Paddle Boarding Safely with Your Dog: The Comprehensive Guide

Paddle boarding, also known as stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), is an exciting water activity that has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. It's no surprise that many dog owners want to share this experience with their furry companions. But, just like introducing a dog to any new activity, there are safety precautions to keep in mind.

Taking your dog paddle boarding can be a memorable and exhilarating experience, but safety should always be paramount. This guide provides an in-depth look at how to ensure a safe SUP outing with your canine friend.

Key Highlights

  1. Evaluating Your Dog's Readiness: Assessing temperament, physical fitness, and age to ensure they're suitable for SUP.
  2. Acclimatization Process: Introducing your dog to the SUP on land with positive reinforcement and familiarization techniques.
  3. Selecting the Right Gear: Importance of a dog-specific PFD, non-slip mats, and considering the use of a leash.
  4. First-Time On Water Tips: Choosing calm waters, proper boarding techniques, and positioning for stability.
  5. Safety Precautions: Staying alert, taking regular breaks for swimming, and practicing re-boarding from the water.
  6. Environmental Considerations: Managing temperature, wildlife interactions, and sun protection for your dog.
  7. Post-Paddle Care: Importance of rinsing off saltwater, checking paws for injuries, and ensuring hydration and rest.
  8. Training Tips: Utilizing commands for a calm and centered SUP experience and balance exercises for your dog.

1. Is Your Dog Ready for Paddle Boarding?

dog next to a paddle board

Before you even consider getting on the water, you must evaluate whether your dog is a good candidate for paddle boarding. Consider the following:

  • Temperament: Dogs that are generally calm, confident, and obedient often do better than those that are overly excitable or anxious.

  • Physical Fitness: Dogs should be in good health and able to swim.

  • Age: Very young puppies and older dogs may not be suitable for this activity due to their physical limitations or potential stress.

2. Acclimatization: Getting Your Dog Familiar with the SUP.

puppy on an inflatable paddle board

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  • Lay the board on a soft surface to prevent it from moving.

  • Let your dog sniff, explore, and even climb onto the board on their own terms.

  • Use treats and positive reinforcement to make this a positive experience.

  • Practice commands like "sit" and "stay" on the board.

3. Select the Right Gear.

dogs on a paddle board
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device): Just like humans, dogs should wear a life jacket, especially if they're not strong swimmers. Ensure it has a sturdy handle to help you lift your dog out of the water.

  • Non-slip Mat: Many paddle boards come with a built-in non-slip surface, but if yours doesn't, consider adding a dog-specific traction mat.

  • Leash: A leash can be a controversial topic. On one hand, it keeps your dog close. On the other, there's a risk of entanglement. If you choose to use one, ensure it's long enough to prevent tangling and always be ready to detach it quickly.

  • Water and Bowl: Hydration is crucial. Always bring fresh water for both you and your pet.

4. Starting Out: Your First Time on the Water.

dog on a paddleboard
  • Choose a Calm Day and Location: Begin in calm, shallow waters. Avoid crowded areas, and pick a day with minimal wind and waves.

  • Getting On: Once you're in ankle-deep water, get onto your board in a kneeling position. Call your dog onto the board, helping them if needed. Give them time to find their balance.

  • Positioning: Most dogs find the middle of the board, right in front of the paddler, to be the most stable spot.

  • Standing Up: Once your dog is settled, slowly transition from kneeling to standing, ensuring you maintain balance. If at any point your dog looks anxious, revert to kneeling or take a break.

5. Safety on the Water.

  • Stay Alert: Pay attention to other water users, potential obstacles, and your dog's behavior.

  • Regular Breaks: Let your dog swim around and play occasionally. It’s a great way for them to expend energy.

  • Practice Re-boarding: Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, practice helping them back onto the board from the water. Using the life jacket handle is crucial here.

6. Weather and Environmental Considerations.

  • Temperature: Dogs can get cold or overheat, just like humans. If you're paddle boarding in colder conditions, consider a doggy wetsuit. In hot weather, ensure they have shade (under your stance is ideal) and plenty of water.

  • Wildlife: Be aware of potential wildlife like jellyfish, sea lice, or even larger creatures that might be curious about your dog.

  • Sun Protection: Dogs can get sunburned, especially those with thin coats or lighter skin. Use pet-safe sunscreen and consider a protective rash guard.

7. Post-Paddle Care.

  • Rinse Off: Freshwater is essential to rinse off any salt, algae, or small organisms. This can help prevent skin irritations and infections.

  • Check Paws: The board's surface or any debris in the water might cause small cuts or abrasions. Ensure their paws are clean and injury-free.

  • Hydration and Rest: Just like after any exercise, ensure your dog has water and a quiet place to rest.

8. Training Tips and Tricks.

  • Commands: Reinforce basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and possibly “lay down” to keep your dog calm and centered on the board.

  • Balance: Just like humans, dogs will have an easier time if their weight is distributed evenly. If they continually lean to one side, try adjusting their position or practicing balance exercises on land.


Paddle boarding with your dog can be a rewarding experience, combining exercise, bonding, and the great outdoors. With patience, training, and the right safety precautions, both you and your furry friend can enjoy the wonders of SUP safely. Whether you're exploring serene lakes, gentle ocean waves, or meandering rivers, ensure you're always prioritizing your canine companion's safety and comfort. Happy paddling!

Tips, Tricks, and Fun Articles await.

Here are a few quick links to help you keep going, don't forget to check our blog out for more tips and expert advice. For wildlife tips check out our blog and this article on Beginners Guide To Bird Watching. And don't forget to read our article on Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Wildlife Encounters. For a complete guide of where to paddle board in every state, this one is for you! The best places to paddle board in the United States a state by state tour of where to paddle board with Glide Paddle Boards.

Or perhaps something international is what you are looking for, then these two articles will help out. Check out the ultimate guide on finding places to paddle board near you for tips and tricks on finding new and exciting places near you! And for international spots Epic Spots Globally To Paddle Board is for you! And check out the Glide O2 Angler and why it makes an incredible platform for birding and wildlife viewing.

Moree articles on sup with a pup can be found here and here.