In loving memory of Sampson (8/29/05 - 5/24/17)
I love paddling with my dogs! Our system works great. Theodore takes the bow and fishes off the front. Sampson lies down just below my feet. I shift my own stance back about a foot from the center.
The three of us paddle together at least once a week and then I'm out with Sampson or Theodore by themselves another once or twice a week. We often paddle 5-8 miles when we go out.
We all want the best conditions -- flat water, wind-free skies and no power boats! But then I have yet to be able to control the weather and I honestly believe in sharing our amazing outdoor world, even with the water skiers! So we train, Sampson, Theodore and me, for conditions outside of our control.
It is most important to me for my dogs to be safe. This means I want my dogs to sit calmly on the board. I want them to be able to confidently swim or get back onto the board from the water in the event they fall off. If my dogs fall off and swim to shore, I want them to run along the shore in the same direction I'm paddling to the first available safe spot for me to pull over and pick them up. I want my dogs to "load up" and "get off" safely and when I'm ready to help them if needed. Most importantly, I want my dogs to know that whatever happens I'm there to ensure their safety.
It is easy to make the assumption that a dog will instinctively know what to do, but that's just not so. The first time Theodore went paddling, he was on my friend's board and Sampson and I were on my board. Theodore literally walked over to my board only to discover that he could not walk on water. As soon as he hit the water he panicked. His back end sank and his front legs flailed. Even though Theodore was wearing his life vest he still managed to swallow quite a bit of water and gagged several times once he was finally on my board.
The first time Sampson fell off my board he had no idea how to get back onto the board and swam to shore. From there he ran -- on the road -- towards where my car was parked. Even though I was on shore and had Sampson under control within less than a minute, it was still super scary.
Here are my tips for dog and paddleboard safety.