Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

SUP Dog!

by Kris Phillips

Between quarantine and the summer heat it’s gotten more difficult than ever to stay active with your dog. A few years ago when Summer festivals were still a thing I got the chance to try Stand Up Paddleboarding on the Platte River. I instantly fell in love with being on the water. Before long I had my own board and paddle buddy.

SUP turned out to be the perfect activity with our senior Siberian Swota. She enjoyed the cool water, and laying on the back of my paddle-board watching the world drift by kept her mind active while her body slowed down. She was a natural. When Swota crossed the Rainbow Bridge in February I knew Summer wouldn’t be the same.

falling off of a paddleboard

Image courtesy Robert Phillips

Floki’s first few paddle-board outings were less that graceful. He’s not as fond of water. And his energetic mind seemed to constantly miss the connection between rocking the boat and ending up in the water. However, it’s a great Summer activity with built in social distancing. So, I wasn’t about to give up after a few unexpected swims.

siberian husky dog on paddle-boardThe next time we headed for the lake I took my handy treat bag filled with all the yummiest goodies. I used it to bribe him onto the board. And also offered him one any time he started to relax, encouraging him to lay down on the back part of the board. It didn’t take long for him to figure out though that the goody bag was strapped to the front with all my other gear. HA! and that he could wriggle his was all the way up there and treat himself.

dog eating treats on paddle board

Image courtesy Arnel Valerio

With a little patience though, and some treats, it didn’t take long before Floki looked as comfortable on the water as his Viking name-sake.

Paddle-boarding with a dog

Image courtesy Arnel Valerio

So if you’d like to paddle board with your dog here’s a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Always make it fun. Anything you do with your dog should be fun. So keep in mind that this is a new, weird thing you’re asking of them and it may take some time & a LOT of patience.
  • Start with a solid foundation. Paddle-boarding, like any hobby, can take some time to get good at. Your dog is going to move around and rock the boat, especially in the beginning, so make sure that you’re comfortable enough to compensate for the added weight and movement.
  • Gear up: If you don’t have a board but you’re thinking of buying one, keep in mind the added weight of your dog. Larger boards are slower to maneuver but are more stable and have higher weight ratings. Life jackets for humans are required by law, but doggy life jackets are optional. I never had one for Swota because she was competent at staying on the board. Floki’s not. I’d also recommend carrying a treat bag you don’t mind getting wet.
  • Safety first. When a dog goes
    in the water they’ll usually start swimming for shore, even if the boat is much closer. For this reason I’ve always tethered my dog’s harness (never their collar) to my paddle-board. That way I can reel them in and pull them up if they go into the water. If you have a bonafide water dog with a good recall you might not have to worry so much about this one.
  • Start in shallow water and brace your board. I find standing on the opposite side of the board and calling my dog to me with a treat in hand is the best way to coax them on the board. The more stable you can hold it the better. It’s ideal to convince your dog to get on the board themselves. But if all else fails, a gentle hoist may get them past the hump.
  • I don’t insist Floki lays down, as long as he’s staying on the board I call it good. But when he does calm himself I’ll offer him a surprise treat to reinforce the behavior I want.
  • Expect your dog may be nervous the first few outings. But if they continue to seem miserable after several day trips, consider that paddle boarding may not be your dogs idea of Summer fun and look for a new option.

 

Husky on a paddle board in the rain

It’s taken several attempts but Floki is getting the hang of staying on the board. Even if I get off to swim. He even seemed un-phased when we were caught out in a sudden rainstorm and then treated to a double rainbow. Perhaps Swota shining down her approval.

 

 

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