How to SUP With Your PUP: Getting Your PUP Back On the SUP

Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Maria Christina Schultz

Riley, Kona and I paddle, hike, climb, and travel together. Our little crew is constantly visiting new places, and trying to push how far we can go. Having the right gear, whether in the backcountry or in our backyard, is always key, and it’s the biggest reason we’re still going strong.

Paddling is our favorite activity, and now that Riley is 10, I turn to the paddleboard and our local river for fun and exercise more than hiking or walking. Swimming has always been Riley’s favorite thing to do – I swear he’s part fish. And for a dog with bad hips, swimming is so good because it keeps the muscles in his legs strong and flexible.


Being safe on adventures is always my number one priority. Four years ago when I wrote How to SUP With Your PUP, it was my goal to share everything I learned about training Riley and paddling safely together. Since I wrote the book, I’ve been teaching SUP PUP clinics, answering lots of questions on social media, traveling to new places and paddling in new situations. So it’s only natural that I’ve learned a few more things along the way. The new things I’ve learned also need to be shared, so that’s why there’s now a second edition of How to SUP With Your PUP available on Amazon.

The second edition includes 10 more pages of content including:

An expanded board selection section
More safety information
How to get your dog back on the board
Yard sales and how to handle them
Bringing along a second dog
Cold weather paddling
What to do if your dog is afraid of the paddle

One of the most important topics covered in this edition is a step-by-step guide for safely getting your dog back on the board from the water. This is the single most important skill every dog-loving paddler should know. So for all the folks who bought my first book, and anyone who wants to start paddling with their dog, below is the guide from the book. Riley, Kona, and I want everyone to be safe out there!


Every once in a while, even a well-trained dog will slip, fall overboard, or unexpectedly decide to take a swim. Even Riley, who’s been paddling with me for years, will hop off at the smell of a BBQ on the banks (true story) or jump when he sees a sand bar he wants to go run on. Knowing how to get your dog back on your paddleboard is one of the most important skills you’ll need to have when paddling with your pup.

Note that medium and large-breed dogs are very difficult to get back on a board in deep water. Canine life jackets are imperative and must be worn to use this technique.

Step 1 – Make sure you are positioned in the middle of your board.

Step 2 – Intersect your dog so he’s in front of you, with his spine perpendicular to the rails of the board.


Step 3 – Grab the handle located on the back of your dog’s life jacket.

Step 4 – Your dog will naturally try to climb up and on with his front paws. When he starts doing so, give a slight tug and lift up on the jacket. This will allow your dog to get a back leg on the board.

Step 1

Step 5 – Once your dog has weight on one back leg, he can manage the rest, but don’t let go of the handle until all four paws are on the board.

Step 2

Step 6 – Brace for the shake! All dogs shake after getting out of the water, so don’t stand up until after he shakes!

Step 3

Step 7 – Praise your dog. Don’t make a big deal over your dog falling off. Instead, praise him for swimming back to the board.


Think of it like this: When done properly, you shouldn’t be lifting your dog back on the board. Instead, you’re assisting your dog by taking a small amount of weight from the handle of his life jacket and guiding his natural movements.

It’s a good idea to practice this technique! Pick a warm summer day and ask your dog to swim out to you in deep water so you can be prepared for those BBQ-related jumps!

For reference

Follow all of Maria, Kona, and Riley’s adventures on Instagram and Facebook!

4 thoughts

  1. Great post. This training is extremely helpful and beneficial, especially for us outdoor explorers. If you had any other questions regarding puppy training, feel free to check out our blog. We have a ton of useful articles!

  2. I have a Great Pyrenees (Chica, a big girl! – weighs about 60kg, same as me) who paddles with me on the lake in front of our home. She doesn’t wear a PFD but our system to get her back on the board is that I sit straddling the board and lean my body weight away from her. She puts her front paws on the board and one (or both) back paws on my foot which is counterbalanced by my leaning away, and then she scoots up. I usually steady her with her collar but don’t pull on it. We’ve been paddling together for 2 summers now and have used the technique (discovered under pressure!) countless times with success and ease. I warn that if your dog is a scrambler with his back feet, your bare leg may get scratched, but Chica is now accustomed to it, so she just puts her foot onto mine and heaves herself up to get one back foot onto the board. Obviously, we should all be out there, canine and otherwise, wearing appropriate safety gear, like PFDs, but here’s an option if you should find yourself with a big PFD-less furry overboard companion.

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