SUP Pup 101: How to Paddleboard with Your Dog

SUP Pup 101: How to Paddleboard with Your Dog

  • Cristina Stavro

How do you and your dog start paddleboarding without any experience? In this video, Ruffwear employees – and first-time SUP-ers – Brad & Umi and Julie & Beau volunteered to find out. With help from SUP instructor and dog trainer Maria Schulz, they learn all the basics and tackle their first day on the water.

The video's a good place to start, then keep reading for more resources that cover:

  • Gear you'll need to SUP with your pup
  • Maria's 5 tips for your first day
  • How to get your dog back on the SUP after a swim
  • Inspiration for your next SUP adventure

GEAR TO GET OUT THERE

A board and paddle: Inflatable paddleboards are great for paddling with dogs. Compared to a hard board, the surface has better grip for dog paws and durability for claws. Wider boards tend to be more stable, a great feature for new human and dog duos building confidence and balance on the board together.

Renting or borrowing a board is a great place to start. If (when) you and your dog are hooked on the SUP life and ready to commit, your local paddle shop is a great place to go for help finding the right board.

Human and dog at shore learning to paddleboard

Human and dog PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices): The Float Coat™ Life Jacket supports dogs as they swim, but the handle and overall design makes it easier for you to help get them back on the SUP quickly. If you're curious about the human PFD spotted in the video, it's the Astral Airbelt, and it's great for calm-water paddles. Bonus: the Treat Trader (see next gear tip) can clip onto it.

Human helping dog back up on a paddleboard

For Positive Vibes & High-Fives: Pack plenty of treats with the waist-worn Treat Trader™ so you can reward your dog often as they get the hang of a completely new skill.

Human and Dog sitting on a paddleboard in a lake

For Getting the Wiggles Out: Sitting still on a board for can be a lot to ask of some pups. A play session with the floating Lunker™ Toy before getting on board or during a shore break goes a long way for making the whole experience fun. It was a key part of Julie & Beau's first SUP session in the video.

Dog swimming in water after fetching a toy

MARIA'S 5 TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST SUP ON THE WATER

Maria had some tips for Brad and Julie to remember just as they were about to hit the water. Check 'em out before you and your dog hop on board. 

HOW TO GET YOUR DOG BACK ON THE SUP

Knowing how to get your dog back on your paddleboard is one of the most important skills you’ll need to have when paddling with your pup. Maria breaks it down into steps below so you can practice and have a plan when your dog goes for a swim and makes a splash.

These steps originally showed up in this blog post Maria wrote for us.

When done properly, you shouldn’t be lifting your dog back on the board. Instead, you’re assisting your dog by taking a small amount of weight from the handle of his life jacket and guiding his natural movements.

Human on paddleboard with dog shaking water off after going for a swimStep 1 - Make sure you are positioned in the middle of your board.

Step 2 - Intersect your dog so he’s in front of you, with his spine perpendicular to the rails of the board.

Step 3 - Grab the handle located on the back of your dog’s life jacket.

Step 4 - Your dog will naturally try to climb up and on with his front paws. When he starts doing so, give a slight tug and lift up on the jacket. This will allow your dog to get a back leg on the board.

Step 5 - Once your dog has weight on one back leg, he can manage the rest, but don’t let go of the handle until all four paws are on the board.

Step 6 - Brace for the shake! All dogs shake after getting out of the water, so don’t stand up until after he shakes!

Step 7 - Praise your dog. Don’t make a big deal over your dog falling off. Instead, praise him for swimming back to the board.

It’s a good idea to practice this technique! Pick a warm summer day and ask your dog to swim out to you in deep water so you can be prepared.

IDEAS FOR YOUR NEXT SUP ADVENTURE WITH YOUR DOG

Over the years, Maria's discovered that sharing the paddleboard with her three dogs strengthens their bond and inspires her to push the boundaries of what’s possible. 

She’s shared her passion for paddling as an author, instructor, dog trainer, and regular contributor to our blog. Here are some of her stories that have moved countless human-canine duos to get on board with a new adventure.

Check out all the SUP-related stories on our blog for some of Maria's top posts and inspiration that'll have you planning your next trip around a SUP session with your canine first mate.


Maria Christina Schultz is an outdoor enthusiast, American Canoe Association-certified stand up paddleboard instructor, and author of two books. Her dogs are her constant companions while paddling, camping, mountain biking, and running. Follow along with all of their adventures on Instagram

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  • Janet

    I was one of those people who watched all the videos that said that SUP training for a dog would take approx. 4-6 weeks building up to rocking the board on low sawhorses on dry land before attempting a water launch. I ordered an inflatable. I had it in the box in my garage for a week. Shorty, my wild ass golden retriever, walked by it several times a day giving it a couple cursory sniffs. The eighth day I actually took it out of the box, inflated it, put the leash and Ruffwear life jacked (!) on him and dragged the board down to the lake in front of our house. I put the board in the water. I said, “It’s now or never, Shorty. Up!” He jumped onto the board sticking the landing like an Olympic gymnast. We both lost our SUP virginity that day. This is our 3rd summer and we go out almost every night – we call them our “On Golden Pond” evenings.

    A quick aside, when Shorty gets bored or tired he falls asleep. That includes on the board. He likes to sleep on his back. You can see where this is going. Yeah, he can roll off. He is super athletic and lean but when he is asleep he sinks like an anvil. Love the handle on the Ruffwear jacket. Just pull him back up to the surface and he jumps right back on. He thinks it is his best trick and demands a cookie. Would share photos if I could figure out how to do it.

  • Naomi brown

    7/18/21
    Wow!! I take my two small rescue mutts everywhere too!

  • Kat

    Thank you for this video and all the tips! Maggie and I will give this a try today!😊

  • Elena Zurek

    Great suggestions tks