Lots of people comment on how fun it must be to stand up paddle with my dog, Kharma, and it is! I have had the privilege of paddling with my cat, though he had a pretty specific personality and enjoyed being on the water and in it too!
If you are animal lover like me and your best friend is furry, slobbery and has four legs-and if you are wanting to share an amazing experience and avoid the longing, guilt-inducing looks as you load up the board and paddle away from the beach- keep reading!
Stand up paddling is an amazing activity to share with your furry friend, and with short period of introduction and patience, it can lead to a lifetime of wonderful memories together.
My dog –daughter is a 9-year old black Labrador, and stand up paddling together hasn’t always been easy. When she was four we moved from Canada to Mexico and it was the first time she’d ever seen the ocean; suddenly my water-loving dog would not go in the water. Something about the waves crashing at the shore both intrigued and terrified her enough that she would run in the wet sand as the water went out and then run for drier ground as the waves came back. This leads me to the 1st of my 5 Puppy Paddle Points ( PPP)
Be sensitive to your dogs likes and dislikes. Just because you are ready to jet out and seek whales or whitewater doesn’t mean that your dog is ready to do the same. With Kharma, I kept bringing her to the beach with me. I would play in the water and she would lay on the sand. Days lead to weeks, weeks lead to months and sometime later, I happened to pick up a coconut and throw it in the water , and suddenly she was after it. Once we had the water under control we had to introduce her to the board and being a good paddling buddy.
Be Safe, even if you have a an avid water dog. Dogs, just like people, can get exhausted from swimming and face all of the same water safety hazards that people do. A puppy life jacket will keep them safe and it will also make your life a lot easier in getting them back on the board. Simply grab the handle and pull them up.
With Kharma, we introduced the jacket by letting her sniff around it and by giving her lots of treats. She liked the jacket before we even put it on her! Getting her to be a good passenger took much the same routine of reward and treat for good behavior. This is not to say that when she see’s something interesting she doesn’t jump in, but for the most part she knows where she sits and is a pretty good passenger.
Choose the right board. Most dogs don’t stay still the entire ride, they like to move around the board, see where you’re going and where you’ve been. For first time dog riders, I recommend a bigger stable board to keep you both from falling in. Once you have experience together, a smaller board will work just as well. If your board doesn’t have a full deck pad, cutting a yoga mat and putting it on the front of the board is a great option to prevent your dog from slipping in or scratching your deck.
When we are off on long adventures I make sure to bring food and water for Kharma just like I do for myself.
Feed your friend. Make sure you have treats, water and sunscreen for your dog when you are out for a long time. Chapstick is great for a puppy nose protector. And a final word on am important safety rule with your fur-friend.
Leave the leash behind. Do not use a leash to attach your dog to the board or to you. A leash can get tangled and create a unsafe situation for you both.
Fast forward five years and two other countries, and Kharma has been stand up paddling with me for a long time and a lot of places. As soon as I have a board in my hands, she’s running around waiting for me to put it down so she can get on it. Once on board she sits patiently waiting till I’m ready to go.
We both benefit from the added exercise when she decides to get on and off the board for a swim, and the most amazing parts of having her with me are the interactions she’s had with other animals. Hanging off the side of my board paws in the water, she curiously watches the fish move around the board. Together we have seen turtles, sting rays and crabs, and its always amusing when a manatee sticks its snout up and startles her to the point of almost falling off the board. None of these interactions compare, however, to her newly found love of swimming with the dolphins. She can hear them before we see them and immediately starts crying out to them. When they appear, she is off the board and in the water swimming with them as they circle around her and under her. It is magical, and having Kharma with me enhances my paddling experience every time.
I encourage you to give paddling with your pet some consideration: with attention to a few basics points, it’s fun, easy and beneficial for you both. It can enhance your experience of each other and connection to the world around you.
Previously published in SUP World Mag 2014 Edition