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Best Canoes For Dogs – Take Your Pooch On Your Water Adventures

By: Kayak Guru
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There’s nothing quite like exploring the wilderness with your four-legged friend. But when it comes to canoeing with dogs, things are not always as easy as you might expect.

Maybe your dog loves to swim and will take to canoeing life like a duck to water. But not all dogs are the same.

A great starter canoe for dogs, and our top pick, is the Old Town Discovery 169 because of its exceptional stability and capacity to handle just about any dog.

We’ve reviewed plenty of other options to help you find the best canoe for dogs, as well as some tips on how to make your dog’s canoe trip comfortable.

Top Picks:

Top 11 Best Canoes For Dogs Reviewed

1: Old Town Discovery 169 (best overall)

  • Length: 16 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 37 inches
  • Depth: 15 inches
  • Weight: 91 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 1350-1400 pounds

The Old Town Discovery 169 is built for stability and ease of use, making it the best canoe for dogs in our opinion. This canoe has plenty of space in its 16-foot 9-inch length. It also has a wide beam of 37-inches, providing extra space for you, your paddling partner, and your dog to sit comfortably.

There are two nylon web seats for comfort for two paddlers. The stout ash thwart boosts rigidity and there’s a center ash carrying yoke for easy portaging on your own. However, it’s pretty heavy, so solo portaging could be difficult.

This is a durable canoe that’s made from three-layer polyethylene so it can be tough enough for dogs’ paws and claws. But you may want to add padding to the deck (sold separately) because dogs may find this surface slippery.

A great feature of this canoe is its high load capacity. This can make it ideal for dogs of all sizes, plus camping gear. 

There are bow and stern carry handles to make it easier to load and unload, as well as haul to and from the water.

The Discovery 169 is a recreational canoe that can handle long distances and family camping adventures. It can also be great for beginners as it’s made to be easy to paddle.

Pros

  • Stable
  • Huge capacity
  • Spacious

Cons

  • Heavy

2: Old Town Penobscot 164 (runner-up)

  • Length: 16 foot 4 inches
  • Width: 37.5 inches
  • Depth: 14 inches
  • Weight: 75 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 1250 pounds

The Old Town Penobscot 164 is a very stable canoe that can be great for extended river trips and lake excursions. It has a generous capacity, with enough room for two people, a dog, plus camping equipment.

This is a lightweight canoe for its size, which can make it easier to load onto the roof of your car or carry to the water. It also has molded handles at the bow and stern for easy transportation by two people.

The center yoke thwart makes solo portaging convenient and it also adds rigidity.

This is a wide canoe for improved stability on a range of waters, with a sharp bow and a straight keel line for efficiency. The rounded bottom also makes it a little easier to turn. It can be paddled solo if necessary but this could be tricky if you’re a new paddler.

This rugged canoe is made from three-layer polyethylene for durability and it features aluminum gunwales for added strength. This means it should be able to withstand dogs jumping around, as well as the odd bump.

There are two bench seats with nylon webbing, with plenty of space in the center for a medium or large dog to lay down.

Pros

  • Very stable
  • Durable construction
  • Roomy for two adults plus a dog

Cons

  • Not the easiest to paddle solo

3: Old Town Saranac 160 (best value)

  • Length: 16 foot
  • Width: 37 inches
  • Depth: 13.5 inches
  • Weight: 89 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 800-850 pounds

The Old Town Saranac 160 offers excellent value, with ample room for two paddlers plus a medium dog.

This affordable canoe is made for flatwater adventures on lakes and slow-moving rivers. It has a decent capacity for day trips and overnight trips if you pack light. But it might not be the best canoe for extended camping trips.

The Saranac 160 is a versatile canoe that can be ideal for recreational paddling and fishing. It even has flush mounts for rod holders and a trolling motor (both sold separately).

The bottom is flat, providing excellent initial stability. This can make it feel less tippy for beginners and dogs alike. There are two molded seats with adjustable backrests for added comfort on long trips.

You’ll also find a molded bench seat in the center for a third person. The bench seat has built-in storage including a small watertight hatch and a cup holder.

Pros

  • Flat bottom for primary stability
  • Built-in storage
  • Great for fishing and recreation

Cons

  • Not ideal for extended expeditions

4: Esquif Prospecteur 17 (best for canoe camping trips)

  • Length: 17 foot
  • Width: 35 inches
  • Depth: 15.5 inches
  • Weight: 76 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 1000 pounds

This Esquif Prospecteur 17 canoe is a spacious touring canoe that can be great for a canoe camping trip with your dog. It’s designed to handle a range of conditions, including whitewater, so it can be an ideal canoe if you’re looking for versatility on your expeditions. However, its rounded hull may feel tippy if you’re a new paddler.

This durable canoe features T-Formex laminated construction with structural memory, which is low-maintenance and tough enough to withstand frequent trips into the wilderness.

The material consists of an ABS foam core and ABS sheets for strength, plus a protective plastic outer skin for enhanced abrasion resistance.

This is a relatively lightweight canoe for its length, for easier portaging. There are also rope handles at the bow and stern for easy carrying.

It comes with two woven webbing seats that help to minimize additional weight. As well as being able to handle rough rivers, this is also built for enhanced speeds on flat water, so it can be efficient to paddle long distances on multi-day trips.

Pros

  • Good speeds
  • Ideal for rivers and lakes
  • Lots of room for gear

Cons

  • Not the best for nervous beginners

5: Old Town Discovery 158 (best for large dogs)

  • Length: 15 foot 8 inches
  • Width: 35.5 inches
  • Depth: 13.5 inches
  • Weight: 87 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 1150 pounds

The Old Town Discovery 158 is a slightly shorter version of our number one pick, the Discovery 169. Despite being shorter in length, the Discovery 158 can be ideal for a large dog, as it’s incredibly stable.

The shorter length can mean it’s also easier to control, which can be beneficial when you have a large dog on board with you.

Like the longer version, this canoe has a tough three-layer polyethylene hull for added durability for dog-friendly adventures.

The hull is wide enough to provide a comfortable space for your dog to lay down. The flat bottom hull also helps to improve the amount of space available for your dog to get comfortable.

This is designed primarily for recreation, which can make it great for family camping trips, and is ideal for beginners looking for added stability on flat water.

It has a large capacity to handle heavy loads without restriction and it’s made to be easy to paddle, even for beginners.

It has molded handles at the bow and stern to make it easy for two people to lift. However, it’s not the lightest canoe, so you may need extra help when you’re loading it on your car roof rack. 

Pros

  • Excellent stability
  • Large capacity
  • Easy to maneuver and control

Cons

  • Heavy

6: Old Town Penobscot 174 (most spacious)

  • Length: 17 foot 4 inches
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Depth: 14 inches
  • Weight: 83 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 1500 pounds

The Old Town Penobscot 174 is the longest canoe on our list and offers plenty of space for two paddlers and even two dogs. This large touring canoe has a huge capacity to handle camping gear for several days.

The hull is designed for efficiency, offering speed over flat water. It also offers increased control on fast water. This can make it ideal for experienced paddlers looking for a canoe that can handle a variety of conditions without sacrificing space. But it may not be the easiest to paddle if you’re a beginner.

It has low sides which can make it perform better in wind compared to deeper canoes. The shallower depth could also make it easier if you have to lift your dog back on deck from the water.

A downside to the shallow sides could be that some dogs may feel more encouraged to jump out.

This is a durable three-layer polyethylene canoe with aluminum gunwales for strength. It’s also pretty lightweight considering its size. It has two comfortable webbing seats and ash thwarts for rigidity.

Pros

  • Spacious canoe
  • Good all-around performance
  • Ideal for canoe camping

Cons

  • Not the best for beginners

7: Old Town Discovery Sportsman 119 (easiest to control)

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  • Length: 11 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 32.5 inches
  • Depth: 12.5 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 354 pounds

The Old Town Discovery Sportsman 119 is a solo canoe that’s built for fishing and duck hunting. It has excellent stability – you can even stand up if you have good balance.

With its compact hull, it’s made to be easy to control by just one person. It can also be easy to maneuver on land, whether you’re carrying the canoe to the water’s edge or loading it onto your roof rack.

A great feature of this canoe is its hybrid design which means it has some features that you’d normally find on a kayak. The padded seat benefits from an adjustable backrest for added support. There are also padded armrests for extra comfort and adjustable foot braces for stability.

There’s plenty of space for you and your dog, plus room for fishing or hunting gear. You’ll even find rod holders on the rear yoke and an accessory track on the front thwart for your gadgets.

A downside to this canoe is its low weight capacity. This is not the best choice if you want to take your dog canoe camping, especially if you have a big dog.

Pros

  • Easy to maneuver
  • Very stable
  • Comfortable seat
  • Fishing features

Cons

  • Relatively low capacity

8: Lifetime Wasatch 130 (best budget)

Lifetime Wasatch 130 in green color
  • Length: 13 foot
  • Width: 39 inches
  • Weight: 96 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 600 pounds

The Lifetime Wasatch 130 is very similar in style and features to the popular Lifetime Kodiak 130 canoe. It’s an affordable canoe that’s easy to control on the water and it’s a convenient size for transporting to and from the water.

However, this is a very heavy canoe considering its compact length.

The Wasatch is built for stability and ease of use. It has a wheel under the hull to help to haul it to the water, making it easier for one person to pull.

This is a very wide canoe that’s designed for up to three people. There are three molded-in seats (two with removable backrests). You’ll also find cup holders at the front to keep your beverages within easy reach on your trip.

It features high-density polyethylene construction for durability, making it tough enough for dogs and kids.

The wide, flat bottom hull is crafted for flatwater stability so it can feel comfortable for beginners (including four-legged beginners). There is also a skeg for improved tracking, so it can be easier to paddle in a straight line. This is not a particularly fast canoe and it’s not the most suitable for long trips. 

Pros

  • Budget-friendly canoe
  • Wheel in the skeg
  • Easy to maneuver

Cons

  • Very heavy

9: Merrimack Prospector 16

  • Length: 16 foot
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Depth: 14 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 900 pounds

The Merrimack Prospector 16 is a lightweight fiberglass canoe that’s also available in carbon fiber/Kevlar or wood options. This is an expedition canoe that’s made to order. But it is expensive.

It’s designed to offer speed and maneuverability for experienced paddlers. It has excellent capacity for an extended backcountry canoe camping trip with your four-legged friend in tow.

There’s plenty of room for your dog to stretch out, despite the canoe being a little narrower than some others.

You may want to install some deck padding (sold separately) for your dog, as fiberglass can be slippery for your dog’s paws.

This canoe can be great for paddling on lakes and rivers, with a high level of rocker that makes it easy to turn. It’s also designed to offer enhanced performance when it’s fully loaded with gear. However, it may not be the best choice or easiest to paddle for new canoeists.

Pros

  • High-quality canoe
  • Lightweight
  • Ideal for backcountry expeditions

Cons

  • Not ideal for beginners
  • Not cheap

10: Wenonah Heron

  • Length: 15 foot
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Depth: 13 inches
  • Weight: 50 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 500 pounds

The Wenonah Heron is a 15-foot canoe that’s designed to offer stability, maneuverability, and efficiency. This can make it ideal for flatwater conditions such as slow-moving rivers and streams or lakes.

The shallow depth can be easier for dogs to get in and out. It can also improve wind resistance on exposed lakes.

This compact canoe is made in the USA and also comes in an ultralight version as an option. However, this boat is not cheap so it may not be the best starter canoe.

It has a lower capacity than some of the other canoes on the list. So you may not be able to load it up with lots of heavy gear if there are two of you plus a dog on the trip. But it can be ideal for shorter trips for two people and a dog or a solo paddler and a dog. 

It features fiberglass composite materials and has an aluminum trim with a gel-coat finish for durability. It comes with two web seats and an ash yoke as standard. There are also premium options available as upgrades.

Pros

  • Easy to maneuver
  • Great for short trips
  • Quality materials

Cons

  • Expensive

11: Sea Eagle TC16

  • Length: 16 foot
  • Width: 38 inches
  • Depth: 20 inches
  • Weight: 64 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 915 pounds

The Sea Eagle TC16 is an inflatable canoe. This can be an ideal choice if you’re looking for a canoe that’s easy to transport and store at home.

When folded down and packed into its own bag it measures just 40 x 24 x 16 inches, so it can easily fit in the trunk of your car or your closet. A downside is that it’s pretty heavy for an inflatable, so you might not want to carry the packed canoe a great distance.

This is a highly durable canoe that features all drop-stitch construction. This means it has a rigid feel that can handle dogs’ paws and claws.

There’s plenty of room for two paddlers and a dog, plus gear. There are various packages to choose from. The basic package includes two wooden web seats, a pump, a repair kit, and a travel bag.

It has a flat planing hull for increased speeds over flat water. It’s also rated to handle up to Class IV whitewater so it can be a fantastic all-rounder with a great combination of both primary and secondary stability.

This is designed to be set up in 10 minutes and can be ideal for beginners and intermediate paddlers.

Pros

  • Easy to transport
  • Stable
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Pretty heavy

Canoe Features That Are Ideal For Taking A Dog

Stability

Stability can be one of the most important features to look for in a canoe if you plan to take your dog with you. Primary stability (or initial stability) can be how stable the canoe feels on flat water.

Primary stability can often be what you want for paddling with your dog. As well as helping to keep the canoe from tipping on flat water, it can help your dog feel more comfortable, as it can be more stable for them underfoot.

Some dogs can feel nervous and uneasy if the ground beneath them is moving. So the more stable your canoe feels at first, the more relaxed your dog should feel.

Canoes with flat bottoms can usually offer more primary stability on flat water and can feel less tippy.

Rounded hulls can be better for rougher water as they offer more secondary stability. But this might not be the best choice for your dog’s first canoeing adventure.

Space

Your dog will need space to sit or, preferably, lay down. Canoes generally offer a decent amount of space. However, if you plan on loading up your canoe with camping gear, the available space for your dog will be reduced.

You should make sure your dog has a flat area of the deck to lay down in his bed. The center of the canoe can often be the most spacious zone but your dog may choose to sit elsewhere.

Remember, you might need to adjust your load if your dog is heavy and wants to sit at the back or front otherwise your canoe could become unbalanced.


Tips On How To Take Your Dog On A Canoe

Use Deck Padding

As you’ll probably already know, dogs can often find it difficult to walk on smooth surfaces. With most canoes generally having a smooth surface inside, dogs can sometimes have trouble standing if there’s no traction for their paws.

Adding deck padding to the interior of your canoe can be helpful. Padding can provide grip for your dog’s paws and help them to feel more comfortable standing or sitting in the canoe.

Bring Their Bed

Having a dedicated comfortable spot for your dog to sit or lay down while you’re paddling can help your dog to feel more at home.

There are plenty of dog beds out there that are designed to be easy to pack. This Ruffwear dog pad can be ideal to use on a canoe as it has a non-slip waterproof base and a comfortable closed-cell foam cushion. It also folds up to a compact size for carrying with you.

You might find it more helpful if your dog has already used the bed before, as a new bed may smell unfamiliar. A bed that they’ve used before can smell more like home for your dog.

Have Them Wear A Life Jacket

A life jacket can be an essential piece of safety equipment for any dog on the water. Dog life jackets are made to provide additional buoyancy for your dog if they fall in or get into difficulties while swimming.

Most dog life vests, including this Float Coat, are made with a handle on the top so that you can easily lift them back into your canoe.

Even dogs that know how to swim should still wear a life jacket as an additional safety measure. Dogs who are competent swimmers can still struggle if swimming in currents or cold water.

Wear Your Life Jacket

Remember when you’re in a canoe, or any other small vessel, you should always wear your life jacket. PFDs are usually required by law in most places, although you don’t always have to wear them to comply with the laws. However, a life vest can only save your life if you’re wearing it.

When you’re canoeing with a dog it can be even more important to wear your life jacket as you can be more at risk of capsizing with a dog on board.

It can be safer for your dog, too, if you’re wearing a PFD, as you can be more prepared to save yourself and your dog in an emergency.

Use A Leash

In many places across the United States, it’s a legal requirement for your dog to be on a leash in public. When you’re canoeing, a leash can be a useful tool for keeping your dog safe.

If your dog decides to jump off or accidentally falls off, you can use the leash to bring them back to safety. A leash can help to prevent your dog from getting swept away by strong currents. 

However, never tie your dog’s leash to the canoe. If the canoe capsizes, this can be dangerous and can prevent your dog from swimming to safety.

A floating leash, such as this one, can be beneficial for canoeing and it’s brightly colored for added visibility.

Bring Treats

Using treats as rewards for good behavior is something most dog owners will be familiar with. Giving your dog treats while they’re in the canoe can help them associate the canoe with good things.

Have your dog sit in their bed inside the canoe in exchange for a rewarding treat, so they can learn that this is the desired behavior when they’re in the canoe. This can help them relax in their bed while you’re paddling and prevent them from trying to move around too much.

Practice

Dogs can often be nervous when trying something new. This is why it can be a good idea to allow your dog to familiarize themselves with the canoe before you set off on a long adventure.

If possible, let your dog get into the canoe on dry land so they can get used to the smells and layout in safe and familiar surroundings.

If your dog is not used to wearing a life vest, you may want to practice in the canoe with them wearing the life jacket as well.


Canoes For Dogs: FAQs

Where Should Your Dog Sit On A Canoe?

The center of the canoe might offer your dog more space and less movement, which can be preferable for some dogs. However, your dog might feel more comfortable riding up front. Generally, your dog should sit wherever they’re comfortable and safe.

Can You Canoe With A Large Dog?

If your large dog is comfortable with being in a canoe and the capacity and size of your canoe allow, then yes, you can canoe with a large dog.

However, remember, the larger the dog, the more likely they are to tip your canoe while moving around. If your large dog is likely to jump off to chase something, it’s probably not a good idea to take them canoeing.

What Are The Best Breeds To Canoe With?

Most dogs that are comfortable around water can be best to canoe with. Breeds such as golden retrievers (and other types of retrievers), labradors, most types of spaniels, and other water dogs can be ideal.

Any dog that enjoys the outdoors and loves to swim can often enjoy canoeing.

Are Kayaks Or Canoes Better For Dogs?

Canoes can usually offer your dog more space to move around than a kayak. Sit-inside kayaks have less space for dogs and sit-on-top kayaks may not always have enough flat deck space for your dog to comfortably lay down.

Can Dogs Go In Inflatable Canoes?

Yes, inflatable canoes can be ideal for dogs. Inflatable canoes are generally stable and are made from durable materials with multiple air chambers for safety.


Wrapping Up

The best canoe for dogs that we’ve found is the Old Town Discovery 169. This canoe has a fantastic capacity to handle at least two people and a dog, plus camping gear. It’s wide, stable, and a great choice for beginners and families.

Another good option, and our runner-up pick, is the Old Town Penobscot. This can be an ideal canoe for extended river trips with your canine companion. It has plenty of room for your dog to get comfortable. It’s also a durable canoe that can handle dogs jumping in and out. 

However, if you’re looking for excellent value and affordability, the Old Town Saranac 160 can be the perfect canoe for short trips on your local lake.

Our top picks may not necessarily be suitable for you and your dog. You know your dog best so you’ll know whether your dog will be comfortable in a canoe.

Remember to pack treats and home comforts to help them settle, and consider a dog life vest for added safety. Also, remember to practice in the canoe on land before you take to the water.

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