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A Stand Up Paddleboard, (SUP), has become a popular piece of recreational equipment. SUPs come in inflatable models, popular because they are easily transported, and solid models which are ready to go. If you have a water-loving dog, or just a dog that loves to be with you, you can teach your dog to sit on your SUP and go paddleboarding with you!
Any dog can learn to sit on a paddleboard, even dogs that are not fond of water. These non-water-loving canines will just need to learn to stay put on the board to avoid getting wet, and you may need to provide some extra guidance so your dog understands that he is not going in the water, but on it! Remember, there are some flat nosed barrel-chested dogs that are not good natural swimmers and all dogs, especially non-swimming dogs, may need some protection in the way of a doggie flotation devices in case they end up in the water. A little patience and balance is all it takes to teach your dog to sit on a paddleboard and accompany you on your boarding adventures.
While teaching your dog to sit on a paddleboard so he can accompany you on the water, be sure to make it a fun experience. Do not push your dog or lose patience if he is reticent or has trouble getting his balance at first, as this will only create a negative association with the paddleboard. It is a good idea for you to be comfortable and balanced on a paddleboard before introducing your dog so you don't inadvertently dump your dog in the drink, and so you are more resistant to movements your dog may make on the board while he is learning to sit and stay still on the SUP.
You can teach your dog to go into shallow water and jump on an SUP or, if your pup is not fond of getting his paws wet, you may want to carry him and place him on the board. It will be important that your dog is willing to be carried and placed on the board--he should never feel forced or trapped. Teaching your dog to sit in a designated spot on the paddleboard and remain still is necessary to avoid making the board unstable and tipping you and your dog overboard. Exiting the SUP can also be done by giving your dog a command to jump off the SUP in shallow water, or again, by picking up your dog and carrying him to shore. Your method will depend on your dog's comfort with water. If your dog loves water and is highly motivated to jump into the water, teaching him to remain still on the SUP may be your challenge, rather than motivating him to go out on the water. You will have to work with your dog to determine what challenges he faces in learning to sit and ride quietly on a paddleboard.
Paddleboards can be hot! Your dog is exposed to the sun, with no shelter, and a dog can easily become overheated when paddleboarding, so be sure to limit sun exposure while paddleboarding with sunscreen and short trips, perhaps earlier or later in the day. Also, bring fresh water and a container to drink from; saltwater is not drinkable, and lake water may contain harmful algae or parasites.
You should not have your dog leashed on the SUP as a leash can become tangled around your dog in an accident, and your dog could drown. It is recommended that you use an appropriately fitting PFD for your dog with a handle that you can use to scoop your dog out of the water if necessary. Get your dog used to wading into the water, swimming, and wearing his PDF prior to training to sit on a SUP.
Make sure you have a stable, appropriately sized board at least 10 feet in length, for an adult and dog. The board should have rubber padding for your dog to stand and sit on, to give him a good grip. If it does not, you can purchase a mat for dogs to sit on while on the SUP, which attaches to your board, or rig one yourself with a bath mat that has suction cups.
The Acclimatize Slowly Method
Keep your SUP in the house for several days, if it is an inflatable SUP, inflate it and keep it in a corner. Let your dog explore the paddleboard. Put the board down on the floor and put a treat on the board so your dog has to step or walk on the board to retrieve the treat.
Practice putting your dog in his personal flotation device (PFD) and take him out on walks so he is accustomed to wearing it and associates the PFD with positive experiences.
Put board on water
Take your dog to a body of water, put the board in shallow water, partly on shore, and call your dog to the board. Have him enter the water and approach the board, or lift your dog up and place him on the board. Do not force your dog to the board in the water. Reassure him, stand next to the board and hold it still, provide treats.
Push off shore
Once your dog is comfortable being on the board on the water. Push off from shore a short distance, while standing next to your dog in shallow water. Provide reassurance. Ask your dog to sit, provide reinforcement in the form of treats and praise. Repeat "sit" if your dog stands up or tries to move on the board.
Ride with your dog
Once your dog is comfortable sitting on the board in shallow water, get on the board with your dog and push off gently from shore. Start sitting or kneeling until your dog is used to the motion. Keep movements quiet and slow, stay near shore at first. Keep directing your dog to sit and give praise and reassurance. Gradually move to standing and make trips longer, farther from shore and faster.
The Verbal Commands Method
Put board on ground
Place your paddleboard resting on dry ground, you may need to remove the bottom fin so that the SUP rests on ground without tipping.
Teach 'get on'
Give your dog a verbal command for get on paddleboard, like “get on”. Pat the rubber mat where you want your dog to sit; present a treat to lure him on if necessary. When your dog jumps on in response to your command, provide the treat. Repeat until established.
Teach 'get off'
Teach your dog to jump off the paddleboard. Provide a verbal commands like “jump off” and call your dog off the paddleboard, again lure if necessary. Provide a treat for jumping off in response to the command. Repeat until established.
Teach your dog to sit on a spot on the SUP. Call your dog on the SUP, direct him to his spot and say "sit". Start requiring your dog to sit on the spot of a few seconds then treat, gradually require your dog to sit still for more time until he is sitting on the board for several minutes at a time and not getting off until commanded to. Practice.
Move to shallow water
Move the board onto shallow water. Practice commanding your dog to get on, sit and get off the SUP with verbal commands.
Once your dog is proficient at this, get on the paddleboard with your dog and launch offshore. Keep initial trips short and near shore. Gradually make longer trips, keep using verbal commands.
The Shape Paddleboarding Method
Put your paddleboard on dry land, take the fin off the bottom if one is present, so the paddleboard rests securely on the ground. When your dog approaches the SUP to investigate, click and treat. Ask your dog to get on the SUP, when your dog jumps on the SUP, click and treat or praise.
Reinforce partly on shore
Put your paddleboard on the shore, half in the water and half out. Wait for your dog to jump on the SUP, click and reward.
Get on board with your dog
With your dog on the SUP, get on the SUP in sitting position with your dog. Ask your dog to sit. Push off from shore a little way. Hold your dog by a harness or PFD to prevent your dog from jumping off. Provide treats and praise.
If your dog appears nervous and wants to get off the board, return to shore. Repeat again another time. Take your time, practice getting on and off the paddleboard on dry land and then in the water.
Practice on water
Gradually extend the time out on the water, stand up and balance, continue to praise your dog for sitting quietly in his spot.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 01/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021