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SUP with your Dog

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: June 18, 2013

Stand up paddling (SUP) isn’t anything new. The sport is actually an ancient form of surfing that originated in the Hawaiian islands. However, in the past ten years, stand up paddle boarding has spread from beaches to rivers, lakes and nearly every other body of water. As one of the fastest growing sports in the world, SUP is more than just a fad. It takes a bit of balance, but is an incredible workout for your core. You stand on a board longer and wider than a traditional surf board to give you more stability while you paddle on the water with a single long handle.

SUP businesses are popping up all over Chicago and though the season may be short, there are plenty of opportunities to take a class or rent a board.

Chicago Paddle Company offers SUP yoga, pilates, kids classes and even race training at Kathy Osterman Beach (aka Hollywood Beach).

I got bitten by the SUP bug when a friend (who is currently attempting to paddle in all 50 states) introduced me to it last year. I fell in love with the workout in beautiful scenery and peaceful surroundings. Living in Florida, I have more opportunities to get on the water than my friends in Chicago so this year, I vowed to get my own board.

I also wanted my little buddy, Boz, to enjoy SUP as much as I do.

SwimWe had built a solid foundation last summer. After lots of work, Boz was a good swimmer and would follow me into the water with ease. But in order to be safe on the board, I had to introduce him to a life vest. I knew we’d be paddling in deeper waters and as a small terrier mix, he would need to be able to float should he fall off the board. After the recommendation of some sailor friends, I chose KRuffwear. Let’s put it this way: I spent more than double on Bosworth’s life jacket than my own personal floatation device. But this K9 Float Coat enhances comfort, doesn’t impede movement, and promotes the ideal, horizontal canine swimming position. Plus, it has a nifty handle to easily pick up the dog from the water.

Once Boz got used to the life jacket during a few swimming sessions, we moved to the board in very shallow water. I probably looked pretty strange with a piece of string cheese tucked in my swimsuit strap, but I rewarded Boz with bits of cheese when he sat down in the middle of the board. Needless to say, having a dog move up and down the board between your legs makes balancing even more challenging!

We kept our first outing very short, so as to be sure we ended on a successful note. We’ve practiced getting back onto the board should we fall off, and I’m putting jumping off the board on command so that Boz doesn’t choose to that on his own. After all, there are pelicans, flying fish and lots of other distractions to tempt a terrier on the waters of the Gulf Coast.

For more tips on acclimating your dog to watercraft, whether it be SUP, kayak or canoe, visit Remember, every dog is different and some might take to the water more easily than others. It’s important to go slowly and make sure your dog is comfortable at each step before moving on. But if your dog is into it, try SUP this summer!

Does your dog like the water? What tips can you share for getting her used to it?





    1. Cheryl Haupt says:

      Looks like fun, my dog is a Norwegian Elkhound maybe next summer. she is like 15 lbs. overweight, we go swimming out at Shawnee State Park, she would have to loose some weight for sure. Thanks for the tips though. signed Cheryl in Pa.
      Have a good summer swimming and sup ing

    2. andreamiller says:

      Thanks Cheryl! Swimming is an excellent exercise for overweight dogs because it doesn’t put a lot of stress on their bones and joints. Good luck with your pup’s weight loss. Hopefully, the two of you can get on a board soon!

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