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Should You Take Your Dog Kayaking?

Bring your pup with you on your next adventure.

by JoAnna Lou
June 15, 2021
man paddles in kayak with brown dog
Photo: Inuk Studio / Stocksy

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Summer’s in full swing, which means the return of all the fun outdoor activities you’ve missed. Kayaking with dogs is a growing trend that can be lots of fun, if a bit challenging. Whether you’ve kayaked on your own before and are ready to remedy your dog-less outings or are new to the sport, here are a few tips to get out paddling on the water with your dog.

Is kayaking a good sport for your dog?

Kayaking can be a fantastic activity to share with your dog, so long as your dog is comfortable with it. Some dogs feel uneasy around water, and if that’s the case for your pup, kayaking is not for them. But if your dog is happy in and around water, comfortable wearing a life jacket, and can follow basic commands like stay and leave it, they’ll make a great kayaking companion. You know your dog best, so consider what other skills your dog needs to make the trip successful. It’s probably a good idea to check with your vet prior, especially if your dog is a senior or has any health issues, to determine if they are physically up for the challenge.

Training Program

Try these free training programs from our friends at Dogo to help with new dog life and basic obedience.

Start Training

Helpful cues to teach your dog:

  • Wait: Helpful to reinforce staying in or around the boat.

  • Free: Quick cue to let your dog know they are free to disembark.

  • Leave It: In case you kayak by some waterfowl or other distraction.

  • Place: Your dog needs to know their safe place on the kayak.

Before getting on the water, think safety first.

Life jackets are a must, even if your dog is a great swimmer. There’s always a risk when out on the water that your dog may have an accident and fall overboard, so it’s best to be safe. Look for a doggy life jacket with a handle on the back, a super helpful feature that comes in handy when pulling the dogs out of the water.

Practice with your dog, even if you don’t have a kayak.

Before heading out on a trip, you should get your dog comfortable with a kayak. Things to practice include jumping in and out of a kayak, both on land and water. You’ll also need to help your dog become familiar with a key skill: balancing.

In the weeks leading up to our kayak outing, I worked with my dog Scuttle on a FitPaws inflatable peanut (think a long, dog-sized version of a yoga ball). As crazy as this sounds, it helped a lot with getting her used to the unsteady ground. You could also use a wobble/buja board or a dog crate on top of fitness discs. It was cool to see this in action when Scuttle decided to climb on the front of the kayak and had to use some serious balancing skills to scramble back into the cockpit.

Your first kayaking trip with your dog.

For your first kayaking experience together, consider contacting your local outdoors company or kayak instructor to see if they lead any dog-specific kayaking sessions. For Scuttle’s first kayaking experience, I connected with a local outfitter’s doggy trip. The short outing was a good introduction and a way to see if Scuttle enjoyed kayaking before subjecting her to a longer trip. The excursion was led by a patient dog lover and included a visit to a sandbar to let the pups run and play. Mountain Valley Guides, the company I used, even provided canine life jackets.

As always, when your dog is spending a lot of time swimming, it’s important to re-familiarize yourself with the symptoms of water intoxication. Stay safe and have a great time enjoying the water with your pup this summer.

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JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.