Skip to main content

How to Canoe With Your Dog

Head down the river with your pup in tow.

by Andi Marie Cantele
July 21, 2021
A dog looking at its reflection in the water while sitting in a canoe with a man.
Adobe Stock

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

You love to canoe and camp. Your dog loves to be with you, and things are more fun when they’re around. So why not go together? If you’re thinking about taking your dog along for an overnight trip, a little planning will ensure a safe and happy journey. Here are a few tips to help you plan your canoeing adventure.

Will Your Dog Like Canoeing?

First and foremost, consider whether your dog will actually enjoy going out on a canoe. The truth is that not all dogs can be chill while in and around the water. Beyond that, will they tolerate the tedium of sitting in a boat, be at ease with the rocking, and sleep soundly in a tent? For your maiden voyage, opt for an easy day trip close to home rather than a hardcore back-country expedition. Lazy-water journeys are just right for many dogs. Most dogs will hop into a canoe out of curiosity, especially if treats are involved, but allow yours plenty of time to feel secure. Plan ahead and train your dog to be in a boat.

Five Tips for Taking Your Pup on a Canoe Adventure

1. Give your dog plenty of time to stretch.

Before launching, take a swim, roam the shoreline, or play a game of fetch. “Don’t forget that your pup has been watching you pack up at home, sat patiently for a long car ride, and is in a new and exciting place,” says Kathryn Howell, owner of Dog Paddling Adventures, a Canadian travel outfit offering wilderness excursions for people and their dogs. “To [expect] them to sit still like a good pup for an hour in the boat may be too much to ask.”

2. Follow water safety and bring a lifejacket.

Let’s face it: water is never-never land for many dogs. Many Labs would take “just one more” swim all day if you let them. That’s why a lifejacket is essential, even for bona fide water dogs, as they can be affected by fast river currents, water intoxication, cold water, or a disorienting fall out of a capsized canoe. Doggie personal flotation devices (Ruff Wear makes a great one called a K-9 Float Coat) provide security for puppies, seniors, and timid swimmers; they also keep wet dogs warm after a swim or cool by trapping moisture and blocking the sun.

Get your fix of The Wildest

We promise not to send you garbage that turns your inbox into a litter box. Just our latest tips and support for your pet.

3. Bring all the right gear.

You’ll need a few things to have a successful trip in addition to a lifejacket. A leash may be helpful if you plan on exploring on land, but never leash your dog to the canoe or any other boat. A few must-haves for your trip include bowls, fresh water, food, a mat, a towel, and a pair of tweezers for tick removal. It’s good practice to pack out what you pack in, which includes dog poop. So, bring plenty of poop bags.

4. Your dog should follow basic obedience cues.

When you are out on the water or camping with your dog, it’s also helpful for them to follow basic cues like stay, leave it, and, of course, have a spot-on recall. At camp, good canine manners are a must. Your pup should be well-behaved around fellow campers and mellow during quiet hours.

5. Give your dog a place to settle in.

Allow your pup time throughout the day to get their energy out. Trips usually entail wet dogs rolling in sand with tongues lolling and paws pointing skyward, but letting dogs be dogs pays off later. “By the time dusk settles in, they are fast asleep,” Howell says of her canine clientele. If you’ve brought a comfy mat for your dog to sleep on, after dinner you’ll be able to kick back by the fire and listen to owls call out and coyotes yelp in the distance while your dog takes a snooze.

Things don’t always go perfectly.

If canoe-camping with your dog isn’t postcard-perfect on the first try, don’t give up. Skip the campout, perhaps, and take a relaxing, low-key afternoon paddle together. Most dogs would rather do anything than be left behind, and with patience and time, you’ll be rewarded with a seasoned traveling companion.

Related articles

Author placeholder

Andi Marie Cantele

Andi Marie Cantele is the author of Backroad Bicycling in Western Massachusetts and 52 Weekends in Connecticut (both from Countryman Press), among others; she lives in Connecticut.