When the sun is out, you’re off on a camping trip, and the open water beckons, it’s a great opportunity to get on your stand-up paddleboard. Odds are this is also when your dog might want an outdoor adventure as well, so why not combine the two? Plenty of people have mastered the art of stand-up paddleboarding with a dog, and with some planning and patience, it isn’t too hard to join in. Here’s how to get started, along with some recommendations for dog-friendly campgrounds on the water.
Basic starting point: the standup paddleboard. It’s wise to go for one that’s long and wide to provide ample space for you and your dog—10 feet long and 32 inches wide is the most stable choice, and the heavier your dog, the more stability you need. Your board should also have good grip—the last thing you want is the pair of you falling into the water as soon as a wave strikes. Depending on the quality of the deck pad, or traction pad, you may want to invest in extra pads that cover the full deck rather than just your footing area.
While it might be scary to see your dog go flying into the water, it can be even more jarring for your dog to feel out of its depth. Dog life jackets come in a variety of sizes and provide buoyancy to prevent them from going underwater, yes, but they also provide a splash of color, making it easy to locate and return your dog to the board when visibility might be tough.
Rather than surprising your dog with its life jacket moments before you head out on the water, get them used to wearing it in advance by putting it on at home or on a walk. You want the jacket to fit snugly and securely, without being uncomfortably tight or restrictive.
Paddleboarding beginners should leave the pups on dry land until they’re confident with their own skills. If you’re out on the water losing your balance and feeling anxious, your dog will pick up on that.
A panicked dog offshore is not a dilemma you want to face, especially if your dog isn’t a great swimmer. If they aren’t comfortable in water or can’t swim at all, then they really aren’t ready for SUP. They won’t feel safe or happy on the board, and neither will you.
Just like you were probably nervous about your first paddleboard experience, your dog is likely to be unsure about it, too. Take some time to let them stand on the board on dry land, sniff it, sit on it, and start to feel at home.
If your dog is full of excitement and energy when you want them to sit still for an extended period of time, you’re asking for trouble. They may also get agitated and upset being out on the water if they haven’t gotten a chance to go to the bathroom. Take your dog for a walk or run so they get a chance to do their business before you get on the board.
It’s going to be pretty helpful if your dog knows how to respond to “sit” and “stay.” The board is fun, but it’s not for games once you’re on the water and trying to stay balanced. Treats don’t hurt either—giving your dog a few when they’re sitting on the board can help.
Hip tip: It’s worth noting that not all dogs will be interested in joining you, no matter how much you try to convince them. Practice patience, and know when to persist and when to paddle out and leave your dog on dry land.
Where are you planning on paddleboarding with your dog? We’ve rounded up our favorite dog-friendly Hipcamps where you’ll have easy access to water and/or paddleboards so you can get out there with your furry friend.
1. Hold It Flats, QLD: Set on the O’Connell River in North Queensland, Hold It Flats is a timeless spot. Grab some friends, bring the dogs, and set up your tent or caravan on the waterfront.
2. Coffs Harbour Camping & 4WD, NSW: This massive, 230-acre property draws water lovers, large groups, and 4WD campers who utilize the site’s direct access to Lower Bucca State Forest.
This Gunalda hobby farm is prime for relaxation with spaced-out campsites and standup paddleboards and kayaks available for free use in the dam.
4. Tullarwalla South Coast Camping, NSW: Tullarwalla offers a number of waterfront campsites only accessible by 4WD. Have a paddle around the river on a quiet morning for a peaceful experience on the 800-acre property.
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