Aspen hates swimming. She hates swimming as much as ticks hate…tomato juice. Don’t get me wrong, she knows how to swim, she’s actually quite a fast swimmer. When I first took her to a lake, she wouldn’t get in past her belly so I picked her up and carried her to deeper water; she paddled back to shore with the speed of an Olympic athlete. However, she likes to play on the shore with other adventure pups so I thought maybe she’d like stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Like might be too strong of a word; I thought she’d tolerate it.
– First thing is safety. I know Aspen can swim, but I wanted a life jacket for her so if she fell in I would have a handle to lift her back up onto the board with. Outward Hound sells an inexpensive life jacket that fit Aspen nicely.
– If your dog hates swimming, you only have to get them jumping distance away from shore and they aren’t going anywhere. There was worry about her going after the Canada geese we paddled by on the Deschutes River and I laughed, knowing she wasn’t budging. The rental guy at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe also warned me of the river-side dog park we’d pass. She just watched the other dogs with great interest and didn’t move from her station between my feet.
– Try kayaking or canoeing first, something with sides. I took Aspen kayaking on Elk Lake first where she sat between my legs the whole time practicing her lab lean. I think this gave her an opportunity to get comfortable with the idea of being on the water with a barrier between her and the risk of getting wet.
– I’ve seen photos of SUP pups before out toward the front of the board taking in all there is to see. I quickly learned that was not Aspen, apparently she’s a bit of a velcro dog. She started off needing to be in contact with me at all times, then settling for a spot between my feet. This may not make for the most efficient paddling stance, but three people we passed said how calm she looked.
– To help with balance, the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe set me up with a larger board. I think it made for slower paddling, but the balance for our first full trip out was appreciated.
– Full disclosure, I never actually got to test Aspen’s life jacket. She did a fantastic job staying calm on the board and I didn’t want to ruin the positive experience by making her swim. I’d love to make Aspen a regular SUP pup and I want her tail wagging with excitement when we head down to the water for a paddling adventure.
– That being said, Aspen is not the normal adventure pup, so if you’re taking your pup out for the first time or the fifteenth, be prepared to get wet because there typically is no warning between smooth paddling and a splash into the water.
I wrote up a draft of this post and then took Aspen out on an inflatable SUP on a stretch of the Boise River and have a new tip, be sure to scout the water before you paddle with your pup. The section of river we did had ledges (man-made drops in this case) and small rapids for splash sake! We were doing okay until the last ledge and one of the fins caught on the ledge, the board stopped abruptly and Aspen and I went flying forward. Aspen’s calm demeanor went floating down the river with my waterproof camera…If you happen to be on the Boise River and see a turquoise Canon, let me know! I still hope Aspen’s tail is wagging on the next trip, but if all else fails she was a hardcore SUP pup that day.