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How To Go Kayaking With Your Dog – Top Tips

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Ever thought about kayaking with your dog? You’re definitely not alone. Known as man’s best friend, these furry creatures make for great companions on dry land so why not take them on the water too?

How To Go Kayaking With Your Dog

Of course, it’s not as easy as popping them on board and paddling off but with preparation and training, it’s certainly possible.

That’s why we’ve put together some top tips so you can enjoy some relaxing quality time on the water with your canine.

Why Is It Cool To Bring Your Dog Out On A Kayak?

More and more people are kayaking with their dogs. Aside from wanting to avoid that adorably pathetic look on their face as you leave them at home for the day… there are many great reasons to take your dog with you.

It’s Great In All Weather

What better way to warm up in the cold than by cuddling your dog? And if you decide to make a weekend of it you have your pet to keep you company (and, let’s face it, make you feel a bit safer in the woods).

And on long, humid days in summer, it isn’t just humans who enjoy cooling down by taking a swim… dogs love it too. Why not take them for a spin and let them splash around in the water?

It’s Good For Your Dog

Fresh air and swimming are both good for your dog. Swimming in particular is a fantastic form of exercise that not only works out most muscles, but is also easy on the joints.

If your dog enjoys swimming, then they might really enjoy kayaking with you.

Quality Time With Your Best Friend

Sometimes it’s nice to put some time aside for your best friend. Yes, you’ll be paddling and focusing on other things at times, but your dog will appreciate the quality time spent with you. After all, they might be your best friend but you are the center of their entire world.

Dogs also pick up on sounds and smells before humans do, so their instinct to protect and warn their master could be very useful in the wilderness.

Top Tips To Keep Your Pooch Safe And Happy When Paddling

An excitable dog can be challenging at the best of times. A gentle stroll in the park can turn into a pigeon massacre without proper organization and caution.

Multiply this by a thousand and you’ll understand how important it is to be prepared and organized when taking your dog kayaking for the first time.

Here are some things to consider…

Is Your Dog Suitable For Kayaking?

Believe it or not, some dogs just don’t like water. It isn’t for everyone (humans included). However, with persistence and training even the most water-resistant dogs (pun intended) can learn to relax and enjoy kayaking.

Some things to consider about your dog before venturing on the water are:

Personality & Temperament - Is your dog lively and excitable? Is it likely to jump around on the yak at the slightest hint of movement or able to sit down comfortably for long periods of time while you enjoy a paddle?

Breed & Size - It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that large, strong dogs can capsize a kayak fairly easily. A big dog with an over-excitable personality could be hard to control and paddle with. You’ll need to consider how realistic it is for your dog to fit in or on your kayak and whether they are easy to command and control.

Watch this video to see what happens when kayak and dog size don’t match! 

Health & Age - It goes without saying that your dog’s wellbeing comes first. If your dog suffers from arthritis, vision impairment, hearing loss or cardiac issues you will need to consider these carefully before taking them on the boat.

The weather and temperature can vary out on the water so you need to make sure that your dog is fit and healthy enough to endure the conditions. You may also want to consult your vet before introducing your dog to kayaking.

Bodies of water are often breeding-grounds for mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects. Your dog may benefit from vaccinations.

Pre-Season Training

This isn’t just for professional athletes. If you’re planning on taking your dog out on a kayak, it is vital that you prepare them both physically and mentally for the task ahead. It may seem frustrating at first but it will make life easier down the track.

First of all, you’ll need to make sure that your dog can react to basic commands. If you come across an exciting creature (whether it’s a dolphin, fish or human), you need to be sure that you can control your dog’s reaction and prevent over-excitement.

Good commands for this are “Stay” and “Leave it”.

You can practice this by taking your dog on busy hiking trails and teaching them to stay by your side and ignore the shiny, interesting new object nearby.

Without a grasp on these commands, you might end up in a situation like this…

You will also want to get them used to the kayak and kayaking equipment on dry land before you head out on the water. Let them sit in the kayak and familiarize themselves with its layout & smell.

Practice getting in and out of the kayak (with your dog of course) in your garage, living room or garden.

You can adapt your own commands depending on what your dog is used to but useful phrases are “load, sit, stay, unload”.

When you’re ready to introduce your dog to a kayak on water, just focus the first few outings on perfecting the “load, sit, stay, unload” on water. Then, once you’re finally ready to set off for real, make sure your dog stays in the kayak with you for the first few minutes.

What Type of Kayak Should I Use?

Kayaks, like dogs come in many shapes and sizes. You need to make sure you have a kayak big enough to fit you both in comfortably. Ideally with somewhere your dog can be safely tucked away in case of rough waters.

> Guide to kayaks for big buys

If your dog is easily excited - you might want space where it can sit between your legs so that you can grab it quickly if it goes to rush off. Or if your dog is calmer, they might like to sit or lounge around at the bow.

There really isn’t a specific rule as to what’s right or wrong… it depends entirely on your dog’s size, breed and temperament.

However, many dogs are happier with sit-on-top kayaks (as opposed to sit-in kayaks) so that they are free to move around more.

These types of kayaks also tend to be more stable. Of course, you should always try and avoid rapids whilst kayaking with your dog. Calm waters make for a safer, more enjoyable (and less traumatic) time for your dog.

Do I Need To Bring Any Dog Accessories?

In short, yes. You don’t need to bring thousands of toys and paraphernalia but there are a few essentials that you should be aware of…

PFD (Personal Floatation Device) - Unfortunately dogs, just like humans, can sometimes drown. It doesn’t matter how good a swimmer they are, tragedies happen on the water so you need to make sure your dog is wearing a PFD or life jacket.

Collar & Harness - If your dog falls overboard, it’s easier and quicker to pull it back on board via the harness. This little trick could come in very handy in tough conditions.

A Leash - This is strictly for when they are on dry land. You should NEVER tie your dog to the boat. It may seem like a good way of keeping them close and under control but if the kayak flips and you are unable to untie your dog quickly, it could have disastrous consequences.

Sun Cream - Dogs are just as susceptible to sunburn as humans. Despite being covered by fur, their noses and bellies are exposed and could easily burn, particularly when the sun's rays are reflecting off the water. There are plenty of pet sun blocks on the market.

Water, Food & Bowls - Particularly if you are out for long periods of time in warm weather, water (as well as food in general) is absolutely essential for both you and your dog.

Treats - These can be used for training and reinforcing good behavior.

Conclusion

Kayaking with your dog can be a very relaxing and enjoyable activity.

However, without preparation and careful consideration, you could find yourself surrounded by chaos.

The basic things to remember are:

1) Think about your dog’s breed, size & personality and pick your kayak accordingly.

2) Don’t throw your dog in at the deep end (again, pun intended) - slowly train and prepare them by making sure they are familiar with the kayak and the necessary commands on dry land before heading out on the water.

3) Remember to pack a PFD, harness, leash, sun cream, water & food and some treats.

4) Stick to calm waters - no rapids.Ultimately, if you remember those key four things - you’ll have a fun and memorable time on the water with your favorite furry friend.


Do you bring your dog out with you on the kayak? What tips do you have for the other readers? We'd love to hear about it! Tell us down below...

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 17 comments
Kathy Skogsberg - September 2, 2017

When I used to take my 60 lb shepherd with me, I fastened a very shot , strong leash to his collar (about a foot long). That way I could grab it quickly if necessary. BTW, he LOVED to go kayaking with me, would jump into it while I was trying to load it.

Reply
    Kayak Guru - September 7, 2017

    Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for the comment! That’s a big dog! We wouldn’t normally recommend securing your dog, but sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. Glad to hear you both enjoy kayaking…

    Reply
      Jo - April 5, 2018

      I don’t think she used the short leash to tie the dog to the boat. She used it like a tab. It just hangs from the dog’s collar so you have something to grab if necessary. We use a tab when training a dog to heel off leash in obedience.

      Reply
    Brenda Bussey - June 12, 2018

    I have an 80 lbs shepherd and I would love to take her.what kind of kiak for us, also life preserver. She’s 11yrs old.

    Reply
Tina lynaugh - July 23, 2018

I’m wanting to take my Chihuahua out. He’s super laid back so I think he would be fine laying between my legs.. still doing some research!

Reply
    Kayak Guru - July 24, 2018

    Hi Tina,

    Yes, as long as he’s chilled…he’s fine 🙂

    Keep close to land until you are both very calm/confident

    Reply
    Tara Jacobs - July 28, 2019

    I took my 1 year old chihuahua for the first time this weekend. He typically doesn’t like the water but tolerated (not loved) kayaking for the first time. I need recommendations on what he can stand on as he slipped off the kayak (he had a PFD on) a couple times. The PDF made it easy to scoop him back up into the kayak. We have decided to purchase a kayak and found one we that will accommodate my 7lb furry friend. We have done some research for additions so he has a more stable surface to perch himself on, but would love some recommendations for things that work best. Even though water isn’t his thing, he doesn’t like being left behind and with his age so young I know he will love it.

    Reply
      Kim - October 19, 2019

      I take my Papillon kayaking and use a suction cup bath mat on the kayak where she likes to stand to prevent slipping. I do keep her tethered to me or the boat and her life vest in case she falls in. The currents are swift and I can easily pull her back to the boat with her leash.

      Reply
    Ruby - October 4, 2019

    Going out with my lil rockstar Sammysaws today for the first time . Stay tuned! Its his world I am just livin in it. Ruby…aka Clara Caldwell Mathis

    Reply
Kim Kramer - August 25, 2018

I have a Jazz Sit-On-Top and want to kayak with my 50 lb golden doodle. Can you recommend a platform or attachment that you have personal experience with that would fit? Thx!

Reply
Louise Van Heerden - November 25, 2018

Hi, is there a specific way to get the dog back on the kayak in the water without her “rocking the boat” too much? I have a large 1 year old Golden Retriever who loves swimming.

Reply
    Kayak Guru - November 27, 2018

    Hi Louise,

    If you’re helping her back on, it’s to stop the rocking motion.

    Try keeping your entire body as close to the deck as you can (lower your center of gravity), and keep your legs over to the opposite side of the kayak.

    Try a few different techniques and see which one suits you both best.

    Reply
Nancy - May 6, 2019

I kayak with my chihuahua..he sits between my knees when I’m in motion and wanders around the bow when stopped…I want to get a tandem sit on top and take my Great Dane…we live on a lake so we will never be very far from shore..but kinda worried about both of them at the same time..going to have to train the Dane to “rescue” the chi
I’ll do video!

Reply
    Kayak Guru - June 1, 2019

    Good luck Nancy! Just take it easy at the start and stay close to land. You will hopefully all build up confidence over time!

    Reply
Anonymous - May 28, 2019

I have a pooch that seems to like the idea of going on the water but when I get him in the kayak its like he is “passing out”. At first I thought he was getting heat exaughtion from his floatation vest, but we were not out that long this last weekend and he just lost balance and rolled out of the boat. Once he hits the water he is fine. Any help? Is he getting sea sick (does great in a car)? Is he loosing focus because of the water like a trance? Any suggestions woudl be helpful. thank you.

Reply
Vivian - June 21, 2019

Any ideas on keeping a black 6 month old medium fur dog cool while in the life vest in the sun. I don’t want to weigh him down with an ice/cooling pack. He doesn’t like to swim and won’t go near the water, is learning to be okay with the kayak but is miserably hot. He does not like left alone in the house or RV. I don’t know if an ice pack under him would last long and don’t want to freeze my legs or him, I’m Guessing it would just get slid out from under him and out of my reach if not out of the kayak on an open one. I do have a few choices in kayaks, but don’t care for our open ones. They are heavy to carry and don’t paddle as easily, definitely not getting new ones right now. The one I like best he has outgrown fitting in with me I think, it is small and light, but the opening is also small.

Reply
    Kayak Guru - June 28, 2019

    Hi Vivian. Yeah, it can be tough keeping cool. You could consider a sun shade? We published an article a while back on the subject, which mayh help: https://kayakguru.com/best-kayak-bimini-tops/

    Whatever you do, make sure you have some cool fresh water for drinking (for you and your dog!). So easy to dehydrate…

    Reply

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