The Australian Cattle Dog, (aka Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, among other names) is naturally great at most any dog sport attempted. This article will answer the question are heelers good at paddle boarding for dogs? The Heeler’s incredible ability to focus on any task along with their strong work ethic make them excellent candidates for whatever skill they learn.
Australian Cattle Dogs, or Heelers, are not considered water dogs, such as the retrievers, or the Portuguese Water dogs. If your heeler has never been introduced to water, now is the time to change that and make it happen.
Do Heelers Make Good Paddleboard Dogs?
Take her to the beach or lake and go into the water with her and play with her. Bring along a toy that floats and throw it for her, not far at first. Gradually increase the distance you throw the toy not much further each time. She will eventually get used to and enjoy the water as much as any other dog.
Also, be certain she is an excellent and strong swimmer. Don’t even think of taking her out on the paddleboard until she has demonstrated that she is a strong swimmer and shows no fear in the water.
Differences Between Paddleboards and Surfboards
First, let’s get the terminology straight. Paddleboards are often referred to as SUP boards, which means stand-up paddleboards. Even though surfboards and paddle boards may look similar they are in fact very different. Surfboards are made to maneuver through the waves, while paddleboards are made to glide on top of the water.
These are two very different functionalities requiring very different construction. Paddleboards or SUP boards need a paddle to move along the water while standing on top of the board. Another major difference in the requirements of a paddle board vs a surfboard is the floatation. The floatation requirements of a surfboard are much less than those of a paddleboard.
Paddleboards are designed to hold the rider’s weight, in addition to any passenger weight, without sinking. A surfboard is only required to float holding the weight of the rider standing up for short periods of time. Whereas a paddleboard’s main purpose is to move on top of the water for however long the rider remains.
The floatation requirements of the paddle board mean that they require much more foam throughout the board than a surfboard. The more foam a paddle board can hold the more buoyant it is. There is also a significant size difference between a surfboard and a paddleboard.
Paddleboards are longer, wider, and thicker than surfboards as paddleboards require much more foam to keep them stable and afloat. Inflatable paddle boards are most recommended for those who wish to paddle board with their dog.
Be Sure to Select the Right Paddleboard For You and Your Dog
When selecting the paddleboard that is best for you and your dog be sure to keep these facts in mind.
Be sure to select a paddleboard that is a minimum of ten feet long and at least 32 inches wide. The longer the board the more stability you will have, which is a definite requirement with a canine passenger. Also, be sure to select a board that has traction on the deck for your dog’s paws to grip.
Inflatable boards are the best choice for extended deck padding, which is very important for preventing your dog from falling off the board. You do not want your dog to become frightened of the paddleboarding experience as that will set you way back and you will most likely need to start from scratch to get your dog comfortable again with the paddleboard.
Provide For Your Dog’s Safety When Paddleboarding
Even if your dog is a good swimmer, you should always have her wear a flotation life jacket to protect her just in case she is caught off guard and gets thrown into the water and becomes panicked. The best choice for a life jacket for your dog is one that has a handle on it so you can pull her up onto the board using the handle if she falls off.
Take her into the water wearing the life jacket several times so she is comfortable with it. This will let you know that she doesn’t have to get used to the life jacket at a time when she is suddenly thrown into the water and fear takes over.
Once she is comfortable in her life jacket then you can start introducing her to the paddleboard.
Getting Your Dog Comfortable With the Paddleboard
Before you even think about getting out onto the water on a paddle board with your dog be sure your dog has a strong knowledge and prompt obedience to the basic commands such as sit and stay.
Also, be sure you are completely comfortable on your paddleboard and know exactly what to do for any type of situation you may encounter before ever going out on the board with your dog.
First, put your paddleboard on solid ground in a location in which your dog feels completely at ease. Let her sniff it and walk on it or not, it is not important at this stage for your dog to display any type of feelings one way or the other toward the paddleboard.
After the paddleboard has been around in the same place for a while so your dog is used to it, you can start gaining her interest by placing treats on and around it to get her to jump onto the board to get the treats and to heighten her interest.
Also, try and lure your dog with treats to walk along the board and eat the treats. Have her repeat this several times to increase her level of comfort with the paddleboard. Then try giving her a sit command to be sure she still maintains her knowledge of her commands. Repeat this several times, with praise and treats to encourage her. Try a sit with a stay command to be sure she has this down as well.
Always praise and reward her with treats when she obeys the commands on the paddleboard. Make sure that everything you do pertaining to the paddleboard is presented as pure fun. Never put any fear or pressure on her as that will not produce the desired results.
Get Your Dog onto the Paddleboard in a Safe Environment
Before taking your dog out onto the water, put her into her life vest and get her to stand on the paddleboard. Have her do this several times wearing her life jacket until she is comfortable with this.
Teach her a command that you use for no other reason, such as ‘off’ which means to get off of the paddleboard. You want her to stay on the paddleboard until you command her to get off of it. Be sure to treat and reward her for performing the command correctly.
Keep repeating this behavior until your dog performs this behavior correctly every time.
Prepare your Dog for Her First Paddleboard Ride
Cut your dog’s toenails and keep them short for paddleboarding. This is better to preserve the cover of your paddleboard. Also, be sure to bring some treats with you so you can continue to reward her good behavior.
Before taking her out on the paddleboard, play with her in the water for a while and try to tire her out so maybe she will settle down more. Throw her toy into the water and let her swim out to get it, and throw a ball on land several times also to get her in the mood to rest.
When you are ready to start taking her out for her first ride have the paddleboard about halfway in and halfway out of the water. Get your dog onto the paddleboard and slowly push her out on the board just in shallow water.
Get Onto the Board with Her
When you are ready to start your ride, get onto the board starting out in a kneeling position. Gradually stand up with your dog in between your feet or just in front of you. Make sure that you are in a position in which you can paddle the board effectively without hitting your dog with the paddle.
When you are sure you can paddle the board without hitting your dog, you can have her move forward on the paddleboard. Make your first ride a short one to ensure its success.
Reward your dog when you get back to shore to encourage her and make her feel good about paddleboarding.
Be Prepared For Whatever Comes Up
Not every paddleboarding experience will be perfect. Be prepared for anything to come up, such as your dog suddenly falling or jumping off. If your dog weighs a lot, this could also cause you to fall off.
If this happens just climb back onto the board and pull your dog up onto the board using the handle of her lifejacket. Until you and your dog are both very comfortable and able to stay on the board the majority of the time, keep your rides close to the shore.
Most importantly, keep it fun and pressure free at all times. Don’t lose patience with your dog, she will catch on when she’s ready.
Tips For Having a Successful Paddleboarding Experience
There are a few items you should always remember to bring with you when you go paddleboarding with your dog. Always bring plenty of water for both you and your dog. Also, bring some food or treats for your dog and some food for you.
You should also carry a first aid kit just in case of any injuries or tears in equipment. Also, apply sunscreen to any exposed areas on your dog as those areas are at risk of sunburn.
Also, try not to keep your dog in direct sunlight for over two hours as you don’t want to overheat your dog. Dogs have a very inefficient cooling system which consists of panting. So this is very important for your dog’s health.
Now that your Australian Cattle dog is fully trained to be your paddleboard buddy, be prepared to have loads of fun with your dog on the water. Paddleboarding is another of the many ways you can provide your dog with mental stimulation through new experiences.
If you are driving your heeler to a lot of different activities, or if you just need a new crate for her, please read this article as it will provide you with a lot of good information about selecting crates as well as some great choices for crates.
If anyone has any paddleboarding adventures with dogs I would love to hear about them, so please comment below.