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Kayaking with Your Dog

What could make a day out on the water better? Well, enjoying it with your favorite canine companion, of course. If you would love to share your kayak passion with your pooch, read on for some tips and tricks to make the most of paddling with your furry friend.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to share an adventure with your pet. Many dogs love a day spent on the water as much as their humans. From the excitement of sights and smells to the quality time spent together, training your dog to join your kayak adventure can pay great dividends in enjoyment for both of you.  

Tips for Kayaking with Your Dog

Here are 5 steps to consider when kayaking with your dog:

Step 1: Assess your dog’s readiness

The firs thing you need to determine is whether or not your dog is a good candidate for kayaking.  Some breeds are known to be water lovers and good swimmers. Just a short list includes

  • Retrievers (Chesapeake Bay & Labrador)
  • Setters (English & Irish)
  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Newfoundlands
  • Spaniels (Brittany & Irish Water)
  • Poodles
  • Australian Shepherds

This is not an exhaustive list nor a guarantee that your fur baby will love the water. And some other breeds may be the perfect floating companion. Before launching with your beloved pooch, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does my dog feel about water? (Is it at ease? Likes to get wet? Enjoys splashing/playing in and around water?)
  • Can my dog swim? (This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker as your canine should be wearing a life jacket, but it will make your dog – and you – less fearful.)
  • Does my dog follow basic commands: “sit”, “stay”, “find your spot”?
  • Is my dog able to handle exciting distractions? Will your dog ignore other kayaks, wildlife, sticks, or boats without jumping in the water to get to them?

If this sounds like your dog, then you might have a good candidate for a kayaking companion.

Step 2: Training off water

Acclimate to the kayak - Once you’ve assessed your dog, it’s time to start acclimating. Start by introducing your furry pal to the yak. Place it in the yard and have your dog sniff, play, walk around it. Hide treats inside or reward with treats as your dog approaches, sits in, and otherwise gets comfortable with the kayak.

PFD (personal flotation device) - A vital piece of equipment with which your dog should be familiar is a PFD. Regardless of how well your dog can swim, it is important that they wear a life jacket. Besides a good fit that allows for fluid motion (but doesn’t slip off), a canine PFD should have a strong handle. This allows you something to grip if it becomes necessary to get your dog back in the kayak from the water. Train with the jacket by having your dog wear it around the house or out on walks. Let them get comfortable with it. Try to take them swimming in it before an initial launch on a kayak.

Practice helpful commands - It will be very important that your pooch can obey commands so that they are safe on and off the water. Here are a couple of worthwhile commands to practice besides the basics (sit, stay, come):

  • Getting in/out of the kayak

Use a command like “ON” or “IN” to let your dog know that it is safe to embark. Similarly, “OFF” or “OUT” can be used to disembark. Make sure they learn to wait for your signal so that you can ensure they are safe. Just because they see the dock doesn’t mean that it is time to jump.

  • Finding their place

On a vessel like a kayak, balance is extremely important. Teaching your dog where their place is will make for a safer and more enjoyable time for everyone. Sit-on-top kayaks are very popular for sharing with a furry friend and they usually have the space for the dog to sit and lay. Train for this with a favorite blanket or towel. Say something like “PLACE” or “FIND YOUR SPOT” to let your pooch know they should find their proper position in the kayak.

  • Avoiding distractions

“LEAVE IT” or “NOT NOW” or something similar is a vital command for an exciting adventure like kayaking. When there are so many distractions (ducks, turtles, dolphins, fish, sticks, other kayaks), you need a command to help break your dog’s attention and redirect it. This can be important in preventing them from jumping out of the kayak.

  • Rough water

As said before, balance is important, so when you encounter rough water or other dangers to balance, it is necessary to have your dog help reduce upsets. He can do this by laying down. “LAY DOWN” or “DOWN” can be good commands to let your dog know not to walk around or sit up.

Step 3: Training on water

Conduct test runs - Once you’ve helped your pup acclimate, it’s time to practice on the water. Plan for just a test run, near to shore, with no expectations. Let your pooch try getting in and out of the kayak. Try from the beach and from a dock, if possible.

Floating - Once you’ve successfully gotten on the kayak a few times, push off a bit to see how your dog reacts to floating. It will be a new sensation so don’t be surprised if it takes your dog some getting used to it.

Be prepared to call it and try another day if your dog becomes panicked, fearful, or sick. You will do more damage by forcing things than being willing to cut the time short.

Step 4: Training for capsize

No one expects to - or wants to - find themselves in the drink, but it can happen to even the most experienced kayakers. Getting yourself back on board can be a challenge - so adding another creature to the mix makes it doubly important to have a plan.

  1. Reunite with your dog and speak calmly as you swim back toward the yak.
  2. Right the kayak if needed and make sure the paddle is on board/secure.
  3. Put your dog’s paws on the kayak and push/lift them on. Reassure his/her along the way with pats and a calm voice.
  4. Pull yourself back onto the kayak. (Hopefully, you’ve already practiced this!!!)
  5. Alternatively, you can pull yourself into the kayak first (especially if your dog is concerned about you in the water and try to jump back in). Then, you can use the handle on the life jacket to pull your dog out of the water and back on board.

Step 5: Heading out  

Are you ready? Time to head out for some kayaking fun with your furry friend. Once you have practiced the above steps, take a short trip.

What should you take along? Well, for a short trip don’t forget a PFD, Ziplock of treats (especially as you are still in the training phase), fresh drinking water, and bowl.

If you plan to be out longer than about half an hour, you will want to be a bit more prepared. Add to that list, food in a watertight container, something comfy for your dog to sit on (as simple as a folded beach towel or as elaborate as a waterproof cushion), water-friendly toys (but not one that they associate with fetching as you won’t be tossing it out of the boat), sun-protection (dogs can burn too so consider sunscreen, hat, or cover), bags for scooping poop.

Lastly, don’t forget a leash. However, note that a leash should never be used ON the kayak for safety reasons. Have it ready for when you get back on shore.

Brooklyn Kayak Company has many kayaks that are perfect for a day on the water with your family - furry and otherwise. Here are our top kayak recommendations that have the stability and ample space for kayaking with your dog:




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