Categories: ActivitiesCamping

SUP Pup: How to Paddleboard with Your Dog

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.

Things You Need

The right board

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.

A dog life jacket

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.

Before You Get Going

Be confident in your own skills

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.

Accustom your dog to the water

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.

Get them familiar with the board

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.

Exercise your dog before you paddle

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.

Know your commands and bring treats

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.

Hitting the Water

  1. Take the board out to shallow water and let your dog get on. When they’re sitting and comfortable—not agitated at all—get on the board too.
  2. Kneeling or standing, paddle the board out with the dog in front of you. If they’re too big for this, stand and allow them to sit between your feet.
  3. Keep your first session short. Allow the dog to enjoy the novelty of being out on the water with you, but also make it clear that the shore isn’t far away. Fifteen to 20 minutes is sufficient for a first try.
  4. If your dog falls off the board, don’t panic and make a fuss—this will only upset you both. Reach for the handles on their life jacket, wait for them to calm, then gently pull them back onto the board.

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.

Dog-friendly campgrounds for paddleboarding in Australia

Photo by Daniel Duong

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.

3. Gunna Park, QLD

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.

Dog-friendly campgrounds for paddleboarding in the US

Photo by Madison Kotack

1. Paradise Shores Camp, California

Photo by Evan Kubena

2. The Landing, Washington

Photo by Ben Tjoelker

3. The Lake at the Flying J Farm, Ohio

Photo by Sam and Michelle Land

4. Kings River Falls Camping, Arkansas

Dog-friendly campgrounds for paddleboarding in Canada

Photo by Nosa Paath

1. Hayward Farms, British Columbia

Photo by Paul W.

2. Gorgeous Boat Access Lakeside Cabin, Ontario

Photo by Brian Skinner

3. Lakeside/Lakeview Forested Camping, British Columbia

Photo by Kath Fudurich

4. Kamp Kennedy Kagawong Lake, Ontario

Cat Woods is an Australian freelance journalist who writes on music, arts, travel, food, and culture for international publications. She’s also a yoga, barre, and Pilates teacher with a love of language, Indonesia, architecture, dogs, music, and reading.

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