I love every second of being on the water and having the freedom to explore. I’ve been a kayaker for a number of years and more recently become utterly obsessed with Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Last summer I decided to introduce my Beagles Alfred & Merle to the board; they were both naturals and we've had a whole host of gorgeous days out on the water since.
My board is an inflatable SUP which is ideal for transporting and paddling with a dog. They’re surprisingly durable, so there’s no worry that their claws will damage the board. We're not talking your average pool floaty here! Every SUP I've seen has a foam/rubber topper for standing on that gives great traction for yours and their paws. Last summer I upgraded my board to the Aquaplanet 10’6 MAX which is a great all rounder and promotes better balance than the one I had previously. Essential when sharing with a dog or two!
Aside from sharing some lovely photos with you of our days at our favourite local spot, St Andrew's Lakes in Rochester, I thought this would serve as a great tutorial of how I taught The Beags to paddle board so you can give it a go for yourself in just five simple steps.
1. Familiarise your dog with the board
Ideally, start at home! Inflate your board in the garden or house and give your dog time to get used to the board on their own terms, well in advance of any adventures. Let them explore the board without intervention; expect lots of sniffing, and maybe they’ll even try to get on it. It’s an important first step so that your dog knows it’s safe and nothing to be scared of. You can see below that before I even inflated my board Alf was getting a chance to explore and sit on it.
2. Be at one with the board
It’s time to pair up the board with snacks, making that positive association that the board is the place to be!
Lure your dog onto the board by placing a treat in the middle of it so your dog has to get on to eat it.
If your dog gets on, mark & reward (say yes/good and feed) them immediately with another treat.
If your dog is reluctant to get on, be patient and go slow. Leave a treat on the board and create some distance between you and them so your dog doesn’t feel pressured to get on. If and when you see them get the treat, mark and reward. Repeat as necessary before moving on to the next step.
⭐ It’s really important that you go at your dog's pace for this. If you rush it and make the board uncomfortable in any way for your dog it will take twice as long to undo that before you can attempt to train them again.
3. Perfecting the SIT
Repeat the process as per previous step and this time ask your dog for a SIT once they’re on the board. Be sure to mark that behaviour and reward with a treat. Build duration by keeping your dog in a sit before cueing them to get off. Just a few seconds to begin with, this is a fun game for them!
⭐ Body positioning on a SUP is really important so decide where your dog needs to be and cue them into a sit on that spot each time. Use your words not your hands. Use a lure to move your dog if you need to, no pushing or pulling your dog around to get them into the right position.
Additionally I taught an ‘ON’ cue so that the dog’s know when it’s time to jump onto the board. They already knew ‘OFF’ so I didn’t need to train that one too but if your dog doesn’t have that cue then I’d highly recommend adding it into the training.
4. Safety First - Floatation Time
Once your dog is comfortable getting on, sitting, and getting off the board, it’s time to practise wearing their PFD (personal floatation device).
⭐ Getting your dog comfortable wearing a PFD is the same process as getting them accustomed to wearing a harness.
Pair this process with treats again if you need to. The more treats involved the happier my lot are to participate. Elsie takes a while to warm up to anything new so a giant SUP in our garden, with a new PFD to wear was something we had to introduce slowly. So slowly infact we haven’t yet progressed to the next step with her.
5. It’s party time!
Once your dog is nailing all of the above, you're ready to add in the water.
We practiced on calm waters first, the lake is perfect for that. I cued a ‘ON’ and a ‘SIT’ then sat down on the board too. We had some snacks before floating us out a little deeper.
The first time the dog/s were on the board with me I stayed sitting the whole time. Now I know they’re comfortable and happy, and they’re not panicking when there’s a wobble, I can stand up and paddle properly.
And that's it! Simple stuff and lots of fun.
⭐ The Beags always wear their PFD’s (Personal Floatation Device). Both are great swimmers and really enjoy the water, but the whole point of paddle boarding is to adventure and explore, often in deep water, which can be tiring for your dog. It also ensures that if they get separated from you, or injured in any way, they will stay safe. No matter how good a swimmer your dog is, a PFD is a non-negotiable part of Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Get one with a handle, so you can help lift your dog back onto the board if they need it. Alf and Merle both wear EzyDog
⭐ Also, NEVER tether your dog to the board. If your dog falls in the water accidentally, the lead poses a strangulation &/or drowning risk. It’s not worth chancing.
Hopefully you're all super keen now to give paddle boarding with your dog a go. If anyone wants to volunteer themselves and their board to share with Ted & Elsie then lemme know! I really want to take the whole gang out but the four of them is too many to fit on my board and I’m not upgrading again for a while. The only board I reckon would fit the five of us would be this bad boy from RED Ahahaha can you imagine!
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Happy SUPPING puppers
Georgi & Beags, and Elsie too