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How To Modify A Kayak For A Dog

Nicola Burridge
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Are you an adventurous pup parent eager to take your furry friend on paddling escapades?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! After scouring the internet for hours, we’ve discovered numerous ways to modify your kayak for dog-friendly adventures.

Excited to get started?

Check out our guide to some of the best types of kayak mods for dogs, as well as some tips on how you can modify your own kayak to make your dog more comfortable on board.

How To Modify A Kayak For A Dog - Pinterest ImagePin

7 Kayak Modifications For Dogs

Add Deck Padding

Installing deck padding can be one of the simplest kayak modifications you can do for your dog. Deck pads can be added to just about any type of kayak, including sit-on-top kayaks, sit-inside kayaks, and inflatable kayaks.

Deck padding can provide grip and traction for your dog’s paws so that they can feel more comfortable when they stand up. You know yourself that having a non-slip platform makes it easier and safer to stand up. With four legs and no shoes, it can be even more difficult when there’s no padding.

We have a useful guide to kayak deck padding that can help you add some to your kayak.

Another benefit of deck padding is that it helps to reduce noise from the deck, for example, if you drop tools or tackle. This means if you plan to go kayak fishing with your dog, you might be less likely to scare away the fish if you have deck pads on your kayak.

The best inflatable kayak will likely have some type of padding already on the deck, which can be beneficial for dog owners and dogs.

How To Install

Step1: Measure The Space

Measure the area of the deck where you plan for your dog to sit or stand. You might want to measure areas of the deck that your dog will use to get to and from their bed area.

Step 2: Cut The Padding Material

Cut the padding material to fit the measurements you took. It might be better to cut several smaller pieces rather than one big piece. It can be easier to stick down smaller pieces evenly rather than one large piece, which could stick to itself before you get a chance to fix it to the deck.

Step 3: Make Sure the Deck Is Clean And Dry

Adhesive might not stick correctly if the deck is dirty or wet. So make sure you clean it and dry it completely before you attempt to apply the adhesive and padding.

Step 4: Apply Adhesive And Install

Apply the adhesive to the back of the padding material, not the kayak. Apply the padding material to the deck, pressing down firmly so that it sticks to the deck securely.  You should now have a custom kayak deck for your furry friend.

Dog Kayaking Wearing A Life VestPin

Create A Dog-Friendly Cargo Deck

The rear cargo deck or tank well can be a great spot for some dogs to sit. This can give them their own secure area where they can get comfortable in their bed.

However, some dogs might not like sitting behind you on a dog kayaking trip. Similarly, you might not like your dog behind you, especially if they have a tendency to jump off when you’re not watching, whether you have the best kayak dog platform or not.

Many sit-on-top kayaks have a relatively flat rear cargo deck that can usually be easily modified to accommodate a dog or make kayak dog seats. You can remove the bungees or mesh cargo net so that your dog has more room.

You might want to install some paw-friendly padding to give your dog some traction in their new dog kayak seat. Padding can benefit both you and your furry friend.

The size of your tank well will probably determine whether or not there’s room for a small dog bed. Some kayak dog decks may be too small altogether for large dogs.

If you want to bring a cooler or fishing crate with you on your kayak, this option might not be the best one for your dog.

Remove A Seat

If you have a tandem kayak and you plan to be paddling solo with your dog, it can be a good idea to remove one of the seats. The front seat can be the best option to remove as this can let your dog sit in front of you. And it can let you paddle more easily from the back.

This can work with both sit-on-top kayaks and sit-inside kayaks, including inflatable kayaks. Once you remove the seat, you can place your dog’s bed in the seating area to give them their own comfy seat.

If you have a tandem sit-inside kayak and have two separate cockpits, by removing the seat, you can give your dog an entire cockpit to make themselves comfortable.

Some sit-inside tandem kayaks have one large cockpit. This type of tandem kayak could be more suitable for some dogs compared to individual cockpits, as some dogs may feel more comfortable if they are sitting in the same space as the rest of their family.

For tandem sit-on-top kayaks, you can let your dog have more space to spread out by removing that front seat.

Most kayak seats can be easily removed. More basic kayak seats might only be able to be folded down. You can still fold down the seat and place a dog bed on the top of it for added comfort for your four-legged friend. 

Add Outriggers

Adding your own outriggers to a kayak can help to boost the stability of your vessel. Added stability can be perfect for kayaking with your dog, especially if your curious dog likes to move around a lot. 

Outriggers are generally cylindrical floats that can be attached on either or both sides of your kayak. This helps to essentially extend the width of the kayak as the width is being spread over a larger area. This means your kayak is less likely to tip over thanks to the catamaran-style hull that you’ve created.

You can make your own outriggers pretty easily using at least two floats and some PVC pipes. The pipes can be connected to your kayak using built-in rod holders, if you have them.

If you don’t already have flush-mount rod holders on your kayak, you could use deck mounts or other suitable mounting points on your kayak. But you may need to purchase specialist kits if you want to install outriggers to mounting bases.

How To Install

Step 1: Attach PVC Pipes To Rod Holders

Using a 1-inch 90-degree PVC pipe, slot it into your rod holder near to the back of your kayak. Use a coupling to help it fit snugly in the rod holder.

Next, attach a coupling to the other end of the 90-degree pipe and connect a 45-degree pipe of the same 1-inch diameter.

Attach a T-joint connector followed by a T-joint pipe to the exposed end of the 45-degree pipe.

Step 2: Attach The Floats

With your pipes all in place, you can attach the floats to the T-joint pipe. You may need a 1-inch to ¾-inch adapter on the end of the T-joint to let you slot the floats on.

You could attach two floats on either side of the T-joint pipe for added buoyancy. This will probably depend on the type and size of floats you use.

Repeat for the other side and you should be good to go with your new kayak outriggers.

Build A Doggy Deck

A doggy deck can be a good choice if you want to give your dog a dedicated space of their own while you’re paddling. This can be like a dog sidecar on a kayak but at the back or front rather than the side.

For this kayak modification, you can use either plywood or a composite decking material, such as Trex. Wood will likely be heavier than a composite deck and will need to be treated with a waterproof coating prior to launching.

You might find it easier to build your dog deck at the stern of the kayak if you have a cargo deck and mounting points. The doggy deck can be positioned over the cargo deck. This way it shouldn’t interfere with your paddling or your legs.

If you have a tandem kayak, you could build it over the second seat.

You could also build a dog deck between the kayak and the outrigger but you will likely need pretty large outriggers for this, as well as a small dog. A heavy dog on a side-rigged deck will probably affect the balance and performance of your kayak.

A kayak dog platform might not be the best option for an inflatable kayak, as you may not have a secure way to safely attach the deck to the kayak. An inflatable kayak will tend to already have flat decks that can be ideal for dogs to lay down and get comfortable so they may not need a dedicated kayak dog platform. 

How To Install

Step 1: Make A Frame

The first thing you should do is to make a frame for the deck. You can use PVC pipes to create a suitable frame for the size of your dog and the size of your cargo deck or second seating area.

The PVC pipes can be secured in scupper holes or fishing rod holders, depending on your particular kayak. You can secure the front and back of your frame with bungees.

Video: Custom Kayak Dog Platform DIY
Step 2: Add Your Platform

Add your kayak dog platform to the frame you’ve just built. The type of hardware you’ll need will depend on the type of platform material you’ve opted for.

Make sure the hardware you choose is corrosion-resistant and suitable for marine conditions.

You may choose to add side edges to your platform to enclose the space a little. This could be good if you want to prevent a dog bed (or your dog) from sliding off.

Step 3: Add A Bed

Add a water-resistant dog bed to give your dog a comfortable spot to rest and enjoy the ride.

Modify A Storage Hatch

Storage hatches are generally not very big at the opening. So this kayak modification will probably only work if you have a small dog.

This could be an option if you have a sit-in kayak but it can also work with sit-on-top kayaks that have large storage hatches, like some fishing kayaks.

There’s generally not much modifying to do with this option. Simply remove the hatch cover. If the hatch lid is hinged, you may want to either hold it open using bungees or remove the lid entirely by unscrewing the hinges.

You might want to check that your dog enjoys being inside the hatch before you set off on a water adventure. And make sure your canine companion is wearing a dog life jacket for their outdoor adventures.

Additionally, if you have a sit-inside kayak, remember that you don’t want to get water inside your hatch or you could flood your kayak. So you might want to avoid rough waters if your dog is in the hatch.

Tow Your Dog (On Their Own Vessel)

Towing your dog behind your kayak can be ideal for some dogs, especially larger dogs and dogs that enjoy their own space. This also gives you more room on the kayak. This can work for both hardshell kayaks and inflatable kayaks.

You can do this in the same way that you would tow a kayak. But you can generally use any type of vessel, such as a paddle board, or a small inflatable boat. You could even tow them in their own kayak if you have a second one.

Attach a tow line to a fixed point on the front of the dog’s kayak or vessel. Attach the other end of the tow line to a fixed point on the back of your vessel. Carabiner clips can work well for a secure attachment.

It will likely be difficult to paddle your kayak while towing a dog on a separate vessel, as the dog will (almost certainly) not be able to control their vessel (unlike when you’re towing another paddler who can control the direction). So this might not be the best option in rough and moving water or windy weather.

It may also mean that your journey takes longer because of the extra drag from the second vessel. This could be particularly tiring if you plan to paddle a long way. It might be better for short recreational trips or floating along a river.

You may also want to make sure your dog wears a life jacket if they’re on their own vessel. It’s recommended that dogs wear life jackets any time they’re on a kayak or small boat, even if the dog can swim. Just like people, dogs can struggle in currents and rough water, especially in emergency situations.

If your dog tends to jump off into the water when they see something exciting, this might not be the best option for them. If they jump off, you may not be able to get them back on their vessel easily. And they may struggle to get back on their vessel on their own. 

Can I Take My Dog WITHOUT Modifying My Kayak?

Yes, you can definitely take your dog kayaking without modifying your kayak. If you have one of the best kayaks for dogs you shouldn’t need to do anything before having your dog jump aboard.

Kayaks that have non-slip traction pads can be better for dogs to stand up in. The extra grip on the padding means your dog won’t be sliding and scrambling as much, which can be a little more reassuring for your dog, especially if they’re new to kayaking.

Beginner-friendly recreational kayaks can be ideal for kayaking with your dog. These tend to be very stable kayaks that can provide a high level of initial stability on flatwater for a less tippy sensation, helping your dog feel safer on the water. They can also usually accommodate a dog’s weight as well as your own.

Some of the best options for kayaking with your dog are inflatable boats. These are generally very durable boats that are extremely stable. They can often handle a dog’s claws and allow them to sit comfortably as there tends to be more storage space on deck compared to most kayaks.

An inflatable kayak will also have a high load capacity and increased buoyancy to accommodate large dogs. Additionally, the decks are often flat, providing a spacious surface for your dog to lay down without fear of the dog’s nails going through the inflatable kayak.

An inflatable kayak that has drop-stitch construction on the floor will tend to offer increased rigidity. As well as improving the overall performance of the kayak, this can feel more comfortable for dogs to stand on.

Owner kayaking with his dogPin

Some dog owners also like to kayak with their dog sitting with them inside the cockpit of a solo sit-inside kayak. Obviously, this works best if you have a large cockpit, such as the ones found on some recreational sit-inside kayaks. It might also be better suited to small dogs.

Make sure you have your dog wear a life jacket whenever they join you in your kayak. Even if your dog is a great swimmer, they can still get into difficulties and can tire in strong currents.

Most of the best dog life jackets have grab handles on the top so that you can easily lift your dog out of the water if they fall overboard and struggle to get back on the deck.

You might also want to accessorize your kayak with some of your dog’s home comforts, such as their bed, water bowl, and their favorite toy. Remember to bring lots of snacks and treats for your furry friend too.

> Dog accessories for kayaking

Make sure your dog’s bed is water-resistant. A non-slip base can also be a useful feature to have (although most dog beds have this as standard).


Hopefully you’ve been inspired to create a special space for your dog on your kayak with some of these kayak modifications for dogs. There are many things you can do to make your dog feel more at home on your kayak.

Not all of these kayak mods will suit every dog or every kayak. Think about your dog’s personality to opt for the right kayak. Your dog’s size should also be something to take into consideration, as you may find some of these kayak modifications may not be suitable for large dogs.

And remember, you may not need to modify your kayak at all if you already have a dog-friendly kayak and a dog that loves to join you.

> How to go kayaking with your dog safely

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