Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to surf with your dog

An entrant in the 2014 VetShop Australia Surfing Dog Spectacular.
Does your dog love water sports? This weekend in Noosa, QLD, puppies and dogs are invited to participate in the 2015 Surfing Dog Spectacular. We spoke to Chris De Aboitiz, a former world tandem surfing champ and dog trainer, about an activity he reckons will help dogs and owners get fitter and strengthen the human animal bond.

What’s your day job?

I hire stand up paddle boards on the river in 1770 and do dog training.

When did you first realise you could surf with a dog?

It was about 10 years ago, when I first took my border collie x dog Lani for a stand up paddle on the river. She always loved the water and I realised that she was the perfect surfing dog!

Are dogs naturally good surfers? How much training do you need to do?

Yes dogs are naturally good surfers. If dogs didn’t develop any issues in their life they generally love to be in or on the water. Having 4 legs makes it much easier than for their friends on just 2 legs to surf and keep the balance. We usually take dogs out on the river and depending on their natural skills and affinity to water we can take them after a short time for a ride on little waves.

Chris (foreground) leads a paddleboard workshop. The dogs all seem to have the hang of it.
Do you have any tips for owners who wish to teach their dogs?

First of all you need to make your dog comfortable to water if he’s not already. Make sure you dog can swim if he decides to jump or accidentally falls in the water. Then you can start to take your dog out on flat water and get him used to the choppy movements on the board. Make the board a happy place to give your dog a good experience.

Do some breeds take to it better than others? Is there a breed you would not surf with?

There is no breed you can’t surf with. Maybe a St. Bernard would make it tricky. Anyway most dogs especially all retrievers and spaniels do naturally love the water.

How much do dogs enjoy it?

I get many customers which like to take their dog for a paddle but never done it before. After just one lesson people are surprised how much their dog enjoyed the paddle. Many people take their dogs for a sup now and the dogs are all loving it.

Participants in last year's comp.
What safety precautions do you take when surfing with dogs? (eg life jackets? Floaties? Shark patrol?)

I don’t take any safety precautions. You just need to make sure that you AND your dog can both swim!

Are there any full-time non-human companions in your life and how did you meet?

I have three dogs. Lani, Murphy and Rama. Lani is a border collie x and 13 years old. She is a great surfing dog and very famous. Check out our youtube channel naturalbalancedog to see her surfing! 

Murphy is also a border collie x and 6 years old. We call him a grumpy old man, like his owner (laugh). Rama is a kelpie x and 3 years old. Lani is getting retired and Rama is becoming more my surfing dog. They all love the water. I take them all on one board and paddle with them on the river to the sandbars. All my dogs were giveaways/rescued dogs.

When you’re not surfing, what other activities do you enjoy with your dogs?

I love skateboarding with my dogs. I also like to take them for just a walk on the beach and through the ball or stick. I have a huge property where I also like to take them for squat bike rides to the dam. They love it!

What advice do you give someone who is taking their dog to surf for the first time?

Don’t worry! Be confident around your dog. Show him there’s nothing bad about it. Make it attractive to him by taking his favourite toy with you. Be the pack leader and tell him to sit and stay on the board. Don’t let him run around so you both don’t lose your balance and fall in the water.

If you’re keen to get involved visit here.