Get Stoked to Go Skateboarding With Your Dog
Are you a poser or a real sk8er boi or grrl? If you’re the real deal, we’ve put together a few tips on how to skateboard safely with your dog.
I’m headed home on a beautiful day, sun on my face, board beneath my feet. Skateboarding surely is one of the best ways to get around during the summer. My pleasant thoughts quickly dissolve as I look down the street to see a guy on a skateboard being pulled along by his dog.
The dog is panting, but this dude isn’t even breaking a sweat!
It’s a hot day and the dog doesn’t look too happy to be pulling this poser. “Hey! That is NOT cool,” I shout, but he ignores me and takes off down the street. Grrrrr – I need to up my street cred. That’s why I wrote this article, in the hopes that the guy sees it and learns a thing or two. And even if he never reads it, at least you will.
Related: Mountain Boarding With Dogs Part 1
Since of the dawn of time (or at least, the dawn of strapping wheels to a piece of wood), people have come to realize how awesome dogs and skateboards can be. To be successful and safe, there are a few simple things to keep in mind, so you don’t get in over your head…or head over heels… or heels over head. Anyway, read this and avoid disaster.
It’s not your dog’s job to pull you around. Yeah, I know, you’ve seen footage of the Iditarod and a few dog-sledding movies as well. Dogs love to run, dogs love to pull – I get it! You are preaching to the choir! I am the PetGuide poster boy for dog-powered sports. But guess what? It’s NEVER your dog’s job to haul you around. A musher on a sled with 16 dogs still kicks to help them out. Yes, 16, and still kicking! And you’re letting your dog pull you around all on his own? Not cool, dude.
Avoid pavement. Pavement and paws don’t mix. Repeat after me: Pavement and paws do not mix. Dog who are hauling a load are working really hard, so they don’t need any more strain. It’s a horrible thought, but dogs can and do blow their paw pads from running on hard surfaces. It’s a messy affair, as part of the dog’s paw pads literally rips off. Paw pad injuries can happen in mere seconds.
Keep it cool. Baby, it’s hot out there. Air temperature and humidity, and well as the dog’s age, coat, and condition, will affect how far and fast your dog can safely travel. Pavement holds the heat well into the evening, so even if the air temperature feels fine for you, it may be reaching dangerous levels down on the pavement for your pooch.
That seems like a negative list – sorry if I bummed you out. What can I say? I’m a passionate advocate for dog-powered sports, and dog-powered sports done safely.
Related: Mountain Boarding With Dogs Part 2
What to do if you really want to go skateboarding with your dog? It’s time to start training. Here’s what you need to know:
Wait. Veterinarians recommend your dog wait until he is at least a year old to begin strenuous activities. Skateboarding is defiantly considered a strenuous activity. Waiting gives your dog a chance to grow into himself and allow the growth plates to close. It also gives your dog a chance to learn pick up the basics of obedience training. Skateboarding with a dog is a challenge; skateboarding with an untrained dog is a death sentence.
Dress properly. I prefer to use a well-fitted walking harness when I skateboard with my dogs. They aren’t pulling, so there’s no need to use a fully padded harness. I avoid a collar, because if I have to bail or unexpectedly yank, I don’t want to cause injury to my dog’s neck.
Your mom likely told you this already, but you need to get a proper skateboarding helmet. Think you’re too old to listen to your mother? Well, let’s put it this way. If you mash your brains taking a dive, who is going to take care of your dog?
Learning Curve. You’re going to want to train your dog to run alongside your skateboard. Some dogs take to running beside you right away, while others take a little training. Either way, start slow, and with a dog who is just a little tired. I like to train a cue for my dogs to “Watch Me.” This means that I ask the dog to focus in on my face, making eye contact and being rewarded with some awesome treats. I build up the watch command slowly, and eventually transfer it to the skateboard.
When I know the dog is ready to give me their undivided attention, then I am ready to add some slow movement. In the beginning, I keep skateboarding sessions short and sweet, and use lots of praise. We don’t aim for any speed. In time, we build up to longer sessions, and increase our speed gradually.
Stop. Most dogs are going to love to run with the skateboard, so the problem is stopping. I like to teach my dogs a “Stop” command. Teaching it is pretty simple, I start by run around with them like a manic, keeping them engaged. Then I randomly and suddenly stop. If the dog stops, I reward heavily! Once the dog is stopping reliably, I add the command “Stop.” Keeping it fun making it a game is key. There will come a time when you need your dog to stop on command, and you will be happy your dog WANTS to!
Where to go? You need to find a good place skate safely with your dog. Sometimes this means walking with my dog and my board before we find a good spot. You have to find a spot where your wheels can spin smoothly, but your dog can run along beside on the grass. I love the suburbs for this, because lots of nice, smooth concrete and prefect lawns for my dogs to run on.
Okay, you aspiring Tony Hawks – get out there and skate safely with your dogs!