Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) been around for thousands of years in one form or another. However, the sport has seen a lot of progress, and has really taken off, in the last 10 years.
I poo-pooed it for quite a while because it seemed too trendy. I also thought it couldn’t possibly give me a good workout or be that fun. Boy was I wrong!
I tried paddleboarding with my small dogs for the first time 3 years ago and loved it!
It’s no wonder it’s so popular.
It turns out that it’s quite the workout – the cardio of paddling and using leg, and core body, muscles to balance.
It’s also great because it’s easy to do with your small dog. If you’re like me, if your dog can’t go, you often don’t either.
Even dogs that aren’t big fans of water – and I’ve found a lot of Dachshunds and other small dogs aren’t – usually like to stand proudly on the bow of the paddleboard and feel the wind in their face.
You and your dog can turn it into a whole day adventure by padding somewhere, pulling ashore for a picnic, and heading back to watch the sunset together.
And just like with you, it helps develop your dog’s core strength, leg strength, and balance.
If you’re ready to hit the water on a stand up paddleboard with your dog, these 5 tips will help any beginner get started.
5 Beginner Tips for Paddleboarding with Your Small Dog
1) Start with a big, stable paddleboard
Having a stable paddleboard will be easier for you to maneuver and balance with your dog on it.
That way you can concentrate more on fun than worrying about skills.
2) Take a lesson
Small dogs under 20 lbs are pretty easy to balance and paddle with. Most of the time you can just put them on and go.
However, YOU should take a lesson to learn how to paddle properly and efficiently, balance tips, and learn about paddleboard-specific water safety.
Also, even though most small dogs take to the sport right away, it can definitely be helpful to “give your dog lessons” before you go for the first time.
This can be as easy as making sure your dog is comfortable balancing on an unstable surface. You can lure your pup onto the board with treats and then rewarding them handsomely for staying on it.
If you don’t have access to a paddleboard to practice, a balance disk, or balance peanut, held stable between your legs can be used to mimic the surface of a paddleboard.
If you don’t want your small dog walking around on the surface of the board while you paddle, teaching them to sit, or lay down, and stay in one spot is a handy command for your dog to know.
3) Dress appropriately
If it’s hot and you have too many clothes on, or it’s cold and you don’t have enough on, you may not have as much fun.
Dress in layers that are easy to remove while standing or kneeling.
No-slip neoprene socks or booties with will help keep your feet warm give you better traction on the deck.
Both you and your dog should always wear a life jacket.
If your dog has short hair, and especially if they have light skin, consider buying them a sun-blocking rash guard for dogs to prevent burning.
4) Put a towel on the deck
Wetting a towel and placing it on the front of the paddleboard will help your dog grip the board and keep from sliding off.
If your dog feels like they aren’t going to slip, they will be more confident and have more fun.
The #1 accessory you will want with you is a waterproof camera or regular camera/cell phone inside of a water-tight bag.
There will be a lot of fun photo ops you’ll want to share with your friends and family.
Also, having a dry bag you can strap to the deck is nice for keeping your extra clothes, water, snacks, etc. handy and from getting water-logged.
Also don’t forget sunscreen and water.
Where to Get a Paddleboard
There are three options here – buy, rent, or borrow a paddleboard.
If want to buy one, check out this article from our friend Wilderness Dave – Tips for Buying Your First Stand Up Paddleboard. He also paddleboards with his pup.
You can buy a paddleboard at an outdoor retailer. The advantage of this is that you can see and feel it in person first. Also, there will be a sales person that can help guide you toward the right choice.
If you buy a paddleboard, you can take it wherever you want like this amazing paddleboarding spot at Lake Wenatchee in Washington State.
You can also order paddleboards online from a retailer. You can often find sales and deals easier this way but you will usually have to pay a big shipping fee so be sure to factor that into the overall cost.
You can find used ones on sites like Facebook marketplace and Craigslist. If you find one for sale in the off-season (fall or winter) they will usually cost less than if you buy them during prime paddleboarding season (spring and summer)
If you don’t want to buy a paddleboard, you can rent one. Believe it or not, in my experience, at least half of the rental places I’ve checked out allow dogs on their boards.
You’re more likely to find available rentals in urban areas (like Seattle or Denver), or popular outdoor tourist destinations (like Bend, Or).
The advantage is you don’t have to commit to forking out a lot of money before you are sure you and your small dog even like paddleboarding. The advantage is that you have to find a place that allows dogs on their boards and you often aren’t allowed to transport them to your desired location.
Of course, it’s may also be an option to borrow one from a friend.
You’re friend is probably not going to mind if your dog gets on the board (be sure to ask first though), they will probably let you haul it to wherever you want, and they are likely to let you use it free of charge (or maybe for a case of beer.)
To read more about paddleboarding from me – and specifically about paddleboarding in Leavenworth and Wenatchee, Washington, check out the story I wrote for the CityDog Magazine Summer 2016 Travel + Adventure Guide (starts on page 16)