It is finally summer in Seattle with temperatures consistently being 85°F - 90°F daily.  If you are not familiar with the weather patterns of the Northwest United States, the weather is very hot for this region especially given that most homes and businesses do not have air conditioning.  While most of the city is baking, we are trying to come up with fun ways to stay cool. I decided to dust off our paddleboards and start hitting the water with my French bulldogs, Cooper (3.5 years) and Phoenix (10 months).  

Considering it was Phoenix’s first paddleboarding experience, what do you need to know to paddleboard with your dog?

1.  Exposure to Water

Your dog needs to be comfortable with water before putting them on a paddleboard.  Either fill up a bathtub or kids pool with water and let your dog get used to being in and around water.  This will help to reduce stress and anxiety before going out on the paddleboard for the first time.

2.  Life Vest Is Essential

Frenchies will sink if they fall into a large body of water.  Get a properly fitted life vest and start using it.  Just like letting your dog get comfortable in a kids pool, make sure to have practice runs in the water with your dog wearing their life vest.  This allows them to get comfortable with the vest and to learn that it helps them float when in the water.

3.  Experience With the Paddleboard at Home

Put your paddleboard in a room at home and allow your dog to sniff and walk on the paddleboard.  This will increase your dog's familiarity with the board and help to reduce stress when out on the water for the first time.

4.  Practice Runs in Water

It is now time to put all the pieces together and have your first trial run with your dog and the paddleboard.  Remember to start small!  In order to get your dog comfortable on the board, stay in the shallow area of the water and move the board around with just your dog on the board.  As you walk and move the board around the shallow water, give praise and positive reinforcement to your dog. This helps to increase your dog’s confidence and decrease confusion about what is proper paddleboarding behavior.

5.  Jump On

Now that your dog is feeling comfortable with the board, it is time to join your dog.  Get on the board, and stay on your knees so that your dog can get used to floating on the water with another passenger.  If you are on your knees, it allows easy access to your dog so that you can give praise and reinforce good behavior, while also being closer to grab the handle of the life vest in case they fall into the water.  If your dog is starting to wander towards the front of the board, it might be a good idea to reposition your dog closer to you. The goal of your first run is to get your dog comfortable on the board and to limit falling into the water, which may cause fear during subsequent outings.

6.  Limit Time On Water

During your first few paddleboarding experiences with your dog, limiting time out on the water is crucial to prevent burn-out.  Keep play time brief, ideally 30 to 45 minutes.  Watch for signs that your dog may be getting tired, and if so, then it is time to go back to shore and rest.

7.  Celebrate

Once you are back on land, make sure to praise your dog for their first successful paddleboard run.  Your dog needs to know that they have done a good job so that they can learn to enjoy being out on the water with you. If your dog knows that they can trust you on water, it helps to build a lasting relationship, especially with each new paddleboarding experience.  So pop the bottle of champagne and celebrate because you just paddleboarded as a team!

As you and your dog get more comfortable with both paddleboarding and being out on the board together, you can begin to increase difficulty.  You can spend longer intervals out on the water or you can start standing while paddling so your dog gets used to different positions.  As your dog gets more comfortable on the board, it makes for a better paddleboarding experience, ensuring that both you and your dog have a fun-filled outing.