By Judy Fridono
Does your surf dog walk to the front of the surfboard or jump off while surfing? Do you leash your dog to the board to try and fix the problem?
Well, leashing your dog to the board isn’t a very safe solution. The leash can get wrapped around his throat or legs and an injury could result. Never, never, never attach a leash to your dog's collar. If you must attach a leash, please secure it to his life jacket.
The best way to fix the jumping off behavior is through training. And it should be done at home BEFORE your first surf trip to the beach. This way, by the time you hit the water, your dog will have a solid foundation.
Some dogs take to surfing immediately. Some dogs don't want anything to do with water. It's our job to keep them safe while trying to figure out if surfing will be something they enjoy. Most people grab a board, grab their dog, and hit the waves. That's a lot to ask of a dog who has always played with his friends at the beach.
Now you're asking them to stop playing, forget the seagulls, ignore the balls & frisbees, put on this bulky life jacket, stand on this unsteady surface, get hit in the face with salt water, fall off the board into a washing machine, worry about their owner who hasn't come up from the swirling water, figure out how to get back on the board in the deepest water you've ever been in, stay in one spot at the back of the board, don't walk to the front of the board even if this activity is stressing you out, and if you do walk to the front, a leash gets attached to the board so you can't move, balance like you've never balanced before, gain confidence so you don't have to surf backwards while looking at your owner, don't fall off, and ride this wobbly thing all the way to the beach. But when you get to the shore, don't run after your friends because we need to do it again.
My philosophy is building a foundation through training at home so your dog isn't subjected to what I described above. This way, by the time you bring your dog to the beach, he will have been exposed to most everything he'll experience in surfing, and the transition will be much smoother. There is a much greater likelihood that you'll end up with a surFUR who enjoys surfing than a dog who is flooded with new requirements, confused, overwhelmed and stressed out.
Today's blog addresses how to tell if your dog doesn't want to surf, why your dog walks to the front of the board or jumps off. Instead of using the quick, in-effective and dangerous fix of leashing your dog to the board, these training tips will help you correct the problem or determine if your dog is exhibiting stress behavior that you haven't been aware of.
How do you know if your dog doesn’t want to surf?
If your dog is jumping off the board, it’s a pretty good indication that he/she doesn’t want to surf!! Of course it could be lack of training too. Your dog is communicating with you all the time. Sometimes they make a loud statement, like Ricochet who plants herself on the sand when she’s done surfing. Other dogs may show more subtle signs of stress through their body language such as…
Of course there are additional signs of stress, and just because a dog displays a certain behavior doesn’t mean it’s stress. For instance, Beans the surf dog is deaf, she keeps her eye on her handler all the time, as that is how they communicate. You know your dog best and you should evaluate his behavior to determine what exactly they are trying to tell you through their behavior.
Why is my dog walking to the front of the board?
Besides stress, the main reason a dog walks to the front of the board is because he hasn’t been taught the correct surfing position.
Before you have your dog jump on a surfboard for the first time in the ocean, at a clinic or whatever, you really should have already been doing foundation training at home. This will ensure your lesson goes smoothly and your dog has already experienced an unsteady surfboard BEFORE you put it in water. If you throw too many new things at a dog at one time they will be overwhelmed. The best way to teach a dog is in steps. Here are some things you can do to get your dog used to being in the right spot.
This video shows a puppy learning how to get on the board, but it will work with an adult dog too.
There are nine lessons in this "teach your dog to surf" video series.
Surf dog Ricochet
Ricochet speaks! A blog from a surf dog's paws'pective!
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