16 Tips for Taking Your Dog Paddling

pit bull terrier wearing a life jacket and sitting on a stand-up paddleboard

Going paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking with your dog can be fun, safe, and engaging activities. Even if your dog is an avid swimmer, they may be apprehensive about getting out on the water like this. Proper preparation and technique are key to taking your dog out for a paddling trip. Here are some tips for taking your dog paddling:

How to Prepare for the Paddling Trip

Whether you’re planning to take your dog on a stand-up paddleboard, in a canoe, or in a kayak, there are some things you want to pack and things you want to do to prepare ahead of time. Here are some tips to prepare for the paddling trip:

1. Make Sure Your Dog is an Adept Swimmer

Prior to paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking, make sure your dog is a solid swimmer. Dogs that are weak swimmers or afraid of water are not good candidates for this activity. If you cannot get them to appreciate the water, you can consult a trainer or accept that a paddling trip might not be right for them.

2. Check Their Nails and Trim if Needed

Long nails or jagged nails can scrape or damage the surface of a SUP board or other areas of a canoe or kayak. Plus, they can get caught in things and are likely uncomfortable for your dog. So, make sure you check their nails and give them a trim or a file if needed before you take your dog paddling.

3. Stock Up on Treats

You can use treats on your adventure to reinforce positive behavior. If your dog tries to make a habit of jumping off the boat when they shouldn’t, you can keep it from becoming a habit and encourage them to be a more obedient rider with some treat-reinforced training.

4. A Tired Dog is a Chill Dog

Nobody wants their dog to be restless on a paddling trip due to pent up energy. Before getting out on the water, play a solid game of fetch, go for a long swim, or do some other activity that will drain your dog’s energy reserves.

By getting rid of some of that excess energy, they are more likely to be chill on the board, in the canoe, or in the kayak. This reduces the risk of capsizing the board or boat. Plus, it’s not easy to get yourself and a dog back on a board or in a boat in the middle of the water.

5. Have a Floatation Device

Even if your dog is an experienced swimmer, it’s important for them to have a life jacket. This is one of the boat safety tips for dogs and is important for paddling too.

In addition to general safety, there’s a chance the new experience could freak them out and cause them to panic. This can impact your dog’s ability to swim, which only makes a life jacket for them even more important.

Plus, a good life jacket for dogs will often have a handle. This can help you stabilize them if waves or other boat wakes rock your board or boat. It can also give you something to grab to keep them from jumping into the water when you don’t want them to or help you get them back on-board if they decide to go for a swim.

6. Bring Water

It’s wise to bring fresh water as the water that surrounds you might not be potable. For instance, if you’re out on the ocean, your dog may attempt to drink the saltwater, further dehydrating them. This can be prevented by stocking up beforehand with a little fresh water for you and your dog.

7. Bring a First Aid Kit

Not all waters are safe waters. There are unknown dangers like rocks or animals that can turn a relaxing trip into an emergency. It’s a good idea to bring a First Aid kit with some bandages, tweezers, and antiseptic.

This ensures that if a problem does arise that it can be addressed quickly. And, if you need to get to the vet, you can stabilize your dog and help keep them comfortable until you get there.

How To Take Your Dog Paddling

Once you have done the preparation, then it’s time to get out on the water. Here are some more tips for taking your dog paddling:

8. Show Your Dog it’s Safe

Have your dog remain on the shore at first and demonstrate to them that it’s a safe and fun activity. Waving, laughing, and smiling can demonstrate to them that there is no danger. This also helps them get used to the environment.

9. Introduce Them Slowly

Allow your dog to get on the board, in the canoe, or in the kayak while you stand it still in shallow water. Gently push it through safe, shallow water to introduce them slowly to the experience. Treats for staying on-board and keeping calm will help. Also, remove them and let them leave if they are too scared.

10. Balance it as You Join Your Dog

As soon as you and your dog are ready, get into the water on your SUP or get into the canoe or kayak. Starting on your knees on a SUP board can help you keep the board balanced while your dog adjusts. Moving slowly and keeping your weight balanced in a canoe or kayak can do the same.

11. Be Aware of Them and the Paddle

As you begin paddling, make sure you are aware of where your dog is so you can keep the weight balanced and also avoid accidentally hitting them with the paddle.

12. Maintain Stable Weight Distribution

Little dogs can often chill on the front tip of a stand-up paddleboard while big dogs can often position themselves on the back of the board for optimal weight distribution and stability.

You have a little more freedom with a canoe or kayak, but you’ll still need to figure out the best position for your dog to keep things stable and balanced.

13. Keep Trips Short at First and Reward Often

You may not get it right the first time out, but it’s all part of the learning process. Reward your dog and give them praise throughout the trip and when you return to shore.

Start with brief paddling trips at first and then gradually increase the amount of time they stay out paddling with you as they get used to it.

14. Beware of Hazards

Your dog will eventually jump off the board or out of the boat at some point. When they do, there will be some movement. This could mean that you fall off your SUP board or even capsize a kayak or canoe. So, make sure you are aware of hazards around you like other boats, rocks, and more to avoid injury if you end up in the water.

15. Help Your Dog Back On-Board

If your dog leaps or slips off the board or out of the boat, help them back on. This will help your dog relax faster and it will keep them from scraping the surface of the board or your boat. Life jackets typically have handles you can grasp onto so you can assist them.

16. Rinse Off Your Dog Afterwards

After you’re done, make sure to rinse off your dog. Saltwater can irritate the skin and freshwater is filled with different microorganisms that can turn into bigger problems. Rinsing off your dog can help them feel more comfortable and also remove these risks.

Padding is an excellent activity to do with most dogs, as long as it’s something they enjoy doing with you. By keeping these tips for taking your dog paddling in mind, you can ensure that your new adventure will be smooth sailing.