Can I Take My Dog Kayaking?

Can I Take My Dog Kayaking?

Taking your dog kayaking is good for you and your precious pooch. Why limit your dog to walks in the park and around the woods? 

Kayaking with your dog is certainly possible but there are some considerations to make before taking your four-legged friend out on the water.

Not every dog is going to enjoy kayaking with you. If you can’t keep your dog out of the water when you head out for a walk along the river, then chances are he/she will enjoy getting in your kayak. However, if your dog is petrified of water, it’s unlikely that you’ll see him/her in a kayak with you anytime soon.

That being said, with some training and positive reinforcement nothing is impossible.

So, how can you take your dog kayaking?
In this article, we’ll be looking at how to prepare your pooch for a day out on the water, how to get them ready for your kayak, and everything you’ll need to get that dog of yours paddling!

How to Take Your Dog Kayaking

There are a few things you will need to do in order to prepare your dog for kayaking. You’ll need some safety equipment, the right type of kayak, and you may have to train your dog to get him used to the kayak and the water.

What Do You Need to Take Your Dog Kayaking?

There are some things you’ll need before taking to the water with your best friend on four legs.

A life Jacket: The Most Essential Item for Your Dog

The most essential item for your dog is a life jacket.

Even the most obedient dog can abandon ship at the sight of a duck, seal, or piece of driftwood.

If you’re going to take your dog kayaking regularly, he or she is bound to jump into the water at some point. A life jacket not only makes sure your dog doesn’t get overwhelmed in the water, but it also makes life 10 times easier when getting them back on board your vessel.

Even if your dog is a strong swimmer lifting them back into the kayak after a leap of freedom can be difficult. A decent life jacket for a dog will act as floatation but also a means to pick them up safely. They usually have a handle on the top that you can use to lift your dog back out of the water and on to the kayak.

Choosing the Right Kayak

You will also need to make sure that your kayak is suitable for your dog. It’s no use trying to squeeze your dog into a sit-in kayak designed for whitewater or a narrow one-person touring kayak. So, what kind of kayak do you need for kayaking with your dog?

The best kayaks for dogs are sit-on-top hardshell kayaks. Sit-on kayaks provide enough sitting space for your dog without getting in your way while you’re paddling. It’s also easier for your pooch to get on the kayak when you’re setting off and it’s easier for you to lift the dog back on the kayak if your dog goes overboard or you capsize.

Hardshell kayaks are your best option. However, a high-quality inflatable kayak will also be able to accommodate your dog. If you do go for an inflatable, just make sure it’s made from tear-resistant materials and your dog’s claws are clipped short.

If your dog is relatively small, you’ll get away with using a one-person sit-on-top kayak. If you own a larger breed, you may need a tandem kayak. 2-person kayaks provide enough space for you, your dog, and your kayaking gear. If you have more than one dog, you may be able to take both on a tandem too.

Another factor to consider is the maximum load weight of the kayak in question. This won’t matter so much if you have a small dog such as a Jack Russell, but if you have a larger breed, you’ll have to calculate what your load will be. Combine your weight, the weight of your dog, and any kit that you may take on your kayak and double check that it’s under the load limit.

Other Items You Will Need to Take Your Dog Kayaking

  • Dog Treats in a watertight bag
  • Fresh drinking water and a bowl
  • Food in a watertight container and a bowl
  • A leash for use on land (never tether your dog in the kayak)
  • Buoyant dog toys to keep your pooch occupied
  • Something for your dog to sit on (towel, synthetic blanket, waterproof pillow)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Dog poop bags

Making Sure Your Dog is Ready to Kayak with You

Before you head out on to the water with your dog in your kayak, you will need to make sure he or she is ready to embark on the adventure.

The first step is to assess whether your dog is ready to kayak with you. If they’ve never stepped foot on a boat before you will have to get them used to the kayak, the water, and the sensation of floating. This is easier said than done with some dogs whereas other dogs will take to it naturally.

There are a few questions to ask yourself before introducing your dog to a kayak. The more of these questions you answer yes to, the quicker the period between training and actually heading out kayaking with your dog will be.

Ask yourself these 6 questions:
  • Does my dog like being in and around the water?
  • Can my dog confidently swim?
  • Can my dog sit still for prolonged periods of time?
  • Will my dog wear a life jacket comfortably?
  • Does my dog follow simple commands? (sit, stay, laydown)
  • Is my dog a live wire? Will he/she get distracted by other kayakers, ducks, driftwood, seals, and other distractions on the water? (You’ll want a “no” for this question)
If you answered yes to most of these questions, your dog should adjust to the kayaking life extremely well. If you answered no to a few of them, don’t worry, with some training and positive reinforcement your dog will soon be water-worthy.

Acclimatising Your Dog to the Kayak

Once you’ve figured out whether your dog is a good fit for kayaking, you will need to introduce them slowly to the boat. This may mean you take a few trips out by the water before embarking on your first proper kayaking journey with your pooch. How ever long it takes your dog to get used to the kayak, the results will be worth it!

Chances are, if your dog enjoys the water and can sit still in the car for a road trip, they’ll adjust to the kayak quite quickly.

Take your kayak out to the water’s edge and follow these simple tips to get your pooch used to sitting in the kayak with you and floating on the water:

  • Keep the kayak on land at first and let your dog sniff around it
  • Throw some treats on the kayak (while still on dry land) and send your dog in after them
  • Once your dog is inside the kayak, praise him and reward him/her with more treats
  • Sit in the kayak on dry land and call your dog over to sit inside with you
  • Once your dog has become accustomed to the kayak on land, move it into the water. A shallow beach is ideal for this. Make sure your dog is wearing a life jacket and sit in the kayak in the water. Call your dog over and get him/her to jump in with you. Give plenty of praise and treats to the dog if he/she is well-behaved in the kayak.

If you’re able to follow these tips and get to the point where your dog is comfortably sitting in your kayak with you on the water, you’re well on your way!


Training Your Dog for Kayaking

Once you’ve acclimatised your dog to the kayak and the water, you should practise some helpful commands that will keep you and your pooch safe when its time to embark on your first paddle.

The Basics
Before kayaking with your dog, he/she should know the basic commands. It’s essential that your dog knows the commands sit, stay, and laydown before heading out into open water.

When you’re in the water, sit and stay are important, so your dog (of course) sits and stays in one place while you are paddling. Laydown is important too. If the water is rough, laying down will reduce your pooch’s risk of falling overboard. It’s also a great command to use if you pass a flock of ducks, geese, or other exciting distractions.

“Get in Position”
Teaching your dog to “get in position” is a good command to know. Train your pooch to jump in the kayak by him/herself, so embarking and disembarking from land is hassle-free. It will also allow you to call your dog to the boat to get a helping-hand back into the kayak if they go overboard.

“Off You Go”
Swimming is great exercise for your dog and if your dog loves water, “off you go” is a great command to teach. This will allow you to command your dog to go and swim. It’s also a great way to set a boundary between when and when it’s not okay to jump in the water.

“Leave it”
If your dog is easily distracted, “leave it” is a good command to know. This command will come with time, but always keep some treats onboard for situations where training is needed. If you see your dog’s ears perk up and some excitement brewing from the site of something enticing (a duck, seal, or piece of driftwood) tell them to “leave it” and “laydown”. If they do as such, reward them with a treat and some attention. Your pooch will quickly understand what’s expected of him or her while in the kayak.

A Final Word: Embarking on Your First Kayaking Trip with Your Dog

When it comes time to embark on your first kayaking journey with your dog, make sure he/she is prepared and ready for the experience.
Make sure your pooch always wears a life jacket and never tether your dog using a leash in the kayak.

Keep plenty of treats onboard and be consistent with their training, even after they’ve become obedient on the water.

The first few times you head out it’s best to keep the trips short and relatively close to the shoreline or bankside. This way, if your dog does jump out, you’ll be able to quickly guide your dog to land if you can’t get them back in the kayak on the water. Taking short trips at first and gradually increasing your journey time will slowly introduce your dog to kayaking and build a solid foundation for longer kayaking trips in the future.

Are you ready to embark on your first canine kayaking adventure? Let us know how you get on in the comments and if you have any more tips for paddling with your pooch.

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