How to Train a Puppy to Surf

Medium
2-4 Months
Fun

Introduction

When it comes to living life along the coast, dog owners from around the world are constantly looking for fun and new activities to take part in with their canine companions. From competitive sports like agility, dock diving, or frisbee, the beach can present some great opportunities to both practice skills and reinforce the bond between owner and pup. If you’re looking for something a little more “tubular”, however, there is a modern trend of training dogs to be more active in the ocean waves. The art of dog surfing is on the rise!

Training your dog to surf is no easy feat, especially when you’re starting with an impressionable, and possibly nervous, puppy. While it may be easier to encourage a puppy to face his fears, it can also take a tremendous amount of work and patience to build his confidence enough to settle comfortably on that surfboard. But don’t worry, because it’s definitely not impossible! Hundreds of dogs and puppies every year take their first steps on a wobbly surfboard in the midst of the blue waters.

Defining Tasks

Surfing is a bit of a daunting task for any puppy, especially due to the amount of concentration, trust, and balance that is necessary to stay rooted on that board while being tossed around in the water. That’s not to say that the activity can’t be fun, but it will undoubtedly take some time for your puppy to build up the courage and confidence to face the waves head on.

You’ll want to start your puppy’s surf training as soon as he receives all of his vaccinations and a clean bill of health from the vet. Do make sure that your puppy isn’t overly skittish or nervous. Surfing isn’t for every pup, but it can be a great pastime for some! Some puppies may learn more quickly than others, but ultimately, prepare to set aside two to four months for yours to get the basics down and feel comfortable around the water.

Getting Started

The two most important tools for teaching your puppy to surf is a surfboard (or a body board, or another sort of flat, long object), in order for him to get used to standing on it, and a doggy life jacket or vest for safety! While most puppies are born with the instinct to swim, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re strong enough to fight the ocean currents. Caution and safety is always the number one thing to remember when having your dog in and around the water. Another thing to note is that not every puppy is ready for surfing. If yours is exhibiting some nervous traits, be patient and try not to push.

The Dry Land Method

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Step
1
Find an item to use as a surfboard
If you have a board, great! If not, you can use a body board, a long piece of wood, or anything else that might simulate the size and length of a surfboard.
Step
2
Familiarize your puppy
Allow your puppy to approach the board and give it some sniffs. Offer treats, affection, and other positive interactions both on and around the board.
Step
3
Reinforce usage
Encourage your pup to go towards the board and step onto it with treats or toys. Try not to depend on a lure too much, as you want him to climb onto the board without hesitation later.
Step
4
Be patient and never force
If he’s skittish, don’t try to force your puppy onto the board. Just spend time around it for a few days, gradually working your way closer until you can have him step or sit on it. Remember to reward often!
Step
5
Work on ‘stay’
If your puppy doesn’t already know the ‘stay’ command, teach it! Use this command to have him stay on the board for longer periods of time. He’ll need to do this when he’s in the water later on.
Step
6
Work around distractions
Beaches can be busy and exciting places. Start practicing with distractions present, gradually increasing the amount of excitement around you until your puppy can focus on you in any type of environment.
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The Motion Method

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Step
1
Find something to place underneath
Use a rolled up towel or pillow to place underneath the board to make it a little bit unstable. Make sure you have control of the board at all times!
Step
2
Use gentle motions
Have your puppy climb onto the board while you hold it. Move it gently from side to side, but don’t tip it too far. Focus on using tiny movements that your puppy can adjust to gradually.
Step
3
Constantly reward
As you work your way up to more dramatic and larger movements of the board, remember to always be rewarding your puppy! You want this experience to be fun and rewarding, not scary.
Step
4
Try lifting
Once she has a decent grasp on her balance, try having a friend help you lift the board up off the ground just a little. This can provide some extra balancing practice.
Step
5
Go slow
Always take your time with this exercise, as it can be intimidating and scary. Don’t make drastic jumps in progression over one day. Space out your training sessions!
Step
6
Take breaks if necessary
If your puppy seems scared or overwhelmed, stop your training, spend some time away from the exercise, and come back to it later. For a puppy especially, these experiences can shape the way she feels about an activity later on in life. You want her to have good associations with surfing.
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The Full Surf Method

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Step
1
Introduce the life vest
Look for a life vest for your pup and have her smell and get used to having it around and on her. It may take a while for her to get comfortable with it, but they are normally not any different from a walking harness.
Step
2
Use a swimming pool
Head outside to a swimming pool where you can bring your dog. This usually has to be a private pool, as most public pools will not allow pets. Have your puppy sit or stand, depending on what she’s comfortable with, on the board. Focus on getting used to the movement of the water.
Step
3
Use a lake or bay
Once she’s used to a pool, try heading to a larger body of water such as a lake or small inlet somewhere. Remember to keep a good handle on your puppy so she doesn’t drift too far from you.
Step
4
Continue to reinforce
Use plenty of rewards in the form of treats or toys to get your pup excited about the water.
Step
5
Ride the first wave!
If you think she’s ready, head to your nearest beach and give your puppy a push into a small set of waves. Let her ride it! If she has practiced her ‘stay’ and trusts you and the board, she can dominate the seas with enough practice.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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