Is An Inflatable Paddle Board Dog Safe?

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Paddle Boarding or “SUP Surfing” (short for Stand-Up Paddle Surfing) has quickly grown into one of the top relaxing water sports in the country and is second only to kayaking. The inflatable paddle board has only helped to popularize the sport by creating an easy-to-transport platform that can be stored in a backpack and fully inflated in less than 5 minutes. 

Just because they’re inflatable doesn’t mean they’re not durable either! When most people think of inflatables, they immediately think of the cheap swimming pool floats they sell for $5, but these inflatable paddle boards are made from extremely heavy-duty reinforced materials designed to withstand a full day out on the water with ease. 

Many of us who do water sports love to bring our canine friends along. But Is An Inflatable Paddle Board Dog Safe?

While it sure looks like fun from afar, there is a bit of work that goes into familiarizing and training your dog to behave while riding on your iSUP. We’ll go into this below.

There are some obvious safety concerns that many pet owners have at first, though. 

  • Will my dog jump off the board? 
  • Can my dog puncture the board? 

… and more questions are commonly asked, so we decided that we would write a comprehensive article to address some of the most common concerns! 


Is An Inflatable Paddle Board Dog Safe?

Keeping your dog safe and happy while the two of you are on the water should be your top concern. If your dog doesn’t feel secure, then they’re likely going to jump straight off the board, or at least give you an earful of whining before you take them back to land.

Dogs are creatures of habit. They don’t appreciate being thrown into a new environment unprepared and untrained. You may be lucky enough to have an incredibly well-trained dog who takes to it effortlessly, but it’s more likely that your canine pal will need a bit of convincing. 

Before we get into our top training tips, let’s discuss a few important safety items first. 

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

PFD for Dogs

Depending on where you live, it might be required by law for you to wear a PFD, or personal flotation device (here are a few good paddleboard and kayaking pfds for women). But it’s also a good idea to have one for your dog. The Coleman Dog PFD shown above is an excellent choice.

Even if your dog is a strong swimming breed such as a Labrador, Poodle, or Shepherd, you still need a PFD. Open waters can be full of unexpected rip currents and debris that easily cause a lightweight dog to lose control, get tired, and possibly drown. 

Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to PFDs for your dog- no matter what shape and size they are. Prices can vary depending on the materials, design, and dog size. But generally you can get one for under $40 without any difficulty.

There’s not excuse not to get one. 

Your dog may be a bit uncomfortable at first. Have them get used to it by wearing it around the house or out on a walk before you take them out in the water with it. 

Can Big Dogs Ride Inflatable Paddle Boards? 

Weight limits are very important when it comes to inflatable paddle boards . Make sure that your dog can fit on the board with you without causing it to sink or lose traction.

If you’ve got a smaller dog, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about for the most part, but if you have a larger breed that weighs 50-lbs or more, then you’ll want to double-check your board’s weight limit or get a larger board designed to hold more weight. 

As long as the weight limit is all squared away, though, you shouldn’t have any problems fitting  a big dog onto your board! 

Trim Your K9’s Nails!

If your dog has long, sharp nails, then you’ll want to get them trimmed before going out on the water. Even though inflatable paddle boards are known for being incredibly durable, a sharp clawing motion with the right force can cause a small puncture or abrasion that could sink you in the middle of the water.

Not exactly a great ending to the day! 

This is one of the negatives of inflatable paddle boards, and one of the reasons you may want to consider a rigid board.

In addition to this, dogs with long nails often won’t have as good traction on the surface of the board which can cause them to slip or lose balance easily. 

Best Tips To iSUP With Your Dog

Now that we’ve got the basic safety concerns out of the way, let’s talk about the best way to go about taking your dog out on their first SUP surfing trip!

1. Get Your Dog Used to Water

If your dog is the kind of dog that jumps right into the ocean, you’re probably good to go. But many dogs aren’t so anxious to take the plunge.

Some dogs can be quite tricky when it comes to the water. Certain breeds jump right in, others are scared stiff when it comes time for the water. This trait varies greatly from dog to dog.

Often the best way to know whether or not your dog will take well to the open water is to observe their behavior when it’s bathtime. 

If they hate being bathed, then you’ve likely got a bit more work to do getting them comfortable in and around water before you take them out on your Stand-Up Paddle Board. On the other hand, if they love baths then your job’s going to be a lot easier. 

For practice, take your dog to a local dog park, dog-friendly swimming pool, or just practice with an inflatable kiddie pool in your backyard. Get in the water with them, encourage them every step of the way, and use plenty of treats to make sure that they associate being around water with a fun, rewarding experience. 

2. Familiarize Your Dog With Your iSUP

Once your dog is cool with the water, it’s time to get them used to your Paddleboard. Like getting your dog used to being in the car, you’ll need to make your dog feel comfortable about standing on the board on land before they’re comfortable trusting it in the water. 

Blow it up and put it in the living room. While you’re standing on it, invite your dog to come sit on the board with you and make sure you give them a treat for sitting on the board for an extended period of time. This will help them trust the board to support them once they get out in the water. 

3. Teach Board Commands

One of the most overlooked things is teaching your dog board commands. They need to know when to hop on the board. And more importantly, they need to know when not to hop off the board (for instance if they see a duck splashing in the water 10 feet away).

This is best practiced on land with plenty of treats and rewards for obeying commands like On, Off, and Stay

4. Teach Your Dog To Be Calm

This goes hand in hand with teaching board commands. Even if your dog is responding well to the board commands, they still need to be able to remain calm on the board. If they start freaking out and getting overly excited, it can easily upset the balance of the board and put you both in the water! 

Once they’re familiar with board commands on land or shallow water, try to have a friend introduce distractions like their favorite toy, a treat, etc. where they can see it. Reward calm, relaxed behavior. They need to learn to respond to stimulation in a calm manner and not go crazy over every bird or fish they see in the water. 

5. Start In Shallow Water First

Once they’re used to practicing on land, it’s time to take them out in some shallow water. Always start small. Get them used to the 2 and 3-foot deep water before you take them all the way into the middle of the lake. The more they get comfortable with you being in control and having a good time on the water, the less you’ll have to worry about them misbehaving and endangering themselves in the deep water. 

Start with shorter increments of time as well! Get your dog comfortable with going out for 5 minutes and 10 minutes at a time before returning to land. This will help to reinforce the idea that the water is fun and not something to be afraid of. 

6. Use Lots of Treats

Always bring a big bag of treats with you while you and your dog are out! Keep them in a ziplock or waterproof bag to keep them fresh and dry. Make sure to continuously reward your dog with treats as they remain calm, obey commands, and behave as you ask.

This works particularly well if you have a very food-driven dog. 

Make It Fun!

At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun with your dog. While training your dog may be a bit aggravating or difficult at first, just remember to stay calm, don’t lose your temper, and be patient with your dog every step of the way. It may take several days or even weeks of familiarizing your dog with your iSUP at home before they’re ready to go out on the water.

Or, if you’re lucky and have the right dog, they could take to it immediately.

It all depends on how confident and comfortable your dog is in the water! 

Happy iSUPping!

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