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The sun-soaked and famously relaxed sport of surfing looks easy, but it actually requires balance, strength, and, in competition, a lot of style – and it’s the same for the sport of Surf Dog.

If you’re near the ocean, and your dog is a big fan of the water, Surf Dog might be the sport for you. At the Purina® Pro Plan® Incredible Dog Challenge (IDC), surf dogs are judged not only on how long they ride the waves, but also on how confidently and smoothly they pull it off.

 

THE BASICS

The elements of the sport are

  • A dog that has strong swimming skills and good balance, and loves the water
  • A foam or foam and fiberglass surf board
  • A life vest for your dog and rash guard for you
  • Clean water with waves of a safe height for you and your dog

HOW COMPETITION WORKS

In the Surf Dog Competition at IDC, dogs get 10 minutes to catch as many waves as they want. Their performances are scored by three judges, and each dog can earn up to 30 total points (10 from each judge), from four different areas:

  • Length of the ride
  • Size of the wave
  • Confidence
  • Incredible style

The two highest scoring competitors from each round take part in a Final Surf Off Round to determine the winner.

Official Rules

GETTING STARTED

If you have access to a beach with surf, you can get started surfing with your dog on your own. 

The most important part of surfing with your dog is safety. Your dog should be a good swimmer with the ability to balance on the board – you want your dog to be comfortable and have fun in the water, after all. Additionally, a life vest will help make sure that if your dog ends up in the water, he stays afloat where you can see him.  Never tie or tether your dog to the board; it’s important that he be able to get away from the board if he loses his balance.

A great way to get stated training your dog to surf is to help him learn to balance on a surf board in still water, like a lake, pond, or pool. Once he’s mastered that skill, try helping him get on the surfboard on a day with the smallest possible waves, and see how he does when the water is moving. If he’s comfortable on moving water, he might be ready to try surfing. To get him started, make sure he’s balanced on the board, with sure footing. Holding the back of the board, run through the water until the board is “catching” a small wave – then, let go of the board and let your dog “ride” the wave on his own, making sure to keep an eye on him the whole time.

Finally, give your dog the chance to surf on bigger waves – but, to keep him safe make sure the waves are not bigger than 3 feet. If in doubt, stay on the beach that day and try out flying disc, instead.

For more information and hands-on help, find one of the clubs or dog gyms all over the country with facilities and knowledgeable staff. Just do a quick search online to locate one near you. 

Another great place to begin is by networking through your local breed-affiliated club.

Remember that Surf Dog should be fun for you and your dog. While your dog may or may not be the most stylish surfer on the beach, he might have potential you’ve never discovered before. And, at the very least, you’ll be spending quality time together full of sun, sea, and sand.