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Dog days of summer: Puppy paddleboard lessons making a splash at Chatfield State Park

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By Deborah Swearingen

There were dozens of paddleboards floating in the gravel ponds area of Chatfield State Park this past Sunday, but two looked a bit different. 

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These particular paddleboarders were joined by their furry friends. In a “paddleboard pup workshop,” hosted by Marji Marshall, the life-jacket-wearing pups learned to stay put while their owners paddled through the water.

Marshall, a former Littleton resident who recently moved to Longmont, has been paddleboarding for years and teaches paddleboarding pilates. But this was her first time instructing a course in paddleboarding with dogs.

“It’s serene for the dog and for the person,” Marshall said.

Paddleboarding is all about balance, and it requires a lot of core work. Marshall said it’s important to calm the dog and demonstrate that everyone is safe. Though the sport is not ideal for all dogs — some are too afraid of the water — it was perfect for Ryder and Lucia, the two pups who attended last weekend’s workshop.

Neither had tried paddleboarding before, but within minutes Marshall was full of praise for the pair of pups.

“Look at the confidence they’re getting already,” she said.

Melissa Hamilton heard about the workshop through Facebook and decided to travel from Colorado Springs to attend with Ryder.

“He likes to do everything I do,” she said. “I thought it would be fun to get out and bond.”

The bond is something mentioned by Marshall, too, and she said it is one of the best benefits of the activity.

“This is — in the dog’s mind — a dangerous situation at first,” she said. “They learn to trust their owner even more, and the bond becomes even closer.”

Ryder preferred to stand up and inspect the board while Hamilton paddled out and back. Lucia, on the other hand, relaxed on the paddleboard while Kelly Blaski moved through the water.

“This was one of my bucket list items,” Blaski said.

Blaski is from Broomfield and met Marshall through their shared dog trainer. Blaski grew up surfing in southern California and was looking for an opportunity to get back out on the water. She said she was surprised with how well Lucia did, considering the dog generally is only in the water when she has toys to play with.

Labradors, golden retrievers, basset hounds, German shepherds, beagles, poodles and a variety of other dogs all do well with paddleboarding. Bulldogs and pugs, however, might not do as well since they aren’t always natural swimmers and can easily overheat.

Marshall plans to host another workshop on Aug. 20 at Chatfield State Park. Class size is limited to five dogs, and pre-registration is required. Dogs must weigh 60 pounds or less to participate. Safety gear is included with registration. The course costs $60 with a paddleboard rental and $50 without, and 10 percent of all the fees go to Foothills Animal Rescue and Colorado Basenji Rescue. 

To learn more or register, like “Pilates for Pups” on Facebook.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.