Introducing your dog to SUP

Introducing your dog to SUP

March 09, 2021


Woman introducing her dog to paddleboarding

Paddleboarding with your dog can be a new, fun, and exciting way to connect with your pet. We recommend that you are a competent paddler before attempting to bring your dog on board to ensure no accidents or mishaps happen. You’ll need to have access to a paddleboard that is somewhat stable, try a board that is over 10 feet in length and around 32” wide or long. You’ll also want to consider the weight of your pup and ensure you have a board that can support the weight of both you and your dog together.

Teaching your dog to be comfortable on a paddleboard is the first step

Before you head straight to the water we recommend getting your dog comfortable with being on the board before setting out on the water. You can start to train your dog at home or on the beach by lying the board on the floor and encouraging your dog to jump on and offering treats and belly rubs as a reward. Soon your dog will see the paddleboard as a place he gets rewarded, this will help when the time comes to get on the water. You can adopt some paddleboarding commands so your pup will be familiar with these when you hit the open water, such as ‘sit’, ‘lie’, and ‘stay’. Once your dog is starting to get familiar with your paddleboard at home you are ready for the next step - getting on the water.

SUP paddling with a dog makes paddleboarding more fun

Here are some points to take into consideration when bringing your dog on the water with you:


Not only should a PFD (a personal floatation device) be worn by yourself, but also by your dog. You may think your dog is a great swimmer but there are many situations that even the best swimmers may struggle in. Your pup shouldn’t be neglected when it comes to safety, find a good life vest that fits well and is comfortable for your pup to wear all day. As well as offering safety, most dog lifejackets have a convenient handle on the back for swooping up your pet should they decide to take a dip and are made from highly visible colors. You can put the PFD on your dog at home to get them used to wearing it and so that it is not such a strange experience when they get to the beach.


Dog pads can be brought in addition to your board and offer a platform for your pet to stand at the front of the board. They are usually made from soft EVA foam for comfort and the texture adds extra grip. Having your pup at the helm of the board allows you to balance out the weight, helping to keep the board more stable. Check out the Pau Hana Dog Pads here.


We recommend trimming or filling your dog's nails down so they are not as sharp. This helps to protect the paddleboard from any scratches or damage to the surface and will save your deck pad from getting any tares. You will also be thankful that you trimmed your pup's nails if you end up helping your dog back onto the board as the splashing and kicking can easily lead to scratches on your arms or feet.


Leave the dog leash at home or in the car as they pose a risk of getting tangled up with your paddle or other equipment on the board. Ropes and lines should always be avoided where possible in the water as they can easily turn into hazards and get tangled around things in the water.
Top tip: You can also try exercising your dog before taking them on the water to unleash any pent-up energy.


Water can reflect up to 100% of the UV rays that hit the surface. That's why it is so important to always wear adequate sun protection on the water. Choose a waterproof sunscreen and long-sleeves for you and apply some dog-safe sunscreen to your pet's ears, nose and tummy. Make sure you have plenty of fresh water to hand to offer them too.

Two dogs on a paddleboard being paddled across a lake by their owner


Introducing your dog to SUP is likely to be more successful if you pick a calm day to take them out. Look for glassy water on days without waves, wind, or strong currents, and try to pick an area that isn’t busy with water traffic as these can all put extra stress onto a pup if they are anxious. Keep a light and fun attitude while out to keep your dog at ease even if you run into more rough conditions.


Don’t forget to pack treats and fresh water for you and some for your dog. Reward good behavior Treats can turn your dogs SUP experience into a really fun one, and keep them coming back for more paddleboarding. You can use the treats along with commands for things like jumping on and off the board, lying down, and not chasing the wildlife!


Dogs are incredibly clever and can read human emotions exceptionally well. If your demeanor is cool, calm, and collected, your dog will likely feel the same too, but if you are panicked and stressed that’s likely to rub off on your pet and cause problems. Be patient and understanding. Try not to push your dog too hard, instead offer some treats and make it a fun time for them to be out with you. Soon enough your dog will be wanting to come on every adventure with you!

SUP paddling with your dog can be really good fun and great pet bonding

Following these top tips will give you a strong foundation for introducing your dog to paddleboarding. Remember though, there’s no guarantee your pet is going to be happy on the water and you should respect your dog's choice whether they want to go with you or not.

Good luck and let us know in the comments how much your pup loves paddling!

SUP dog, Pulu, and his owner, Rocky Canon, surf at Cabella Bay on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii!

Written by Jennifer Chrimes


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