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How to Canoe or Kayak With Your Dog

How to Canoe or Kayak With Your Dog

Taking your dog on a canoe or kayak adds an element of fun to your adventures. It can be another way to bond and teach them new skills.

Keep reading to learn how to canoe or kayak with your dog. We’ll look at the ins and outs of keeping you and your dog safe during the activity. 

Let’s jump in! 

Can You Take Your Dog on a Kayak or Canoe? 

You can take your dog on a kayak or canoe, which can be a lot of fun. Some dog breeds love the water more than others, but there are ways to help your pet feel comfortable. 

Dogs tend to love the peacefulness of a paddle down a waterway. However, it’s always best to do practice runs before a lengthy paddle with your dog. If you’re new to paddling, you may consider getting comfortable with the watercraft before taking your pet along. 

Is a Canoe or Kayak Better For a Dog?

Canoes and kayaks require about the same amount of introduction for a dog. Once your pup masters one, it will likely find the other one similar. Starting out, it may be easier to get your dog into a roomier, deeper-set canoe. However, you may find the limiting space of the kayak conducive to preventing too much movement on your dog’s part. Kayak paddling may also be easier with a dog on board than the cross-over motion for a canoe paddle.

Overall, it’ll probably mostly depend on your comfort level with paddling and what you have available to you. If you can, we recommend trying both to see what suits you and your dog best.

Do All Dogs Know How to Swim?

Most dogs can swim instinctively. However, some may need a little help and practice. They may automatically make the paddling motion with their legs when in water, but that doesn’t mean they can safely make it to the water vessel or shore. 

The best way to see if your dog can swim is to put a life vest on them. Next, put your dog in a pool or lake to test its abilities. If your dog struggles to swim and get out of the water, guide your pet until they learn how to navigate safely.

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dog swimming in a lake
Most dogs are natural swimmers, but some need practice and help getting used to the water.

How to Canoe or Kayak With Your Dog

Taking your dog on adventures is memorable and provides excellent companionship. Having your dog on a kayak or canoe can be pretty straightforward. However, several things must be considered to keep humans and animals safe and dry.

Practice Boarding and Disembarking Your Dog From the Vessel on Dry Ground

Your dog may feel anxious or fearful of a kayak or canoe, especially if it’s moving around in the water. Getting your dog in the watercraft for the first time can be challenging.

The best way to familiarize your dog with getting in and out of a kayak or canoe is to practice on dry ground. Set the watercraft on the ground, on the shoreline, or in your backyard. Then, tell your dog to get into the vessel. If they don’t want to go in, try using a treat. 

For dogs that can’t jump in the watercraft, allow them to sniff around the kayak or canoe before setting them in.

Once your dog is in the watercraft, tell them to sit and give them some time to get comfortable. 

Next, tell your dog to get out of the kayak or canoe. 

Repeat these steps several times until your dog is fearlessly boarding and disembarking the watercraft. Once your dog is starting to feel comfortable, get in the kayak or canoe and sit where you would if you were in the water. Position your dog where they’ll sit when you’re paddling. Give them time to adjust and practice until you feel ready to do a test run in the water. 

person and golden doodle in a kayak
Do a short dog kayak test run before a lengthy paddle so you and your dog know what to expect.

Do a Test Run to Get Your Dog Comfortable 

After your dog is a pro at getting in and out of the kayak or canoe, do a test run in the water. Use the same commands for boarding you did when practicing on dry land. 

Once you and your dog are in the watercraft, do a short paddle and stay close to shore. Talk with your dog and give affirmations with words, petting, and treats. 

The rocking motion of the vessel may take some time for your dog to get used to. They may get anxious or want to jump out. The calmer you stay, the better. You may need to do a few practice paddles on the water before your dog is comfortable. 

Where Should a Dog Sit on a Kayak or Canoe? 

To position a dog on a kayak or canoe, have them sit wherever is most comfortable for you and the dog. Find the correct position when you’re practicing on dry ground. 

The size and temperament of your dog are among the determining factors of where to position them on the watercraft. For example, some dogs are incredibly relaxed on kayaks and will chill out on the back while in motion. Others may sit well but are prone to lunge after birds when they land in the water. You may want that dog to be right in front of you so you can grab its collar or harness quickly if needed.  

Put a Lifejacket on Your Dog

Putting a lifejacket on your dog in a kayak or canoe is a crucial safety feature. Even if your dog is a good swimmer, there may be situations that make swimming challenging if they fall out of the watercraft. The lifejacket is for your protection as well. For example, consider if your kayak flips over, leaving you and your dog in a quickly-moving river. Your instinct might be to grab your dog, which may put you in more danger. If your dog has a lifejacket on, you can feel better about their safety so you can attend to your own.

However, some dogs don’t like wearing a lifejacket, which may increase their anxiety. So, know your dog’s limits. We recommend trying a lifejacket when practicing boarding and disembarking on dry land.

Pro Tip: Know the signs of dog anxiety – it may be as simple as them panting in the car.

dog lifejacket
Putting a lifejacket on your dog while kayaking or canoeing is a key safety feature.

Reward Your Dog With Treats

Rewarding your dog with treats is an excellent way to keep your dog sitting still in a kayak or canoe. In particular, this method is helpful for anxious dogs. Occupying them with a reward can help them see the watercraft as a positive thing versus a dreaded punishment. 

Bring Drinking Water for Your Dog

Bring drinking water for your dog on a kayak or canoe. Keeping them hydrated in the sun and the elements is essential. It will also help enforce a calm situation. 

When going for a long paddle, be aware of sun exposure. Remember that dogs can acquire sunburns. A lifejacket is a beneficial way to protect your pet’s skin.

Keep Your Dog’s Temperature Regulated

Keep an eye on your dog’s temperature. If it is a sunny day, they may need some shade or periodic dips in the water to stay cool. However, if they get wet and it’s a cooler day, they may need a towel or jacket to keep them warm.

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Do Dogs Pop Inflatable Kayaks? 

Most inflatable kayaks can withstand dogs’ paws and nails. Many inflatables have a PVC fabric that is puncture and tear-resistant. They are similar to boat dinghies. Some can even withstand sharp rocks.

However, we have a good hack if you’re concerned about what your dog might do to your inflatable. You can put a yoga mat on the floor of your kayak for added protection and comfort for your dog.

dog in a kayak in the ocean
Taking your dog kayaking or canoeing is a great way to bond with your furry companion.

Do Dogs Enjoy Canoeing and Kayaking? 

Dogs enjoy any activity that’s with you! Canoeing and kayaking allows dogs to smell new scents, watch activities and wildlife outdoors, and get rewards for sitting still. If your dog is a swimmer, letting your pet jump in the water and have fun is another way to make them happy. 

We hope to see you out on the water with your dog. If you have any pictures of your dogs on kayaks or canoes, feel free to share! 

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About Petrics

Petrics was born out of a love of helping animals and their owners live life to their fullest! Established in 2022, Petrics was founded by Caitlin and Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move, Discovery TV Show hosts and successful RV Travel Experts. They are a full-time RVing couple who loved traveling with their beloved rescue dogs. This Petrics team strives to share the most interesting questions answered, the most entertaining news and culture, and the most inspiring rescue stories. Additionally, our mission is to give back to animal welfare organizations so they can continue their good work in saving the constant stream of animals in need. In fact, 5% of all profits from Petrics are donated to animal-saving initiatives!

Our team has been animal caretakers and lovers all our lives. We get it. We know how deep the love for your furbabies goes, and we know where all your questions come from. We have them too! That’s why we strive to bring you the best pet-related content out there, backed by data and real-life trials, as much as possible.

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