Paddle boarding is great for enjoying alone or with friends/family. It’s also a great pursuit to enjoy with your dog, if done right! Paddle boarding with a dog can be one of those instagram vs reality things- you see other people doing it with their dog sat well behaved and serene on the board while yours just wants to bounce around ending up with both you, and them in the water. It is possible to train your dog to sit nicely on the paddle board so that you both get the best out of the experience, We share our top tips for how to paddle board with a dog.
Train your dog first
Train your dog first before you even attempt to put them on the paddle board. It’s like anything that is new to a dog. They have to know their boundaries, your expectations, what is good and what is bad behaviour. You can use treats to reward positive behaviour if that helps. First of all you need to get them used to the idea of the board though. We have a spaniel so while she is highly trainable, she does tend to get a little excited around water and she would prefer to be in it more than on it! We got there in the end though and now she knows when to sit still, when she is allowed to swim and what her boundaries are. Here are a few tips to help you and your four legged friend enjoy the benefits of this pastime with you:
1. Get your dog used to the board
Our first tip for paddle boarding with a dog is to get them used to the board. Do this before you take them out on the water. Start by letting your dog get used to the board in their own environment. Inflate your board and put it the room that they spend most of their time in. Just leave it on the floor and let them check it out. They will sniff it, walk around it, muse over it and hopefully they might even stand on it. If they are anything like my dog Flo, they will curl up and sleep on it.
2. Encourage them to get on the board
Next, you want to encourage them to get on the board and sit nicely on it. You can do this by waiting a day or two and then placing a treat on the board. To get the treat your dog will need to get on the board. Once they have done this get them to sit for another treat. Positive behaviour gets a reward – get them to sit at different intervals throughout the day and reward with a treat. The dog then associates sitting on the board with treats and a positive environment. Don’t overfeed though. You don’t want a dog that is too overweight to swim.
This has to be fun so keep it light and without pressure. They need to see this as a positive experience so slow it down if you need to. You could also place their favourite blanket on the board to make it even more of a favourable environment.
3. Introduce a life jacket
Ok next you’re going to need to introduce a doggy life jacket. This is a key requirement when paddle boarding with a dog. Maybe don’t make an immediate association with this and the board in case he doesn’t like one or the other. Instead just pop the jacket on him/her and let them walk around in it for 5/10 minutes. Don’t leave it on too long for that first wear. Lots of praise when you take it off and then pop it back on the next day and the next and leave it a little longer each time. Now pop the jacket on and get them sitting on the board with treats. Once they are used to both, you can then think about your first trip on the water.
4. Commands for getting on and off
While you are getting your dog used to the board you are going to need to think about one word commands for getting on and off. You could choose anything that isn’t too similar to another command and that is just one word. On and off may work. If not you could use ‘mount’ and ‘dismount’. Anything really that works for both of you. You can do this as part of your treat rewards process. When they get on they get a treat – when they get off they get a treat but only when they do it on command. If they don’t then no treat.
As your dog gets used to it, the length of time they sit on the board will increase.
5. Get on the board with your dog
The next step is for you to practise sitting and standing on the board with your dog. Ask your dog to sit in the required spot then get on behind and sit – reward with a treat once on then offer another treat when you are in place behind. Then do the same with standing – remember you are going to need to practise going from sitting to standing without flustering the dog and sending them overboard. Keep doing this. Then introduce a bit of rocking back and forth as you stand to get them used to movement before introducing the side to side paddle motion.
6. Introduce water
Once you and the dog are comfortable with this, take your board to a cosy of water and place the board next to the water or just touching it. Go through all of the above steps until your are confident your dog is happy and responding well to all the commands. They may get it straight away, it may take longer but remember that this will give you long term rewards so be patient!
7. Get on the water
It’s time to go paddle boarding with a dog. When you are ready to get on the water stay calm and reassuring. You might want to pick a big pond, small river or body of water that is calm and not intimidating and easier to control. Give lots of praise and keep that first paddle short.
There may be a few mishaps along the way and a few wet dog experiences but if they are anything like our spaniel they will soon realise that they love swimming but equally they like sunning themselves on the paddle board watching the world go by.
Always wear a PFD – one with a handle so that you can lift them
Don’t leash your dog – they could get tangled in it – train them to stay on the board
Will my dogs claws damage the board?
No – the surface of the board actually provides great traction
What if my dog wants to jump off and swim
If your dog likes to jump off and have a swim, you need to ensure that they do it only when you say so. Have a command for getting off – this could be a simple word like “swim”. When they do enter the water, make sure you are on your knees in case this rocks the board and you end up in the water too.