Surfs up! – Teach your DOG to surf!

Narrated from: Dog Training

Yep – no problem. If you love surfing, and if you love dogs, you can easily mix these two passions!

However, not all dogs are natural born surfers. Some canines actually jump on the surfboard from the start, and never fall, but many dogs are initially distrustful, or would prefer to use the board for diving rather than surfing!

So, here is a brief guide on how to improve your pooch’s surfing skills!

1. Is the dog ready to go into the water?

It would be a good idea to start by checking whether the dog feels comfortable in water. This depends on the dog’s breed and the dog’s individual character. If the dog panics in water, and sinks to the bottom like a rock – then it’s probably a good idea to skip surfing. There are also dog breeds that are willing to jump into the water – but are susceptible to diseases!

However, even if Fido is not the best swimmer around, keep it in mind that he will be wearing a life jacket, and there will be supervisors around (that’s you), so there shouldn’t be much of a problem at all!

2. Acquire a surfboard

Actually, you don’t need a surfboard before the training - the next steps can be completed with a towel, a piece of plywood, a boogie board, a rug, a beach mat – anything resembling a board. However, it is best that you train the dog with the actual surfboard you will be using.

Foam boards are considered the best choice, since canines can grip them with their claws. However, some people claim that, after several uses, the foam board can hurt the dog’s skin, and further more – it is chewable. The alternative would be a customized dog surf board, which is hard to the touch.

It is best to choose a long board – 6-8 feet, depending on the dog’s size. Surfboards usually cost around the $100 mark, but there are cheaper second hand options.

3. Get the dog on the board

You need to build a positive association in the dog’s mind – so DO NOT FORCE the dog to get on the board. You must encourage the dog to do it by his own free will.

Start by getting the board into your house. You can place it in one of the dog’s favorite spots – but only if the dog is not distrustful towards this new object. If the dog gets scared of the board, you will never convince him to change this attitude!

Start feeding the dog on the board. You must show the dog that the board is a place for positive experiences. Anything the dog loves – do it while the dog is on the surfboard. Belly rubs, grooming, drowsing in your lap…

Positive reinforcement is the key. Each time the dog gets on the board of his own volition, be ready to reward him with a favorite treat or two. However, make sure the dog does not have to get off the board to get the treats – you want your canine to associate the reward with staying ON the board. Also, even if the dog is reluctant to get on the board, be patient, and do not make the mistake of luring the dog with a treat every time – this trick can only be used several times, otherwise the dog will not climb on the board unless a treat is offered.

You can check the dog’s progress with a simple exercise – when you’ve given treats to the dog on the board, walk away. The dog will probably follow you. If so, then turn and walk back to the board. If the dog automatically gets on the board, reward him and praise him.

4. Commands

You need to develop a command system with the future surfer – unless you mean to surf with the dog all the time! If you just want to share a pleasant experience with your canine, then you should be able to handle the dog once you’re both on the surfboard.

However, if you want your dog to be able to surf alone (which is very cool!), then you need a proper system of commands.

First off, you need a “stay” type of command to encourage the dog to stay on the board even if you are moving away. Practice this in your home first. Once the dog is comfortable with the command, it will not follow you when you back off – ultimately, the dog must not be distracted even if you start walking in circles around the board.

You also need a command that will allow the dog to leave the surf board on cue – if it wasn’t inappropriately long, “Abandon ship” would suit the situation perfectly.

Finally, you need to work on the dog’s position – the problem is that many dogs may turn to observe you if you are behind them – which is kind of a problem since in the ocean, you need to get behind the surf board to propel it towards the shore! As result, many dogs surf turned backwards. In many competitions this wouldn’t be much of a problem, since backwards surfing is rewarded with extra points – however, a real pro surfer should be able to surf in an appropriate position as well!

5. Simulations

Once Fido is comfortable with the commands, you can start more realistic exercises – for instance, try to distract the dog while he is on the boat. Bouncing balls are the usual distraction on a beach, but voices and strangers also do the trick. Reward the dog and play with him ONLY if he stays on the surf board until you give a command!

You should also prepare the dog for an unsteady surface – rock the board with your foot and encourage the dog to get on it anyway. The dog will be reluctant at first, so go slowly.

6. Dog in water – start slowly

Well, boot camp is finished, time to throw your surfer into the fray!

Start slowly though. If you have a pool, get the dog used to the idea of being surrounded by water there. If not – it is still best to find a closed, calm body of water, like a public pool open to canines.

You may have to go over some of the previous steps, since water can be a huge distraction! Do not force the dog onto the board, but praise him for staying aboard, and be sympathetic if he falls in the water – this is supposed to be fun after all!

After the dog is used to being pushed around in the pool, you can finally take it to open waters – the shallower, the better.

7. Safety first!

NEVER FORGET TO PUT A CANINE LIFE VEST ON YOUR DOG! Even proficient swimmers can panic if they fall off a surf board.

8. In open waters

Start by pushing the surf board with the dog on it in shallow waters. Stay close, and always encourage your canine.

When the dog gets comfortable with the experience, you can push the board into deeper water, and hold it there until the dog gets used to the passing waves. Then wait for the perfect wave – something small, 1-2 feet at most! Even dog surfing pros rarely tackle waves larger than 3-4 feet.

Wait for the wave to come to you, and then push the board forth!

Then all you have to do is watch your furry surfer ride it to the shore! 

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