From Tammy,

Hey Preston! I want to teach my dog how to surf…Any pointers?

Hi Tammy!

The Beach Boys were right.  If everybody had an ocean, across the USA, then everybody would be surfing… that goes for dogs too!  Surfing is one of the most fun ways to bond with your human, soak up the sunshine… and it’s a great way to work on your balance, core strength and overall fitness!  My mom has been addicted to surfing ever since she saw Blue Crush :) I know, she should never admit loving that movie!  So naturally, she wanted me to join in the fun… and I have been surfing ever since I was a puppy!

Image via: Shinepetphotos.com

If you’d like to teach your dog how to surf, here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A dog who loves learning, and the water!
  2. A quality canine flotation device, with a handle.
  3. A soft foam-top surfboard, boogie board, or even stand-up paddleboard.
  4. A pool, lake or other still body of water to practice in, before you hit the beach!
  5. Lots of fresh water from home, to re-hydrate you after your surf session.
  6. Water resistant training treats, if you’re food motivated, like hot dogs or chicken jerky.
  7. A patient human instructor who knows how to surf, judge the waves, and keep you safe at sea!

With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to begin training your dog to surf.  Like with all dog-training, the key is teaching your dog to have POSITIVE associations with standing still on a surfboard.  And whether it’s a surfboard, boogie board, or stand-up paddleboard, dogs are far better off on soft, foam boards which allow us to keep a solid grip, and are less likely to injure us if (and by if, I mean WHEN!) we fall off!  Surfing is tough sport to master, even for humans… and safety must always come first.

Begin on land by luring your dog onto the board with treats, marking each time your dog willingly jumps up onto the board with a click, treat and LOTS of praise!  Allow your dog to walk around the front of the board, but encourage your dog to stay still… because once you’re actually surfing, you need to be positioned just right so that you don’t accidentally tip your board!  Spend hours, days, even weeks practicing on land before you even think about surfing in the ocean.  Feed your dog on the board, love your dog on the board… only bring the board out for training sessions, and turn that surfboard into a magical happy place your dog looks forward to seeing.

Once your dog is confident standing still on the board in your driveway or living room, you are ready for water training!  Start off with the surfboard in a kiddie pool, and gradually work your way up to having your dog stand still comfortably on the surfboard in a real pool, then a lake or other wave-free body of water, and eventually, in the ocean on the “inside” close to shore where the waves are not crashing.  Once your dog seems to feel safe and enjoy hanging four on the board in the whitewash, you are ready to gently push your dog into waves, or try riding tandem with your dog on your board.  Remember to go slowly, and only stay in the ocean for short periods of time.  If your dog wipes out, and consistently paddles to shore… he or she may be better suited for destroying sand castles and digging in the sand!  Surfing is not for everyone… it’s an exhausting sport, mentally and physically… so always make it a fun experience, and leave your dog wanting more!

With a lot of time, patience, training… and a mutual love of the ocean… anyone can teach their dog how to surf!  Even those of you who don’t live along the coast can get out to enjoy the water on a stand-up paddle board with your dog.  My mom has recently discovered stand-up paddling, and she will actually take all three of us furkids out with her on a lake or calm day at sea!  Stand-up paddling is just as fun, and much safer and easier for us small dogs who may be afraid of the waves or not feel comfortable surfing alone.  But for those hard core canine athletes, like my pals Abbie and Ricochet, surfing is the ultimate rush for summertime good vibrations.

Check out my girlfriend Abbie, greatest dog surfer on earth:

Surfing is one of the newest trends in the dog world, there are even a number of annual surf contests to raise money for animal causes!  You can meet my mom and I every year, honored to support our friends at the Helen Woodward Surf Dogathon.  I hope these tips help you get your dog shred ready.  And if you’re up in Malibu, bark out to me on twitter @PrestonCasanova for a surf date!

See you in the water…

Preston Casanova