Tips

SUPing with Pets

Do you paddleboard with your pet? Or are looking to take your fur baby out on the water with you?

I asked a cat owner and 3 dog owners about their experience, tips and recommendations for SUPing with their pet.

chihuahua on a paddle board

Pet Owners & Their Pets

Name: Sarah @haulingtatertots
Location: Ottawa Valley, ON
Pet’s Name: Fisher
Pet Breed: German Shorthaired Pointer
Pet’s Age: 5 years old
Pet’s Size: 71lbs of pure muscle
Overall demeanour: High-energy, easily distracted, affectionate, SUPER-friendly, incredibly athletic and CUDDLE MONSTER!
Name: Denise @denisvictoria
Location: Cambridge, ON
Pet’s Name: Mac @malcolm.j.mcgonagall
Pet Breed: West Highland Terrier (Westie)
Pet’s Age: 3 years old
Pet’s Size: 20lbs
Overall demeanour: Mac is a super friendly, high-energy dog who loves to go anywhere and everywhere. He is always up for an adventure! He can be stubborn and nervous of new situations (bridge, dock, ramp) but once he has approached and mastered the new scenario a few times, he is ready to jump right in nose first!
Name: Allison & Christopher
Location: New York, USA
Pet’s Name: Marina @marina_ventures
Pet Breed: Cat Mix (Possibly Maine Coon, Ragdoll, Russian Blue)
Pet’s Age: 2 years old
Pet’s Size: 10lbs
Overall demeanour: Calm and used to being in new environments
Name: Alexis @alexis.dovetail
Location: Bancroft, ON
Pet’s Name: Albatross aka “Albi” (she’s my boyfriend’s dog, but I SUP with her)
Pet Breed: Flat Coat Bernadoodle
Pet’s Age: 2.5 years old
Pet’s Size: 70lbs
Overall demeanour: Albi’s a happy dog with tons of energy. She loves to swim, run, fetch, play, and snuggle. Albi lives at a summer camp and maple syrup sugarbush, and she’s the official greeter,  responsible for welcoming everyone and making them all feel at home.

How did you get started and get your pet interested in paddleboarding?

Sarah & Fisher:

When I lived in BC, I fell in love with surfing. SUPing became an alternative when I moved back to Ontario. Fisher was VERY easy to get on the board. In fact, I didn’t have to try. When testing out the board for the first time, Fisher saw me paddling around near the beach and swam over to take a look. The first time he climbed on the board, it wasn’t graceful for either of us at all. But, he loved riding on the front of the board so much, the rest is history. He was around a year and a half at the time.

Tips & Resources: I haven’t considered looking up resources on SUPing with pets. But, I do follow Ryan Van Duzer on Youtube and he features this cute dog, Mira. Mira bikes EVERYWHERE with her owner and rides in a box on the back of his pedal bike. I think that if your dog likes to be active with you, anything is possible.

Denise & Mac:

We purchased our boards at the beginning of the Covid- 19 pandemic as a means to physically distance ourselves from others while still enjoying the outdoors. We brought Mac along on our very first paddle in early May 2020 when he was just two years old. To be very honest, Mac has never been a fan of swimming. He wades into the water to play or drink along the shoreline but swimming is not his idea of fun. If we go into the water to swim and leave him on shore it is the only time he barks like mad. I assume he thinks we are in danger. We felt his general dislike for swimming would be great motivation for him to remain on the board. We also knew that Mac would enjoy being on the board because he loves to be involved in all that we do. He has a backpack (K9 Sport Sack) that he has been riding in since he was a puppy so that he could join bike rides and come into the shops, he also loves a road trip and hiking on or off-trail.

Tips & Resources: The key to bringing your dog along on the adventure is to make sure that you feel comfortable and confident with the experience yourself. Your pet can feel your energy and if you are nervous or scared they will begin to feel the same way. We always try to make a positive connection to any equipment such as his harness, lead, life vest or backpack with an exciting, safe and positive experience. Now when Mac sees us packing for an adventure he is so happy to see his belongings being packed up as well.

Allison, Christopher & Marina: 

Adventuring with a cat typically happens at a much slower progression than with a dog. After slowly getting them used to a harness, we slowly introduced and reinforced new experiences; car rides, new places, walks, hikes. Our first water adventure was on a motorboat, then a kayak, then lastly the Paddleboard. For each watercraft, we first allowed Marina to explore it on land. Next, we put her in her backpack, got onto the water and then opened the pack. We let her come out when she was ready, at her own pace. We keep a life jacket on her. 

Tips & Resources:  Catexplorer: How to Stand Up Paddle Board With Your Cat

Alexis & Albi:

Albi loves the water and she has been canoeing since she was born. When she first saw the SUP she hopped right on and was curious! Albi’s a natural! She’s usually a pretty high-energy dog, but when she gets on the SUP board, she calms down, watches the water for fish (she loves fishing), or lies down and watches the shoreline for otters and birds. 

Tips & Resources: Not yet!

Did your pet already like the water or how did you overcome this obstacle?

Sarah & Fisher 

Fisher didn’t like the water until he was about a year old, his second summer. Once he finally went swimming on his own, he truly fell in love with cooling off in the summers and swimming out to fetch his ball in a game of throw. I was very glad that he realized water sports are just as fun as land activities.

Denise & Mac 

No. Mac does not love the water. To begin we only launched from a dock or platform that did not require him to wade into the water. He was also very nervous about the docks initially. To make him feel more comfortable we would seek out docks to walk onto calmly during our hikes. We are members of the Grand River Conservation Area and hold a Provincial Park Pass. This gives us many locations to hike and paddle. We would also always ensure we were fully prepared to launch before bringing him onto the dock. Initially, I would carry him and my board to the dock and have him sit alongside me as I prepped my board. When I was ready I would set him onto my board and give the command to stay in a firm but calm tone. If we were in a location that required him to be on leash I would tether his leash to one of the D rings on the edge of my board using a carabiner. I would then kneel onto my board and push away from the dock reminding him to stay. He could then be unleashed and free to walk about the board.

I feel that in the beginning launching should be a quick but not rushed process. I did not want to give Mac time to jump and run off the board. Once we begin to paddle I speak to Mac in a happy tone about what we see along the paddle and give him lots of pets when we stop for a break.

On our very first paddle on Puslinch Lake, Mac was only wearing his harness that has a handle on the back. I learned on this paddle that Mac needed a life vest when he leapt from the board towards the shore near the end of our paddle. As soon as he jumped into the rather cold water he looked very panicked and began to swim in circles. I turned around quickly calling his name for him to swim towards me. Once he was in reach I used his harness to lift him back onto the board. Due to the water temperature, we ended our paddle and returned to shore. Mac now wears a Canada Pooch Wave Rider Lifevest. We purchased ours from Pet Valu but they are also available online.

Allison, Christopher & Marina

Marina has always been interested in water. She runs into the bathroom when the shower turns on and always sits outside or sticks her head in. On the motorboat, she appeared to enjoy walking around and looking out into the water. This gave us the confidence to try kayaking and Paddleboarding with her. She is very calm and comfortable. 

Alexis & Albi

Albi loves the water, so SUPping was a natural extension! 

Tips While Out On The Water With Your Pet:

If you have a hunting dog, try to avoid areas with large geese/duck populations. Fisher will walk underneath my legs to get a better view from the back of the board if these waterfowl are around. It can be an interesting sight if you are watching from shore.

Another tip is if your dog is trying to climb on the board, don’t try and assist by pulling on the collar. it chokes them and seems to make them a little more anxious. It’s better to reach for a hind leg and give an extra step for the dog to pull themselves up. This took some practise, but easily became our best practise and FIsher expects it now.

Mac typically likes to walk front to back on the board. He will stretch out to lay down, sit between my feet and lean on my leg or move to the nose of the board to sniff the breeze. How you pack your board with accessories and how comfortable you are with movement will depend where and what your dog does on the board. Remember you need to feel comfortable and confident for everyone to enjoy the experience.

Consistency is key. On my board, I am comfortable with Mac’s movement and on cold days I like that he sits on my feet like a little toe warmer. I pack my accessories (dry bag, shoes, Mac’s lead, water bottle, my life vest, boat rope and shoes) on the back of my board. When riding with my husband Mac prefers to sit behind him in his shadow on a sunny day. If I pack my belongings on the front of the board this limits Mac’s movements and he can get his paws tangled up in the bungee cords.

Commands: Getting on or off the board Mac can get overly excited cuasing me to fall as the board kicks back away from the direction he jumps. I give Mac the command to “wait” and “stay”. This is the same when he transitions between my board and my husbands’. We then give Mac the command “okay” and he gingerly hops over to the next board.

My husband likes to chase after birds with Mac on his board as this is one of Mac’s favourite hobbies. 

If your dog likes to swim and be in the water, that will result in you being wet on your board. This is something to consider with regards to temperature.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to think about what kind of experience you want to have? We like to have long paddles along the shores of lakes and reservoirs. There is lots to sniff, hear and see for Mac and beautiful sights for us to experience. Mac is super happy to take a free ride. Just know that extra weight on the board requires extra paddling effort.

The first thing is to be comfortable on the Paddleboard yourself. Stay calm and allow your pet to stay calm. We are still relatively new to this ourselves and I still sit on the board when we go out. I would like her to experience jumping in herself before I increase the risk by standing up. 

Always pack treats and water, and a couple of high-value (ie: stinky) treats to keep the dogs attention if wildlife comes along and they’re tempted to launch themselves off the board – and knock you in too!

What would you never do with your pet while SUPing?

Sarah & Fisher

Hunt or fish (actual), what a sh*t show that would be. Oh, and rapids.

Denise & Mac

I would not recommend taking your dog out if the water temperatures are too low. We will often leave Mac at home for our early spring paddles. If he fell into the water, our paddle would be over due to the risk of hypothermia.

We also ensure he is not overheating in the summer. I like to wet his life jacket before we begin so that he can stay cool. Or I give him a quick dip in the water using the life jacket handle since he is not up for a swim. Additionally, we offer him lots of water, scoop, and pour water onto his neck and back to cool off.

Most importantly, we always ensure he has eaten and gone to the bathroom before a long paddle. We do not want him to be uncomfortable on the trip.

Allison, Christopher & Marina

Never keep the cat zipped in the bag when you get away from the shoreline. If they were to fall in the water, they would be trapped! 

Alexis & Albi

There is not much we wouldn’t try! We don’t use a leash and Albi is very adventurous, loves the water and would likely have a blast riding waves.

*Alexis originally answered this question by changing it to be more “positive” and answered it to what they WANT to do. Classic Alexis. See #AlexisMoments on my Instagram.

Allison and Marina out on the water! 

Paddleboard Types & Tips:

Sarah & Fisher 

SUP Board: Pelican Flow 106
Type of Board: It is a hard, recreational board.
Board Size: Length: 10’5’, Width: 32”, Thickness: 6”
Max Rider Weight: 230lbs

 

Does your current board work well with your pet or what do you wish you had? The board I have was only meant to be temporary while I decide if I truly love SUP boarding or not. WHICH WE TOTALLY DO! When I upgrade my board, I will try to get a board that I can modify to suit Fish and me exactly. I’d like an anti-slip pad right at the front for Fisher to have better grip and move the bungie/storage area back a foot or two to be between us. Fisher loves being at the VERY front of the board and all boats for that matter. Although we currently don’t have any issue, technically, we also need a board that can handle more weight.

Has your pet ever damaged your board? Not yet, hard boards for the win!!

Denise & Mac 

Type of Board: Inflatable board with three removable fins. We use our boards for recreational paddling, yoga and touring.
Board Size: Length: 11’, Width: 31”, Thickness: 6”
Max Rider Weight: 385lbs
Does your current board work well with your pet or what do you wish you had? Our current boards are great due to their size and durability. There is also a no-slip deck on the board that provides Mac a good grip on the board even when wet.

Has your pet ever damaged your board? No, he has not damaged the board but if you are a person who likes to have a very clean board then paddling with your pup is not for you. I typically have Mac on my board more often than my husband and you can tell from the dirty paw prints.

Allison, Christopher & Marina

SUP Board: Soopotay Yoga-Aqua
Type of Board: Inflatable Yoga board
Board Size: Length: 10.8’, Width: 34”, Thickness: 6”
Max Rider Weight: 365lbs
Does your current board work well with your pet or what do you wish you had? Our current board works very well because it’s large and very stable. 

Has your pet ever damaged your board? No, but we have wondered if it’s possible! Hoping not. 

Alexis & Albi

Type of Board: Inflatable (with carbon stays)
Board Size: Length: 11’, Width: 31”, Thickness: 4.75”
Max Rider Weight: 275lbs
Does your current board work well with your pet or what do you wish you had? Yes, although Albi’s a little big for my board! It might be a little easier to paddle with her if we had a board that was a little wider and a little longer. 

Has your pet ever damaged your board? No, the Kahuna iSUP is really solid and stable

Recommended Gear/Items:

Sarah & Fisher 

Fisher has a neoprene vest from gundogsupply.com. He gets cold in late fall and this really extends our season.

I do not use an actual leash when SUPing with Fisher. I believe there are WAY too many potentials for him to get hurt. Instead, we use an e-collar as a backup. Fisher stays very close and listens very well, but if a goose lands right beside us, a little “beep” noise helps keep his attention where I want it to be…and not crazily jumping off the board (this has happened).

Denise & Mac 

Canada Pooch Wave Rider Lifevest

Boat rope (from Canadian Tire) or a long sturdy lead for before and after your paddle.

Extra carabiner clips on my board 

I also bring a backpack with supplies that I keep in the car for myself and Mac. Mac’s supplies include extra dog food/snacks (for early morning paddles), extra poop bags, natural citronella spray for dogs, tweezers for ticks, alcohol pads and a towel for your pup to dry off after the paddle. 

Collapsible travel cup attached to the board with a carabiner, water bottle and poop bags.

Allison, Christopher & Marina

We have a Vivaglory Ripstop life jacket XS and we love it! 

Alexis & Albi

We just ordered a “Float Coat” life jacket for Albi from Ruffwear.

Mac all packed up and ready for a paddle with his owner Denise.

Albi waiting for her SUP adventure with Alexis.

Best Type Of Places To Paddle With Your Pet:

Sarah & Fisher:

Fisher and I go pretty much everywhere with the board. He likes rivers the best as he likes to blow bubbles in the water while he looks for frogs. Wide open spaces are not normally my go to, as I prefer scenery, but Fisher has no problems in the middle of a large body of water.

Denise & Mac: 

The Great Lakes, Conservation Areas & Provincial Parks

Allison, Christopher & Marina: 

Calm water, quiet (not too many people), and cool temperature.

Alexis & Albi: 

Albi loves lakes and rivers, and she has mostly been SUPping in the Bancroft area but we’re excited to take her on a SUP trip to the French River next week! 

Funny Story or Mishap:

I asked my sister to take some photos of myself and Fisher on the board to share with you. We went to the Bonnechere River which tends to be warmer this time of year. I knew this river had a TON of waterfowl in the fall, but didn’t take into account the population in the spring. While taking photos, Fisher decides that the board is really only to aid him with his bird watching and completely forgets what the rules are on the board. To be fair, this was only the second time we’ve gone out this year. My poor sister had to try and get between the birds and the front of the board in order to get Fisher’s face in the picture, and not his butt. We finally get into a good enough position and 4 ducks land gracefully behind me. FIsher, OF COURSE, saw them coming and proceeded to twist on the spot and dart between my legs to the back of the board. I normally stand a little further back to accommodate where Fisher likes to sit at the very front. This means that as he gets to the back of the board, the back end slowly starts to sink into the water. The little bugger was very happy with the situation and leaped off to swim after the ducks, leaving his mom (me) falling inelegantly into the water. We practised the rules after that episode.

Sarah & Fisher

Recently while paddling in the Pinery Provincial Park on the Old Ausable Channel we were very close to a beaver den. The beaver did not enjoy how close we were to it’s home and was putting on a defensive splashing display. Mac became very excited about this new experience and for the second time ever he decided to jump from the board, into the water, to meet Mr. Beaver. Luckily, my husband scooped Mac up onto his board and we left the beaver (who was twice Mac’s size) in peace. Lesson learned, always be prepared for the unexpected!

Denise & Mac

Marina really loves to switch back and forth between watercrafts. If a kayak comes near her, she will jump over there and then jump back to the Paddleboard. 

Allison, Christopher & Marina

Albi’s always really eager to SUP, and last week I put my board into the water, stepped away to grab my paddle, and when I turned around Albi was floating across the lake on the board by herself! I wish I had my camera, she was perfectly content to go for a solo SUP! (thank goodness we had a canoe nearby for an Albi rescue! Always tie your board to the dock or beach it while you’re getting ready!)

Alexis & Albi

Additional Tips & Thoughts:

Sarah & Fisher

Dogs love to be involved with whatever their owners are doing. This will be the greatest asset that anyone has when introducing their pet to this sport. Try to get both of you accustomed to your positions on the board on land first. That way the pet knows where it is supposed to be when moving to the next step. Also, have fun with it! This is not a competition, it’s a new activity for you both to experience together!

Denise & Mac

When you are arriving to paddle with an inflatable board with your dog you need to find a nice shady location with a tree or sign post to tie up your dog if they are required to be on a leash. It can take some time for the boards to inflate and you want to ensure your dog can rest in a cool location. I also take Mac for a short walk away from our parking space to use the washroom to not track any urine or feces onto my board.

Finally, be prepared for strangers to stare at, take photos or videos of you and your dog! It is always exciting for people to see Mac so happily enjoying his paddle that he often draws a crowd.

Allison, Christopher & Marina

We are by no means an expert in Paddleboarding with a cat, but for any new adventures, we take it slow, step by step and always take Marina’s comfort level into consideration.

Alexis & Albi

Albi loves yoga, so we’re thinking about doing some doga/yoga/ on the board. I think she’d love to do a trip with a SUP and a canoe, and alternate between the two watercraft. I’d also love to take her SUP surfing – I think she’d love it! There’s not much I wouldn’t try with Albi on the board!

If your pet likes the water, they might like SUPping too! Give it a try! 

Other Resources:

Do you take your pet paddleboarding? Or have a question for any of the contributors?

If so, share your tips, gear recommendations, resources or ask a question in the comments below!

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