Make lasting memories for years to come exploring new lakes, rivers, and oceans with your fur-buddy.

On a final note, there is a growing trend to collect trash while exploring lakes and parks to help clean up our environment.  A few coffee shops on Vancouver Island offer pails to take out with your morning latte to fill with plastics or other trash discovered on beaches or in the water, to be properly recycled or disposed of.  Before you begin a new school year “Try to leave the Earth a better place than when you arrived,” as Sidney Sheldon has said.

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