Firstly, you should learn how to ride a Stand Up Paddle board without a dog on it because it can be tricky to maintain your balance when it’s just you on the board — the added weight and movement of a dog can complicate things significantly.
To determine if your dog is ready to try SUP PUP, you will want to consider a few things:
When you SUP PUP, you will be on a moving Stand Up Paddle board, paddling and trying to stay upright. Does your dog obey your verbal commands for basic manners like SIT, DOWN, and STAY? Does your dog normally require any sort of hand signal, physical prompt, or coercion or force (e.g. leash corrections, prong collars, etc.) to do the behaviours you ask for?
Is your dog extremely fond of water and has a difficult time resisting the urge to swim?
Does your dog bite at the water a lot? If your dog is ingesting the water, it can pose a health risk, even if the water is clean. Ingesting too much water is life-threatening.
When your dog is around water, will he/she come to you reliably when you call from 15 ft away?
Does your dog know how to swim? Is your dog physically strong enough to keep its head above water?
Is your dog afraid of water? Is your dog overly cautious about new objects or experiences? Do you want to PUP SUP more than your dog wants to?
When you are holding a broom, shovel, rake, or other similar object, does your dog try to attack, play with, or run from it?
Does your dog chase, bark at, or try to grab moving objects? Something floating past the board will look like it’s moving. What about objects that resemble balls? Buoys can look like toys to a dog. Does your dog bark at or chase wildlife? Ducks and geese may seem extra exciting or interesting to a dog floating on a SUP board.
How does your dog react to strangers or other dogs that are nearby? You don’t want your dog barking its head off at things nearby. You don’t want your dog jumping off the board to go say hello. You don’t want your dog showing aggression to others nearby, either. If something went wrong, could someone approach to help you or your dog?
Does your dog have an injury or weak/painful joints? Riding a SUP board requires constant balancing and it can be too much for some dogs who do not have the strength/stamina.
Is your dog a young puppy? Is your puppy’s immune system ready for the water environment (e.g. bacteria, parasites)? Or do you need to take things more slowly and gradually socialize your puppy to the water and the board?
Fearful or unruly behaviour by your dog while on the SUP board will make things unpleasant and dangerous for you, your dog, and others (including wildlife).
The SUP PUP Prep Training teaches you how to help ensure that your dog is safely enjoying the experience.
We don’t anticipate injuries to happen during SUP PUP, but it’s good to be prepared just in case. Any first aid you administer will be temporary until you can properly attend to the dog at home or at the vet. You may want to have a few of the items with you on the SUP board (waterproof container, of course) once you are venturing from the shoreline.
There may be some rough ground along the shoreline (and things under the water we cannot see). Check paws before and after for sensitive areas, burns from heat or friction, problem nails, wounds, etc. One option is to put on paw wax before and after to help protect and soothe. Booties might be an option but, obviously, will become soaked and likely fall off. You don’t want to have them on too tight, though, since that is uncomfortable and can cause problems for circulation. If you find ones that work well for dogs in water, let me know. You don’t want to leave dogs paws in wet booties for very long. Paws need air circulation and need to dry out from time to time in order to keep the skin and pads healthy. One option is to have dry booties ready to put on after if your dog’s paws are sensitive. Dry booties can be helpful in case of an injury, too, because they can help keep the debris away from the wound until you can get home or to the vet for proper cleaning and dressing of the paw.
Keep nails trimmed to avoid snagged nails and split nails and to avoid injuries to you if your dog is paddling or scrabbling in the water or on the board.
VET WRAP & GAUZE: The human version of “vet wrap” is called “self-adherent cohesive wrap bandage” and may be less expensive. Avoid black-coloured vet wrap because it may not adhere well when wet. Gauze and vet wrap can be used to dress a wound that must be dressed immediately and it can be used to make temporary booties.
STYPTIC POWDER is normally used to stop bleeding for nails but in wet conditions it clumps and can stain the fur and other surfaces. It’s best to use it on dry paws.
STERILE SALINE SOLUTION (to rinse debris from eyes or wounds)
FIRST AID WIPES to disinfect an area on the dog or your hands. There are ones that are pre-soaked with povidone iodine (which is supposed to be gentler on wound tissue) but these are expensive.
EXTRA BOTTLE OF CLEAN WATER: to rinse paws, wounds, soothe skin, cool dog’s head and belly, to let the dog drink if the dog’s water container is empty.
A few human bandages for yourself. Human bandages that have adhesive (or medications) should not be used on dog’s fur.
PLASTIC WHISTLE (pealess). So you can call for help from the water (once you are advanced enough to SUP PUP farther from shore).
Young Puppies: Please do not SUP PUP with young puppies. Puppies are more susceptible to heat stroke, hypothermia, water intoxication/toxicity, drowning, and (depending on their vaccination history and health status) infection from bacteria/parasites that may be present in or near bodies of water. When appropriate, socialize puppies to the board and to the water in very short sessions (keep an eye on the weather and temperature), but for safety, you must not stand on the board, you should stay along the shoreline in very shallow water (no deeper than the minimum amount to float the board), and use your arms to prevent your puppy from jumping off the SUP board. Do not attach your puppy to the board. Your puppy must be wearing a dog life vest. Do not use a pet carrier on the board. You may need a pet carrier if you have to carry your puppy and the SUP board by yourself, but leave the carrier off the board. (A soft-sided one might be able to be safely stowed on your board, but it will get wet.) If your puppy is difficult to manage on the board, train on dryland and wait until your puppy is older before training on the water.
Ill, injured, exhausted, fearful, over-reactive, or un-trained dogs: Do not put your dog’s safety at risk by riding a SUP board, and don’t cause your dog distress. Learn to recognize your dog’s stress signals (especially the subtle ones that humans usually miss). Do not bring your dog if there will be things in the environment that will cause your dog to become overly aroused (due to excitement, fear, frustration, aggression) which may lead to excessive barking, pacing on the board, jumping off the board, redirecting stress towards you or the paddle, etc. You want things to be safe and pleasant for the dog, you, and others on the water (including wildlife). Get the help of a skilled dog professional to help your dog learn to be less sensitive to the things that trigger such an intense reaction. All dogs on a SUP board should have a very reliable recall, especially around water. As well, the dog should be able to perform the following skills reliably while floating on a SUP board: sit, down, stand, stay, and be able to drink water from a container you have brought. (When distressed, your dog may not be comfortable enough to drink water, which can quickly lead to more stress, dehydration, and heatstroke.) Another essential skill you dog needs is Leave It, especially for things that may be floating past, such as other dogs, people, wildlife, sticks, buoys that look like balls/toys.
Should your dog wear a leash while riding on the SUP board? Weigh the risks carefully. Generally, it’s not a good idea for your dog to be on a leash while riding a SUP board. For training purposes a leash might be appropriate, but always consider the safety implications (for yourself and the dog). The leash may become tangled in the dog’s legs, your legs, and if the leash goes into the water, it may become snagged on things under the water (dragging your dog and perhaps you into the water). Keep the leash safely stowed on the board (you’ll need it for when you come to shore, and it may be a useful item in case of an emergency on the water). If your dog will not follow commands while off leash, you will need to work on these skills before you SUP with your dog.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding with your dog (SUP PUP) can be a fantastic opportunity to bond with your dog, and as a bonus, improve your dog’s behaviours.
- Build your dog’s confidence by teaching a new skill using positive reinforcement (while avoiding coercion, corrections, pressure)
- Improve your dog’s ability to show self-control with SUP PUP skills (especially around distractions)
- Foster a closer bond with your dog as you enjoy the activity together
- Enrich your dog’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being
You can also book a private SUP PUP playdate for your dog and the instructor. This is a great option for people who are unable to SUP PUP with their dog but want their dogs to have the opportunity.
The gentle, positive, fun SUP PUP training can help shy, timid dogs gain confidence.
For exuberant, lively dogs (especially ones that are overly excited by the water), this SUP PUP training can help build impulse control and manners.
SUP PUP equipment and safety equipment provided. Instructor is CPDT-KA Certified with over 13 years experience in force-free dog training and behaviour modification. Certification in Pet First Aid (with Walks ‘n’ Wags) and Red Cross Standard First Aid/CPR. Paddle Canada Basic SUP Course and over a year of SUP experience.