Jack’s Blog – Surfing with Your Dog

Here is another wise, informative dog activity article from Dawn Celapino, founder of Leash Your Fitness, and her cool, jock of a Cairn terrier named Jack:

Whoever said you can only have fun with your dog on land has never tried surfing with their dog!  Some dogs don’t want any part of it and others LOVE IT!  This weekend is the 6th annual Loews Surf Dog Competition and Jack has been training for it. He will be up against some very competitive dogs but we are going for fun and to hang with our surf dog friends.  Leash Your Fitness is all about doing different activities with your dogs and surfing is another great way to bond with your dog.

Surfing  is great for your dogs  balance and strength and really fun to watch. (It’s also a great workout for the human.) If your dog is already used to swimming in the waves–they may be ready to try surfing.  If not, you may want to get them used to the waves first by taking them out slowly, throwing the ball for them and just getting them used to the water.   There are a few things that you should know before you try taking your dog out on a board.

1. Salt water can dehydrate your dog so make sure you have plenty of fresh water available for when Fido is done hanging 10.  Don’t allow them to be in the water for extended periods of time and give them little breaks in between playing in the water so that they don’t get a tummy ache. They may get diarrhea from the sand and salt water.

2.  Don’t take them out in the surf without a Canine Floatation Device (life-vest) that fits correctly without slipping off.  When they fall off the board, even though they may be a good swimmer, they may get tumbled or get into a rip current so PLEASE be prepared. Do not go out into the ocean in conditions you’re not comfortable in.

3. Only use a Soft top (foam board) or a special dog surf board for dog surfing.  The dogs can grip much better on them and if it hits them it won’t hurt so bad.  Also, you may want to start with a long board as it is easier to balance on. You can rent boards at your local surf shop-just make sure that Fido doesn’t bite a hole in it! You might also try a boogie board for the very small dogs.

4. Get Fido used to the board on the sand first or at home. At home, feed him on the board. Only give him treats when he gets on the board. The idea is to get them to WANT to be on the board. Show them that it is not going to hurt them–let them jump on it, walk on it, lay on it and just get used to it.  Then take it out in the very shallow water and let them see that it is safe to stand on.

5.  When you think your dog is ready to try surfing–start off in the whitewash.  Don’t take fido out to the big waves for the first several times you go to the beach.  Let him get used to his balance on the board and falling off in the shallow water. When you go out, have one hand on the tail (back) of the board and one under you dogs stomach.  This way as you go out thru the waves you can push down on the tail to go over the top of the wave while holding your dog securely. It also makes it easier to turn around as a wave approaches. Make sure your surf Dog is standing in the back 1/3 of the surfboard. As the wave approaches, slowly start move to get to the same speed as the wave, then let the wave take him. No sudden moves. Remember this is fun! Lots of encouragement and praise! At first they may run to shore but after catching a few waves, or your dog may like it and swim back and jump right back on for round two!

6.  Most all dogs want to run to the front of the board which will cause a nosedive under the wave. It just takes practice to get them to stay in the correct position on the board. Don’t give up.

It takes a little practice to get Fido ready for his first surf competition, you may have to play around with different size boards and techniques as all dogs are different. If your dog is not digging the surf thing, don’t force them to do it. Many dogs do not like falling off and will run to shore. Some may not come back in the water. You want to make it a fun experience for them! If they don’t like it, don’t push it, there are plenty of other activities you can do with your dog!

A special thanks to Peter Noll and his champion surf dog, Nani, of the So Cal Surf Dogs for his input on this blog.

See you in the water!!!

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