June 24, 2020 13 min read

Everything You Need to Know to Start Paddle Boarding with Your Dog

Paddle boarding with your dog is the ultimate goal for SUPers and water fanatics. What a dreamy image it conjures in your mind.

Just picture it, with a beautiful sunset in the backdrop, gliding over a lake. Or perhaps in your vision, you and your pooch are charging the waves together.

No matter what you are dreaming of, you still need to have a solid foundation of knowledge and skills before you hop onto your paddle board with your dog.

We’ve done the research and have put together the ultimate guide just for you and your pup. Here is everything you need to know about how to paddle board with your dog.

how to paddle board with your dog - man and pup

Equipment You Need to SUP with Your Dog

For starters, it is crucial you get the right gear. This isn’t just you now. If you are taking your furry friend on board, then you need to be as prepared as much as possible.

Here’s a quick list of the equipment and gear you will need:

  • A Dog Paddle board that with a large, wide deck
  • A good, long traction pad
  • A life jacket each for you and your dog
  • A bag of treats to reward your dogs good behavior

It’s a big responsibility, but with the correct steps, you’ll be having fun paddle boarding in no time.

Finding The Right Paddle Board

First up, you need the right dog paddle board. SUPs are designed in all shapes and sizes to suit specific purposes. For example, race SUPs are very narrow in order to provide the best straight-line speed. If you are carrying lots of gear or a canine passenger, you'll want to go in the opposite direction.

You should be looking for a paddle board that is wide with a pointed nose, giving you plenty of stability without losing any of the speed. 

gili meno paddle board

We like the GILI Komodo Inflatable SUP! This 10’6 x 33” deck is ideal to cruise with the pooch sitting comfortably upfront. It is super versatile and can easily handle up to 340 lbs, so all good if your dog is of a larger breed. You will be able to confidently handle choppy waters with the right size paddle board under your feet.

You'll also want to capture your epic adventures with your furry friend. Never miss a moment by attaching your camera to the built-in action mount at the nose.

Other boards from the GILI collection, like the Meno or Adventure models, would also be great choices for paddle boarding with dogs.

A Good Traction Pad

Having a decent traction pad in place will make your experience even easier. Any traction pad made from Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) will be perfect for what you need.

EVA material is non-slip and gives you a rubber-like feeling and grip. With its flexibility and soft touch this is a comfortable pad to have underfoot and paw.

It is also incredibly resilient and resistant to stress-cracks from UV and salt water, making it a fantastic option for a durable traction pad. There are several options available that are easy to fit to a SUP using a strong, water-resistant adhesive glue.

The GILI Komodo model has a full-length EVA traction pad, covering the full 10’3 from nose to tail. There is also a detachable 6-point bungee that can be taken off giving dogs even more room to lay down or maneuver.

PFD (Personal Floatation Device) for You and Your Dog

Safety is always number one. That is why it is essential to get your pup a personal floatation device (PFD). This will give you peace of mind while out in deep waters and far away from land.

Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, it is recommended that you make use of a PFD to give them extra buoyancy and help visibility in the water for safety purposes.

There are plenty of options available on the web. Some even have a fun shark fin feature to give a little comedy to your experience.

We recommend the fantastic K-9 Float Coat from RUFFWEAR. This PFD is extremely durable and made from the best quality materials available ensuring your dog is comfortable and won’t occur any abrasion or irritation. The cut of the life jacket allows full movement for your dog to get their paws moving and swimming comfortably.

You should always make sure the PFD you choose for your dog has a handle on the top side. This handle makes it super easy to lift your pooch back on board if he does take a tumble. Along with your dog, you should also wear a PFD to avoid any trouble while out cruising. This simple yet effective piece of equipment can save lives.

If you are taking out an action camera, we also recommend you have a floatation device attached to this as well.

how to paddle board with your dog - pfd on land

Your Pup

Finally, of course, you need your pup!

We recommend that you bring a leash along with you just in case you make any stops along the way. It is vital that you do NOT leash your dog to the board while exploring. Allow them to have full movement and freedom in case of any emergencies.

In the next section, we will go through the necessary steps to introduce dogs to the wonderful world of paddle boarding for the first time.

How to Introduce Your Dog to the Board

When you take your dog out for the first time, your dog might have some nerves. That’s completely normal and expected. This is a new world of experience for them to try. Some dogs will take to the paddle board quicker than others. It is important for you to remain patient and encouraging (this is where treats come in handy).

Take our step-by-step advice to help you out with getting your fur-baby comfortable on your board.

Your Dog Should Know Basic Commands

It’s obvious, but we need to say it. You need to have control over your dog. It will be reckless for you to take out a dog that doesn’t listen to you or trust you.

By knowing basic commands, your dog has the minimum level of obedience that is required to paddle board safely together.

The basic commands you should be looking for are, “sit”, “stay”, and “down”.

If your dog is still yet to master these three commands, we suggest you take a little more time to practice and work together before trying it on a paddle board.

Introduce Your Dog to the Paddle Board on Dry Land

It is important to make a few dry runs (pun intended) before you get onto the water. You can cause some serious stress and trauma for your dog if you skip this crucial step.

Your dog needs to be comfortable and understanding of what you are asking them to do.

It is highly recommended you introduce your dog to your board on dry land before setting off to any body of water. Here you will have a safe and calm environment for your pooch to explore your board.

All you need to do is prepare your board, with no fin fitted at this point. This is just to avoid any accidents around the fin and to keep the board even. Find a good clear and level space for your training grounds. Now, let the training begin!

how to paddle board with your dog - gili board

Train Your Dog to Get On and Off the SUP

After you have let them have a good sniff all over, next up is getting your pup to climb on the deck. This is a big step for a dog that is slightly nervous with new things, so please do take your time.

The importance of the basic commands is revealed here.

You need to encourage your canine to step onto your board then sit and stay. You can reward your dog with small training treats throughout the process. This will help their training and tell them when they are doing a good job.

You may find your doggo takes to the paddle board super fast. If they do, that is awesome! If your pup needs more time to get used to the board, try the following steps:

  1. Firstly, begin with just walking over the board, then reward with a treat.
  2. Then progress to stepping up and staying for 10 seconds, then treat.
  3. Next, you need to get them up and sitting, then treat.
  4. Finally, you can have them sitting for a longer period of time until you give instructions for them to get off.

It can be a long process, but the more time you put into this step, the more comfortable your pup will be when you get onto the water.

Make Sure You Have Mastered Your Paddle Board

This should go without saying. You need to make sure you are confident and competent on your paddle board before even considering taking your dog out with you. At a minimum, you should have a solid grasp of the basics of paddle boarding.

Don’t be foolish and put your dog in unnecessary risk. You would never be able to forgive yourself if an accident happened that you could have avoided by simply having more experience.

You should be able to paddle smoothly, turn comfortably, and stop your board when needed. Make sure you have mastered the skills before attempting to paddle board with your pup out.

how to paddle board with your dog - colorado

Here’s a quick summary of the steps needed to introduce your dog to the board:

  • Have basic commands nailed
  • Introduce the board on dry land
  • Train your dog to get on and off the board
  • Master the paddle board yourself
  • Prepare Your Dog to SUP

    Ok, so we’ve covered the necessary steps to be taken on land. Now let’s move on to what is needed in the water! It's highly advisable to take the time to prepare your dog for your first paddle board adventure. It will make for a much better experience for both of you.

    Make Sure Your Dog Can Swim

    Not all dogs are great swimmers. Some need to practice, just like us humans! If you haven’t already, bring your dog to the lake or ocean where you plan to paddle board and encourage them to get into the water (a good old game of fetch might do the trick).

    Some dogs are born water lovers and some may need a little bit of help from their masters. Make sure you know which category your doggo falls into here.

    how to paddle board with your dog - swimming

    If Your Dog is Energetic, Tire Her Out Before You SUP

    We recommend you give your dog a run if they are more energetic than normal. You don’t want to be trying to reign them in while out in the open waters.

    Bring a ball with you to the beach and exercise his happy paws until he is ready to sit calmly with you. If you don’t, they may get too excited and even topple the pair of you off!

    Test Fit Your Dog’s PFD

    Before the maiden voyage, it is recommended that you give the PFD a test run.

    You don’t have to go very deep. Just deep enough that your pooch can’t touch the bottom and can peacefully float on the surface of the water.

    Once you are confident, and your dog is comfortable with the PFD, you can move onto the next step of the adventure.

    how to paddle board with your dog two pups

    Trim Your Dog’s Nails - If Needed

    Give your furry friend a manicure treatment if they have slightly longer nails. When you enter the water, your dog will instinctively dig their claws into the board a little bit to help their balance.

    This is fine and won’t damage your paddle board as long as their nails are not too long. With trimmed nails, your pooch will be happy and so will you knowing the board won’t get damaged.

    All of this preparation is vital and necessary for making your dog as comfortable as possible.

    You are about to put them out of their comfort zone and they are relying on you fully to look after them. Don’t let your dog down!

    Here’s a quick list of how to prepare your dog to SUP:

  • Check they can swim
  • Tire them if they have too much energy
  • Test the PFD
  • Trim your dog's nails
  • If your dog is anxious, don’t force them
  • How to Paddle Board with Your Dog

    After completing all of that preparation, you should now be ready to hit the water with your dog!

    Remember all the skills you have already mastered. Keep your strokes deep and powerful using the exact same technique as before. You don’t need to paddle any differently with dogs on board.

    This is going to be a lot for your pooch to take in. Being on the water adds a whole new element for dogs to process. If your dog is in distress, don’t force them. Be as encouraging as possible for them to feel confident and comfortable.

    You will need to work alongside your furry friend to keep the balance. This will be the ultimate test of your partnership! Your dog should also be naturally staying aware of their balance and position on the board.

    Just a word of warning, if your dog is a bit more inquisitive than others, they may want to have a quick look at the water over the edge. There is nothing wrong with this, just make sure you naturally counteract their movements to avoid a nose dive or wipeout.

    And don’t forget to have fun! You are out on the water with your best friend. This is going to be an awesome day on the water.

    paddling with dog

    SUP Safety Tips For You and Your Pup

    Here are some key safety tips that will help you and your dog stay safe while having more and more watery adventures. Some will be obvious to most good dog parents. But it is our duty to remind you of all the safety aspects.

    Never Leave Your Dog in a Car

    This is so important. No matter your reasons, you should never leave your dog unattended in the car. Summer heat can be relentless and there are too many incidents of dehydrating pups in cars.

    If you are heading to the beach, let your dog out to stretch their legs. If you are going for a shopping trip, either leave your dog safe at home or have your friend go in for you while you wait with the dog.

    There is always a way to avoid leaving your dog in the car.

    Use a Pup Friendly Sunscreen

    Our dogs are tough, but it’s good for us to give them the best.

    So stock up on some sun lotion that is good for both you and your dog! Yep, that’s right! Some dogs are super sensitive to the sun as well.

    While you are paddle boarding across the water, you will be collecting a lot of UV rays from above and below as the sun reflects off the water. This can be intense for your pooch who normally waits for you in a shaded area.

    There are plenty of dog friendly sun lotions available. We recommend you stay clear of any zinc oxide or Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) based products, as these can be harmful to your dog.

    The spots you need to apply the lotion to are the ears, tummies, and noses. White-haired dogs are more susceptible to sunburn, just like fair-headed humans.

    dog on beach

    Sit Down or Kneel Near Hazards

    It depends where you are paddle boarding, but you may come across some hazards while on your adventure. If you are exploring lakes, estuaries, or mangroves, you may come across some low branches.

    When this happens it is always best to get low to the board, either kneeling or even sitting. The lower you are the better balance and control you will have. And you will be able to avoid hitting your head!

    As you have your dog on board with you, you don’t need to be taking any additional risks.

    A simple lowering to the board could save a topple and traumatic experience for your dog. You want them to come out again with you, so make sure they have fun too!

    Wash Your Dog (and Board) When You’ve Finished

    Whenever your dog explores water environments you should always give them a rinse off. And the same goes for paddle boarding adventures.

    Harmful parasites and bacteria can be carried in water. If left on your dog’s skin this could lead to some health problems down the line.

    Even if the water is super clean, it’s still a good practice to uphold. It also means your pup is clean enough to jump up for a cuddle in bed or on the sofa to celebrate your day of exploring.

    dog bath shower

    And as always, for similar reasons, it is important to give your equipment a wash down too. This maintains the seams of the paddle board and can increase the lifespan of the board.

    Saltwater in particular can be highly damaging to the materials used on your board. A quick rinse off can save you a lot of money for repair work on damaged boards.

    Be Aware of Beach and Lake Hazards

    Paddle boarding is becoming more and more popular, even with those not with a strong water sports background.

    When you are riding with your dog, or even going solo, it is essential to take note of any hazards you could face at either the beach or lake.

    Things to consider before heading out at the beach include wind, swell, tides, currents, and sunset time. Having knowledge of these elements, you will be able to plan your paddle route to have the wind on your back, the tides in favor, and not get caught out with losing light.

    You need to be aware of what is below you while paddling. If you come across a super shallow patch in a lake, or over a reef, you definitely don’t want you or your dog to be falling off. As we mentioned before, lakes could have low lying branches or even some marine life you should know about beforehand.

    Remember, safety is the number one priority. And the best way to stay safe is to be well prepared.

    Bring a First Aid Kit

    We always recommend to any outdoor fanatic to have a standard first aid kit stowed away in case of emergencies.

    Having a simple kit with disinfectant, bandaids, bandages, and gauze could help patch up any cuts or scrapes.

    You can also use these supplies if your dog has an accident and has a cut. At least by having a first aid kit in your car, you can do a quick patch-up job before properly treating it back home or at the doctor or veterinarian.

    Here’s a quick list of safety tips you should keep in mind:

  • Don’t leave your dog in a car
  • Get some pup friendly sunscreen
  • Watch out for hazards and know your surroundings
  • Bring a first aid kit
  • Wash down your dog and board when finished
  • Wrapping Up

    With solid preparation for both you and your dog, you will be well on your way to having amazing experiences.

    Think of the amazing memories you are going to create with your furry friend! The bond is going to run even deeper once you get out onto the open water, gracefully gliding together.

    By taking your dog on the board with you, you are responsible for their life. Make sure you are aware of any dangers or hazards you may face, and way up the risks before taking that step into the water.

    We hope you enjoy your paddle with your pup. Share your memories with us and stand with us in this dream with your dog.

    Warren Tsoi
    Warren Tsoi

    Editor - Warren is an avid waterman and conservationist who will take any chance to be outdoors. He believes the best way to protect our environment is to get people outside to appreciate nature.


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