We have all seen those fantastic photos of dogs out enjoying water activities with their people. If you have hopes of your dog being your stand up paddle board companion or your adorable furry first mate on your boat or canoe, you may want to teach them a few skills before they make their water debut!
We want your dog to love their life jacket as much as they love spending time with you on the water. Here are some steps to desensitizing your dog to a life jacket:
1.Show your dog the life jacket and feed treats (repeat 10 to 20 times)-life jacket begins to predict delicious rewards, yay!
2.Hold the life jacket up, feed treats through the neck opening without setting the jacket on the dog’s back (repeat until dog is voluntarily placing head through opening each time
3.With the dog’s head through neck opening, set life jacket on dog and feed delicious treats, repeat multiple times taking the jacket off and only feeding when the jacket is set on back with dog’s neck through hole.
4.With the dog’s head through the neck hole and jacket settled on back, feed while snapping each strap, undo straps and repeat. Us this step to adjust size.*
5.Make sure the life jacket always predicts good things! (i.e. food rewards)
*It is important that your dog’s life jacket is fitted properly to their body. Using the “two-finger rule”, you should be able to slide two fingers between the jacket and the dog at all contact points.
Standing/Sitting/Laying on Board/Boat
A great way to teach your dog to settle on your paddle board or boat is to teach them to settle on a set place or mat.
Steps to “place” or “mat” work:
1. Choose a mat: You can use an old bathmat, blanket or yoga mat.
2.Get the behavior: You can start on leash or just in the house by escorting your dog onto the mat feeding treats when they step on the mat, repeat until they are choosing to step onto the mat (you may have to build until all feet are consistently on the mat).
3.Name the behavior: Each time they get onto the mat say, “place” or “mat” and feed (if you would like the final position to be a sit or down, get them into a sit or down on the mat and name the behavior in the desired position) repeat 5 or more times.
4.Ask for the behavior: Say “place” or “mat” just once, give your dog a few seconds, when they get onto the mat in desired position praise and reward by tossing the treat off the mat and ask again (repeat). If they do not get onto the mat go back to step 3.
5.Translating to new surface: Put the known mat on the paddle board (or other surface), on land, and ask for “place” or “mat”. If they do not step onto the mat on the paddle board repeat steps 1-4 for this new surface. If your dog is hesitant about the new object place a treat trail onto the mat on the new surface to get them up and repeat steps 1-4.
6.On the water: Hold the board steady near land/dock and ask for “place” or “mat” as with step 5 you may have to repeat steps 1-4 and/or begin with a treat trail.
Raise your criteria slowly, pay attention to make sure your dog has a positive association with this new experience and you will have your dog on the water with you in no time!
Join us June 24 for Seacoast Paddle for Pups!
Raise funds and then spend the day paddling the Squamscott River. Rain or shine! All participants are responsible for raising $200. The event is open to all paddle craft (SUP Boards, Kayaks, Canoes, etc). Dogs are welcome and Paddle Boards are available for rental by calling The Wandering Paddler at 603 380-5077.
Hosted by the Seacoast Paddleboard Club to benefit the homeless animals at the New Hampshire SPCA.
Have a behavior question or issue? We’re here to help! Contact the New Hampshire SPCA Behavior Training Center at 603-772-2921 x 112 or at [email protected].