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Kayaking With Dogs: What You Need To Know

Kayaking With Dogs: What You Need To Know

Kayaking is a great activity to do with friends, family and even your dog. No matter whether you are heading out for an afternoon or a weekend-long camping trip, with the right preparation it can be a wonderful experience.

However, before putting on your dog’s leash and jumping into the kayak, we have put together some top tips to ensure you and your pet have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Top Tips

1) Consider your dog

Before you take your pooch kayaking, you should seriously consider if it is right for them. Not every dog will have the right temperament to go out on the water – they might be too excitable or too scared for it to be a feasible exercise.

The last thing that you want to be experiencing is to be stuck in the middle of the lake with a dog that is nervous or not able to sit still. If your dog is not enjoying themselves, then you will not be able to enjoy your kayaking experience either. No matter how much you might want to make the experience happen, for some dogs, it just isn’t suitable. Be sure it is something that your pet will enjoy.

2) Get them prepared

If you think that your dog will enjoy going kayaking with you, then it is important that you get them acclimatized with the kayak and being on water. You cannot just expect them to understand what is happening, so taking your time. And getting them used to sitting in the kayak is vital before you head out on the water.

If you can, bring the kayak into your back yard and have your canine friend sit inside it with you. You can tempt them in by bringing their favorite toy or a treat to help them feel settled and safe inside the kayak.

You should also practice getting them in and out of the kayak too. Initially you can do this on land as chances are your dog will not feel initially comfortable with getting in when it is bobbing around on water. You want your pet to jump in and out smoothly, so while you are training them, you should reward them with a special treat for a job well done.

Once they have mastered it on land, take them to a shallow body of water to practice while the kayak is floating. This is where you can also ensure they are aware that when they are in the kayak then need to sit still, so a well-trained obedient dog is very important.

3) Start small

With the basics mastered, it is time to head out for your first kayaking session with your dog. Even if you think your pet will enjoy the experience, until you get them out on the water you cannot be certain.  Take your first trip slowly and stay close to the shoreline so you can get back to dry land quickly if required. It’s also a good idea in case your dog gets spooked or excited and jumps out of the kayak unexpectedly. If you are unable to retrieve them, they can safely swim to shore.

It will likely take a few sessions before your dog is truly comfortable with the experience, so start off having them jump into the kayak and then paddling a short distance. You can slowly build up to longer trips, but watch out for how your dog reacts when they see wildlife – some dogs naturally get excited when they see fish or birds and will want to leave the kayak. So ensure you are able to keep them controlled. You can practice this skill on dry land by taking your dog for a walk through busy trails, getting them used to seeing various animals and creatures.

4) Buy the necessary gear

To make sure your dog is able to enjoy a safe and fun experience when out kayaking, you should ensure that you have the right equipment for them. The most important piece of equipment you will need is a special dog life vest. Although your dog might be able to swim, you could be a long way from the shore so you should make sure that they are comfortable wearing one and never head out without them having it on.

Depending on where your kayaking adventure will be and how long you will be going out for, you will also want to ensure you have the same accessories you would if you were heading out for a long walk. This includes things such as their leash, a toy to play around with, plastic bags to scoop their poop, water, and any required snacks.

5) Prepare for breaks

If you are heading out for a long excursion, then your dog will need to poop at some point during the day. Some owners are able to train their pets to go on demand, but if your pet is not able to, then schedule in set breaks on land for them to go – just remember to pick it up afterward.

Those breaks on land are also a great opportunity to let your dog stretch their legs and use up some energy before having to be still and calm on the kayak again.

What else should you think about?

Along with these five key tips, you should also adhere to some basic safety guidelines. The first one is to never tie your dog’s leash to the boat – should it capsize you will likely struggle to get it undone in time. Secondly, you should also keep their collar on, as this can help you to control them and grab them if needed.

Another tip that many people do not think about is their dog’s health. Water attracts a lot of mosquitos and insects so ensuring your dog is protected against the diseases they can bring, such as heartworm, is very important. Speaking with your dog’s vet will ensure your four-legged friend has the right vaccinations or any other medication they might require.

Choosing The Right Kayak

When it comes to choosing the right kayak for you and your four-legged companion, you want to ensure that you find one that is dog friendly. To start with, that means choosing one which is the right size for you and your dog; having enough space for them to move around and get comfortable. This will be especially tricky and important for larger dogs.

When you are choosing the right size, you will have to decide whether you want a kayak which your dog can sit in or one that they can sit on. If your dog is of a larger breed, they are more comfortable sitting on top of a kayak so they can have plenty of room to move around – this also lets them jump in and out of the water if that is something they enjoy. Smaller dogs tend to prefer to sit in the kayak and have a smaller and cosier place to relax in.

Some dog owners like to choose a tandem kayak, allowing their dog to sit in the second seat. This provides more space for equipment and accessories that are needed as well as helping to distribute weight more evenly. You should try to avoid sea and white water kayaks though, as these tend to be smaller and quite narrow and don’t provide your pet with enough room.

Heading out on the water with your pet can be a wonderful experience and taking your time to build up their confidence when out kayaking with you is a great way to ensure they are able to enjoy kayaking with you for many years. Remember to make sure they are always wearing a life jacket when kayaking and also make sure that you have covered their nose and key areas with sunscreen to stop them from getting sunburned!

Kayak On!

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Kayaking with Dogs


I was first introduced to kayaking as a teenager when I joined a competitive canoe club. It was instant love. But when I went off to school and then got a job, adult responsibilities got in the way. Now approaching retirement, I've rekindled my kayak romance. My husband and I love to throw the kayaks on the trailer and head out on adventures. Maybe you'll join us?!

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