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A Guide To Going Surfing With Your Dog

Updated: May 21

Pit bull surfing in the ocean on a green surfboard for dogs

Surf's Up Pups!

Taking your dog surfing is an incredible outdoor activity to experience! From the first steps of getting your dog comfortable in the water to conquering the surf - this is a great adventure for both of you. Surfing with your dog(s) requires patience and practice to ensure you both stay safe out on the waves and in this article, we'll be sharing some top tips and tricks to help you get your pup ready for the surf!

  • Getting in the water with your dog is an inherently risky activity that has the potential to result in serious injury or death. We take no responsibility for any safety risks or issues arising from participating in activities discussed in this article and recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian before starting any activity with your pet. You should always practice water sports safety measures, closely monitor your pet during all activities, and never leave your pet unsupervised in or near water. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only, and we recommend seeking professional advice from a qualified veterinarian before engaging in any activity with your pet. We are not liable for any injury or death that results from following the advice described in this article. This content is not medical advice and should not replace consultation with a physician or veterinarian.


Benefits of Surfing With Your Dog

Small Min Pin dog surfing on an ocean wave

Surfing with your dog is an activity that has a variety of benefits. It can be a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, while also providing you both with an amazing experience in such an enriched environment. Dog-friendly beaches offer one of the most perfect playgrounds for your dog to socialize with other dogs and people while soaking up the sun. It also promotes a sense of adventure and exploration for your dog, as they get to experience new sights, smells, and sensations in the water. For dogs, activities like surfing can provide more than just fun and entertainment. If you're lucky enough to live near a body of water with waves, what better way to enjoy quality time outdoors?


Surfing can be a great form of exercise, working those muscles and burning off excess energy

Balance & Coordination

Surfing requires a lot of balance and coordination, so your dog can greatly benefit from this activity by learning how to control their body movements in the water

Self Confidence

Trying something new introduces your dog to different experiences that aren't limited to regular habits or daily routines and learning dog tricks outside of their normal realm shows them just how capable they are


Surfing with your dog can open up opportunities for socialization with other surfers and their dogs and this can be especially helpful for shy or timid dogs who may struggle with socializing in other settings

Stress Relief

The calming sound of the waves and the warm sun on your skin can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation


Preparation for Surfing with Your Dog

Before you head out to the beach, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration. First of all, make sure that your dog is comfortable around water, as getting them accustomed to the waves is important. Check out our blog on swimming. Another important part of preparation is having the proper safety equipment. Be sure to review all applicable safety precautions. When selecting a beach for your dog surfing adventure, make sure to choose one that is dog-friendly and allows dogs off-leash. Lastly, prep your pup for this more complex adventure by ensuring they're properly trained.

Gear for Taking Your Dog Surfing

Dog Life Jacket

Dog Shirt

Dog Surfboard

Leash & Harness

Food, Water, Treats and Snacks

Towels and/or Blankets

Sun Protection

First Aid Kid


Dog Toys

Poop Bags

Dog Surfboard Selection

Dog surfing on a wave

One of the most important pieces of gear when surfing with your dog is, of course, the surfboard! Luckily, there are many options available for you to start with depending on your dog's size. At the time of writing, there's not really a dedicated dog surfboard manufacturer, so you'll have to start with a human surfboard and go from there.

Your dog's surfboard selection will depend on how big or small your dog is. For example, I use a round nose, soft top 5' 8" surfboard that is 19" wide and 2.75" thick for Snoopy, our 14lb Jack Russell/Chihuahua. The bigger your dog, the larger board you'll want to select. Regardless of the size, it's a best practice to go with a soft top board. Fiberglass/resin boards are slippery and too hard for dogs, and the dog can get a good grip with their paws on the soft top.

Surfboards can get a bit pricy, so look for bargains on social media groups and shops and check out yard sales in your area, your dog's perfect board may be sitting in someone else's garage looking for a new home! Remember, it doesn't have to be the best board, just something with a soft top that's going to float your pup.

Take Necessary Safety Precautions

Strong current sign at Del Mar beach
  • Consider your dog's physical abilities and limitations, just like humans, not all dogs are natural swimmers or surfers; be aware of their energy levels and take breaks as needed.

  • Your dog should be up to date on vaccinations, especially if heading to a dog beach with lots of other dogs

  • Keep an eye out for any signs of fatigue or discomfort and don't force your dog to surf if they don't want to - it's important to listen to and respect their boundaries

  • Always keep a close eye on your dog while they're in the water - never take your eyes off your dog, even for a second

  • Keep an eye out for any potential hazards, such as strong currents or even wildlife that may be present in the water

  • Avoid surfing near rocks, piers, or strong currents that can be hazardous for dogs

  • If you're not a confident swimmer, it may be best to stay close to shore and only go out into shallow waters with your dog

  • Be aware of other surfers and beachgoers, and make sure to keep your dog under control at all times

  • If you encounter any injuries or accidents, seek medical attention immediately

  • As mentioned above, always equip your pup with the right-size dog life jacket

Finding a Dog Friendly Beach

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to have access to a dog-friendly beach with waves. We wish everyone did, but for those of you lucky enough to live near one, there are a few things you'll want to consider before heading out. Each beach is different and has its own rules regarding leash laws, times and months of the year dogs are allowed, and each one is going to have waves of different skill level.

Dog sitting on the sand in front of a surfboard at the beach

To find a dog-friendly beach, start by doing a quick internet search of dog beaches near me. There are also a few websites dedicated to finding dog-friendly beaches and parks, so make sure to take advantage of these resources. If I'm scouting a new area, I typically use to find what's dog-friendly and then go to to get a little more info on the waves, beach, any hazards, and typical crowd factor.

When searching for a beach, consider the time of day as well. Early mornings or late evenings may provide calmer waters, making it easier for your pup to navigate without getting overwhelmed by the waves. High tides can also make it difficult for dogs to enter and exit the water while low tides can create a more challenging shorebreak, so be aware of the tide schedule as well.

Finally, it's important to be aware of the surf conditions for the day. If there are larger waves present, it may be best to wait until another day or a different beach where the waves are more gentle. Learn more about finding a good beach at our blog on dog beaches.

If you're in the San Diego area, check out our blogs on Del Mar Dog Beach and Ocean Beach Dog Beach. We have the links posted below in the Learn More section.

Basic Training Tips for Surfing with Your Dog

BASICS: Training is an important part of achieving success with dog surfing. Start by teaching your dog basic commands such as sit, stay and come. These will be essential for controlling them while they are on the board and in the water. Read more about teaching basic commands here.

WATER COMFORT: Before heading into the waves, your dog should have some basic swim training completed. Check out our chapter on Swimming With Your Dog in this adventure guide. Chances are that your dog will fall off the surfboard at some point and if they have have experience swimming, there's less chance of them panicking and having a bad experience. Once you get to the beach, start with a test run. Before you hit the waves, take your dog for a swim in the ocean to see how they handle the water. If they seem uncomfortable or start to panic, surfing might not be the best activity for them.


Teaching Your Dog to Surf

Now that you and your dog are all set to go, here are a few tips to keep in mind when teaching your dog to surf.

Tips Before Heading Out

  • Get your dog acquainted with the surfboard before going to the beach. Start by introducing your dog to the board on land, allowing them to sniff and explore it at their own pace.

    • Preferably at home where they're the most comfortable

  • Gradually move towards placing them on the board while it is on land (and eventually in shallow water when you get to the beach).

    • You can use lots treats and praise to get your dog on the board

  • Start slow and gradually increase the amount of time spent on the surfboard.

  • Additionally, go for walks with your dog while they're wearing their life jacket. This will help get them used to wearing it and won't be such a huge shock when it's time to put it on for real.

At the Beach

  1. You're going to be in a different environment away from home, so reacclimate them to the surfboard by practicing standing on it in the sand.

  2. Start small by practicing on smaller beach break, or smaller waves breaking closer to shore.

    1. There's a small inlet at Del Mar dog beach that typically has smaller and more gentle waves. I like to use this when I bring dogs out for their first few times. It gets them used to the motion and balance before going into the bigger stuff.

  3. Make sure your feet can touch the ground at all times (especially when just starting out).

  4. Find a spot where the wave has already broke and where you'll get a little push from the whitewater.

    1. Make sure the whitewater is not going to form another wave as it gets closer to shore- this is usually very observable from the beach

  5. With your dog balanced on the surfboard (typically a little forward from center) Hold the back of the surfboard.

  6. As you feel the whitewater push through you and begin to move the board forward on it's own, gently just let go of the board and you're pup will be cruising on a wave!

    1. If the whitewater lacks sufficient power to move the board, you may have to give the board a little push in towards shore.

  7. Train your dog to come back to the board after catching a wave, as this can prevent them from getting separated or lost in the water (part of your recall commands from above).

    • Better yet, if available, have a buddy stand in front to meet your pup as he/she comes riding into shore

Don't forget to reward your pup with plenty of love, treats, and positive reinforcement! It's a big deal to us when our pups catch their first waves and you can be sure it's an even bigger deal to them!

It's also important to remember that not all dogs are natural surfers. Some may take longer to learn and some may never feel comfortable on a surfboard. It's important to be patient with your dog and not force them into something they are not comfortable with.

Getting Better Now

  • Once your dog is comfortable in the water, you can move on from the beach break and try out some of the waves breaking a little further out.

  • If you're a skilled surfer, you can also try tandem surfing with your dog!

    • Keep in mind, you'll probably need a bigger board

  • Dog surfing is not only a fun activity but it's also become a popular sport. If you and your pup have mastered the art of surfing, why not take things to the next level and join a dog surfing competition?

    • From small local contests to large international competitions, there are plenty of opportunities to show off your dog's skills and have a great time together


Try Surfing with Your Dog Today!

Two dogs surfing tandem on a wave

Surfing with your dog is an unforgettable experience that you and your pup are sure to enjoy together! With patience, practice and proper preparation, you'll be conquering the waves and enjoying every moment of it. So get out there, have fun and make lasting memories with your pup! Don't forget to take lots of pictures - you never know what kind of amazingly radical moments will be captured during your surfing adventure! Please be sure to share your story with us by tagging #Fetchthesun on Instagram.

Learn More


Check out our podcast on dog surfing and hear from the pro dog surf duo Kentucky and Derby! The link below will take you to Spotify, but our podcast is also available on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, and iHeart Radio.

Local to San Diego?

Man and woman walking on the beach at Del Mar with their dogs

Check out our local blogs on Ocean Beach Dog Beach and Del Mar Dog Beach. Two incredible places to try surfing with your dog.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surfing With Your Dog

Q: Is it safe to surf with my dog?

Q: How can I keep my dog safe while surfing?

Q: What type of surfboard should I use for my dog?

Q: Can all dogs/dog breeds surf?

Q: Can I enter my dog in a surfing competition?

Q: What are the best waves for dogs to surf on?

Apparel That's Surf Dog Approved

Woman and dog walking on the beach wearing matching shirts

Show your love for dogs and surfing with our matching surf shirt set! Made from organic cotton, these shirts are perfect for any beach adventure. And all sales benefit animal rescue.


Explore More Great Outdoor Doggy Adventures

Couple and their dog exploring the outdoors

We hope this guide on surfing has helped and inspired you! Check out the rest of our guide for more exciting outdoor adventures that you can share with your dog like running, hiking, and even camping.


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