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Dog Dudes: Surfing Dogs

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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Next time you hit the beach, you may see more than the average surfer dude catching a wave. Fido is hangin' ten, or perhaps twenty! That's right, while you're relaxing in the ocean and keeping an eye out for sharks, you may just see something even more surprising – a surfing dog!

Surfing Dogs

Much of their fame is earned on the web, with photos and videos of surfing dogs being published on websites such as youtube.com, myspace.com, video.google.com, etc. Watching a dog ride a wave is entertaining, unbelievable, and brings smiles to the faces of many.

Teaching a dog to surf is something that would never cross the minds of most pet owners. However, with the encouragement of a few talented dogs, this canine sport is gaining popularity and more dogs are joining their beach-loving owners atop a wave.

Buddy, a Jack Russell Terrier, is one of these talented surfing dog dudes. He has gained popularity through the New York Times, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Pet Star TV show, and the book, "The Dog's Guide to Surfing". You can check out this cool canine at his website, surfdogbuddy.com.

Canine Surfing Contests

With enough dogs in the surfing business, we're seeing the competitive side of these amazing canine athletes. Surfing competitions for dogs are attracting many competitors and even more spectators!

For example, the 2007 Loews Surf Dog Competition at Imperial Beach, California attracted 47 surfing dogs and more than 1,000 fans! The event will happen again June 28, 2008. Dogs who are interested in learning to surf can come for a morning lesson, then hang around to watch their surfing idols fetch a wave.

Teach Your Dog to Surf

The key to teaching your dog to surf is going slowly and avoiding frightening your dog. Begin by getting your dog accustomed to the water. If your dog loves to retrieve a stick from the pond, that's great, but it's far from being the ocean. A still-water-loving dog should not be expected to love the ocean. Allow your dog to gradually learn the ways of the waves.

When your dog is 100% comfortable with the ocean (which will probably take more than one day), introduce him to the surf board, preferably a long board. Allow him to stand on it and get to know it while it is lying on dry land. Next move the board to the water's edge, and let him experience it as protection from the water. Do NOT force your dog onto the board if he is afraid of it. Make the time he spends with the board fun time!

When your dog is comfortable on the board at the water's edge, you can try paddling out into the water with him on the board. Go slowly!

For more information and further learning, check out "The Dog's Guide to Surfing" by Kevin Reed.

Dog Surfing Safety

A surfing dog is gnarly; an injured dog is not. To keep your dog dude safe, follow these safety guidelines:

1. Use a canine life vest ALWAYS. One with a handle on top (to help the human surfer easily grab the dog) is best.

2. To prevent wipeout, centered and 2/3 the way back on the board is the best location for the dog when he is surfing.

3. Choose a safe surfing zone where the other surfers won't mind a dog in the water.

4. Be careful with attaching surfboard leashes to dogs. These may cause harm to some dogs if they become entangled in it.

5. Be conscious of your dog's temperature. He may get too cold in the water or too hot in the sun.



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