It was a perfect summer weekend here in Portland with temps in the 80’s and even 90’s all weekend long. But after a hot trail run on Friday night and an even hotter run through the city streets on Saturday, by Sunday we were desperate to get out on the water to cool off a little.
And since we’ve been working hard to get Abbie more accustomed to the water through various river outings – generally just throwing balls, sticks and even carrying her in to where she can’t stand so she has to swim to shore (for treats, of course) – we decided it was time to try and see how she’d do on a standup paddleboard.
I know the proper way to introduce your dog to standup paddleboarding is through a more subtle introduction like practicing with them at home first – having them sit on the board for treats, inviting them on the board for treats and giving them a command to get off the board for treats, etc. And then slowly introducing them to the board in the water (first from shore and that kind of thing). But since we don’t yet own a standup paddleboard (wahhh), we had to just go for it. And it went better than we could have ever expected.
Since we rented our SUP board and kayak, we had to load up straight from their dock. Needless to say, there was little time for a slow introduction. We outfitted Abbie in her Ruffwear life jacket and put her in the kayak with Casey. As we started to paddle away from the dock, we noticed that she was pacing around and trying to get over to my board so we pulled up next to each other and let her walk across. We wanted to make the experience as positive for her as possible so I sat on my knees on the board with her for awhile so she could walk around it more easily and feel more secure.
After a few minutes, she started exploring the edges of the board and before we knew in, she had taken her first plunge. Since we were going against the current, I had to paddle back to her a little ways and then grab her life jacket to haul her back up on the board. After her little swim, she seemed to settle right in. Once she was back on the board, she just sat down calmly, which allowed me to finally stand up…and eventually even do a little yoga!
We paddled just over half a mile and then beached our kayaks on a little sandy beach. We let her roam around and chase some birds for awhile before loading her back up on the board. Again, we wanted to keep her first experience as positive as possible.
Once we got back on the board, we floated around for awhile – doing some yoga, hanging out in the sunshine, and of course telling her what a good puppy she is.
If you’re thinking of trying SUP with your pooch, here are my 5 tips:
- Make it a positive experience: Like any new experience for your pup, you want to make it as positive as possible. Do your best to praise them often and treat them when you can. If you have the opportunity, get them accustomed to the board first on land (treat them for sitting on it, etc) and then get it in the water and use treats to show them what a fun thing it is. If you’re a renter like us, be extra patient and take things slow.
- Start small: For our first SUP experience with Abbie, we only paddled about 1.5 miles in total and paused for some beach time in between so she could stretch her legs and have a little fun in the sand chasing birds. Don’t expect an all day paddle adventure with your pup the first time, remember to take baby steps first.
- Start young! If you can, start your pup young. The more they have experience with new things when they are younger, the more they will adapt to new activities as an adult. We started Abbie at 5 months old and hope that she’ll be a regular SUP’ing pup pro!
- Get a great doggie life jacket: If you’re thinking about doing SUP (or even kayaking) with your pup, you need to get them a good life jacket. It’s not only for their safety – like in the off chance they get thrown from the board – but it will also make it easier on you if they go for a swim (whether planned or not). I love the Ruffwear life vest because it has a huge handle right on top that makes it easy to lift your pup out of the water and back on to your boat.
- Bring plenty of water: Don’t forget that your pup, just like you, will get hot and thirsty. Bring plenty of water for yourself and your pup. I’d also recommend getting them a good collapsible bowl that you can stuff in a backpack or even attach to your board (we have one with a carabiner).
SUP (and kayaking) with dogs is such an awesome activity for both you and your dog. Just remember, keep the first few times short, easy and without expectation. You want to make it a positive experience and something they’ll look forward to doing with you!
What’s your fave activity to do with your pup?
Stay sweaty friends!