How to Teach A Dog To Surf

How do I teach my dog to surf? How do dogs surf? Teaching a dog to surf? Dogs Surfing how? What's the best surfboard for dogs?  What's the best way to teach a dog to ride a surfboard? we get asked these questions and questions like them all the time. Here are some great tips we found online. We have the simplest way to teach dogs to surf and its also the easiest way to teach dogs to surf and maybe the best way to teach dogs to surf! Read on and you will have your dog surfing in no time and stay tuned as we bring you the best dog surfing videos and funniest dog riding surfboard photos on the internet!

"What type of surfboard to use for surfing dogs, and introducing your dog to the board"

  • The best surfboard for surfing dogs is a foam board, so we can grip it. Small surfing dogs usually get 6 foot boards, and large surf dogs go for 8 footers.
  •  don't force your dog on to the board. You want them to learn to jump on by themselves. This is especially helpful for big surfing dogs that can be very heavy to lift once you get in the ocean. Plus, if a dog is refusing to get on the board... maybe they really don't want to surf.
  • Bring your surfboard in to the house, and feed your dog their meals on it. This makes a positive association with the board.
  • You want your dog at the back of the board, so be sure to place his/her food bowl right in front of where you want them to be. This will reinforce the correct position for the dog.
  • Dogs love belly rubs, and a surfboard is a great place to give them! Again, you're making a positive association with the board. Doing this also helps build the human-canine bond even more!
  • Don't leave the surfboard out when you're not training. You want your dog to get excited when he/she sees the board.

Beginning board work
"Teaching your dog to offer behaviors on the board"

  • Some surf dogs can jump on a board in the ocean and surf the first time they try. Others use the surf board as a diving board, and jump off when the board starts to move. Others are a little freaked out by the movement of the board, and it takes them a little longer to get the hang of it. Still others are just used to going to the beach to play ball, and aren't quite sure what this new game is all about.
  • When using treats, always treat the dog ON the surfboard. You want to reinforce the behavior of the dog being ON the board, not getting off the board.
  • Never force your dog onto the board, or pick him/her up to place on the board. You want your dog to make the decision to get on the board by themselves.
  • Training is a good way to bond with your dog, as it increases the communication between the two of you... creating a solid relationship!
  • You can lure your dog onto the board at first, but quickly fade it. You don't want him/her depending on the treat to get your dog on the surfboard.
  • You can have them do a hand touch where you put your hand palm out where you want the dog to be on the board. Dogs are curious by nature, and will touch your hand with their nose to see what's up. As they do, you can say "touch".
  • Treat them on the board, and then walk away. They will most likely follow you. Walk back toward the board to see if they'll get on. If not, hold your hand out again, and say "touch". Give treats while he/she is on the board.
  • Your dog will quickly get the idea that being a dog on a surfboard is how they get treats, and you can fade out the hand touch.
  • When they step onto the board you can say "yes", "good" or use a clicker to mark the behavior of getting on the board.
  • Your dog will also quickly understand that good things happen on the board because they've been getting fed their meals on it. It won't take them long to know where to be!
  • Some dogs surf standing up, some dogs surf laying down, and other dogs sit on the surfboard. It's all personal preference of your dog!

Intermediate board work
"Teaching your dog to "stay" on the board"

  • Once your dog is eager to get on the board, you can start introducing a "stay" or "wait" cue. You want your dog to stay on the surfboard even if you aren't near. Because once you push your dog off into a wave, he/she's on their own. You want them to stay on the board, not jump off and swim back to you.
  • When your dog is doing well with the "stay" or "wait"... begin taking steps backwards so you put distance between yourself and the dog. Walk back to the dog to treat on the board.
  • When your dog is comfortable and stays on the board when you step back a couple feet, build upon that until you're able to walk completely around the board. At first you may only get a few steps, but as you progress you'll be able to run around the board while your dog stays on the surfboard!
  • Use a word to release your dog from being on the board, such as "release". You want the dog to learn they should stay on the surf board until you give the release cue. Using the release cue will let them know it's ok to get off the board.
  • Many dogs surf backwards because they're watching their owner/handlers who pushed them off. If you want your dog to surf forward, be sure to work on the "stay" or "wait" while you're behind the dog. The key is for him/her to continue facing forward even though you're behind them.
  • That said, some contests give more points for a dog surfing backwards. So, you don't have to do the exercise above! I find it better for your dog to surf forwards and surf backwards... impress those judges with your maneuvers!

Distractions while surfing
What about the ball, the other dogs, the birds?

  • Now that you've got your soon to be surfing dog to "stay" or "wait", start introducing distractions. There are a ton of distractions at the beach, and you don't want your dog to jump off the board to go after a ball, another dog, or dig in the sand!
  • Start out slowly. Have your dog in a "stay or wait", and just show them a ball. No movement... very low key. At first you may only be able to do this for a few seconds. The reward for staying is getting released to get the ball. So, say "release", and let the dog get the ball.
  • As your dog progresses, toss the ball in the air, catching it in your hands. Again, the reward is releasing them to play with the ball.
  • Once your dog is doing well with you throwing the ball in the air, you can begin bouncing it on the ground. At first, start out with him/her staying for just a few seconds, and release to play. Build upon those seconds until your dog can stay for minutes!
  • Go slow with these exercises as well. Part of teaching your dog to ride a surfboard is wanting your dog to be successful, and these dog surfing exercises can be hard for a ball motivated dog!
  • Next, you can start rolling the ball on the ground, but just a short distance. Don't progress through each step until your dog is successful with the previous step.
  • It may take weeks to work on distractions... don't get discouraged! You will always be working with distractions, so practice often.
  • You can build up the distractions to include movement around the board by kids, running, other dogs roaming around, you playing with another dog, etc. You want to give big praise for the dog staying, and a big game of ball as a reward!

Building confidence on the board

"Getting your dog used to the movement on a surfboard"

  • Now that your dog is excitedly getting on the surf board, positioning themselves in the right spot on the surfboard, staying in position on the surfboard no matter where you are, or what distractions there are... you can start making the board unsteady... trying to simulate how it'll be in the ocean. This is one of the hard parts of teaching a dog to surf. You can use pillows or cushions under the board to make it un-even where the dog has to balance.
  • Some dogs may be apprehensive to the movement at first, so go very slowly with the exercises, especially if your dog hasn't had experience on un-even or un-steady surfaces.
  • Start out with having your dog step onto the board as you hold it secure by putting your foot on top of it to stabilize. Give your surfing dog treats as they're stepping onto the surf board, as this will re-direct their attention to the treats, and away from thinking about the movement of the board.
  • If your dog is a nervous surfing dog... just do it once to start out with, and build upon that. As you continue working with your dog his/her confidence will increase.
  • Don't overwhelm your dog by going to fast with the exercises. Go slow in teaching your dog to ride a surf board. You are building your bond, and you don't want a bad experience to harm it. If your dog has one bad experience (in his/her mind), he/she may never get on the board again. Help your dog be successful surfing ... lots of treats and praise can help!
  • When you are releasing your dog from the un-steady board, put your foot on it again to stabilize it. After he/she builds more confidence you won't have to do it anymore, but at the beginning don't take any chances of your dog getting scared.
  • Once your dog is more comfortable getting onto an un-stable board, you can begin moving the board very slightly as you give him/her treats and praise. This is helping the dog build confidence on the board, and their bond with you will deepen as they feed off your confidence!
  • If you have enough people, you can lift the board while the dog is on it. But, first start by lifting only a couple inches off the ground, and then slowly increase as your dog builds confidence.
  • Go slow with these exercises, and before you know it you'll be able to rock the board more, and your dog will be confident on it.
  • When you reach that level of confidence, you can put bigger pillows under the board to make it more un-stable. When you do, treats and praise again.

Safety first!

"Getting your dog used to a life jacket"

  • Now would be a good time to get your dog wearing a life jacket. Safety is very important when dogs are surfing, and a dogs life jacket should always be worn. If your dog has never worn one, putting it on the first time might feel funny. So, practice putting the life jacket on your dog. Have plenty of treats to make it a positive association. First without your surfboard. Once your dog is comfortable with the lifejacket, you can have her/him get on the board wearing the life jacket.
  • When you first introduce the dog lifejacket to your surfing dog, let him/her sniff it. Don't put it on yet... just acquaint your dog with it while giving treats. Make it a positive association.
  • As your dog is comfortable, you can drape the dog life jacket over his/her body, giving treats as you do. Don't buckle it yet.
  • If your dog doesn't seem bothered by the canine life jacket, buckle the front as you give him/her treats. Then move on to the buckles on the body part of the jacket. By giving treats as you do this, you're re-directing their attention, and creating a positive association with the life jacket for dogs.
  • Some surfing dogs may be afraid of the canine life jacket, or it may feel funny on their body if they've never worn anything against their coat. So, you want to build their confidence, and giving treats will re-direct their attention.
  • To continue getting the dog used to the dog PFD jacket you can put it on, and then feed their meals while they're wearing it.
  • Once your dog is comfortable wearing the life jacket, start feeding him on the board with it on. You want him/her to get used to being on the surfboard with a life jacket.
  • Wiping out is part of dog surfing... just like human surfing! Life jackets come in very handy to pull your dog back onto the board.
  • You can purchase a doggie life jacket or dog PFD at pet stores, boat stores, or online. The main thing you want is a good fit for your dog life jacket. Because you may be lifting your dog onto the board after a wipe out, having good support under their belly is important.

Taking it to the pool

"Building confidence in the water"

  • When all is great on dry land, you can move it to a swimming pool. Now, the picture has changed for the dog, so you should go back a few steps so the dog gets comfortable in the new environment.
  • Make sure your dog wears a dog life jacket... even in a pool.
  • Remember, you don't want to force your dog on the surf board, let him/her make the decision to get on.
  • You can start in a kiddie pool with a puppy or small surfing dog. Larger surfing dogs you can start in a regular pool.
  • Hold the surfboard steady when the dog initially gets on. You can begin by luring the dog on the first couple times if necessary.
  • Stop luring after the first couple times, and use praise and treats as a reward to reinforce the behavior of getting on the board. You can also use "touch" to help the dog understand what he/she should do.
  • If they fall off the board, make it positive too. Give treats, have fun, praise in a happy voice... make it a happy experience.
  • Once the dog is ready, you can begin pushing the board around the pool while you hold on to the board.
  • Lightly rock the dog on surf board, and give your dog treats and praise to help build his/her confidence as a dog who can surf. Go slow with this because surfing is new to your dog, and you want him/her to be a successful surfing dog.
  • From there, you can push the dog off, so the board goes from one end of the pool to the other. At the beginning, you may want to have a helper in the water to catch the board as it reaches the other side. They can also reinforce your dog with treats and praise.
  • When your dog is comfortable in surfing the pool, you can begin introducing distractions so he/she learns how to be on the board in water while other things are going on around him/her.
  • Don't do all the exercises at once. Let your dog get used to one step in the dog surfing lessons before you progress to the next dog surfing lesson.

Putting it all together

"Taking what you learned to a bay, lagoon, lake, etc"

  • After graduating from dog surfing in the pool, you should go to a calm water lake or bay.  Your dog can ride his first wave, and be SUCCESSFUL!! You want your dog to succeed so he/she doesn't get discouraged. And a lot of praise. This is exciting!
  • There will be many distractions once you get to the beach, so really reinforce here! Lots of praise, treats, release to play ball means you'll get an amazing surfing dog!
  • Put the dog surfboard in shallow water at first, and give your surfing dog lots of praise for staying on the board in this new environment.
  • Begin pushing the board in the water so your dog can experience what it's like to be in a large body of water on a surfboard!
  • Hold onto your dog, and let them know they're safe with you when they are a dog on a surfboard. The bond you've been building with all this training really comes into play now. Your dog trusts that you'll keep him/her safe, and it's your job to ensure his/her safety!
  • Once your dog is comfortable with you pushing him/her in the water, take him/her out just a little ways, and push your dog on the surfboard into a small wave. Let them ride their first wave!! Yipppeeee!!
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