K-9 Kayaking: Dog Paddling

Dogs are out most loyal and lovable friends. The average dog is an enthusiastic partner in any outdoor endeavor. Whether you are tackling a steep ridge or taking a multi-week backpacking adventure, your dog is thrilled to be joining you. Many outdoors enthusiasts are also dog people, and some manufacturers even product dog-specific technical equipment for those dedicated to including their best friend. Climbing harnesses, sneakers, snow gear, and life jackets are all available for dogs. Many kayakers haven’t really considered bringing their dogs along for the ride, but it can be a fun and memorable trip for those willing to work out the details.

Dog size and kayak size are two big considerations when getting started. If you normal take a regular sea kayak and have a great big dog, you might have some problems. There are numerous ways people have gotten around the issue though; some people go with a larger boat, while others tow their dog along on a separate raft. Tandem kayaks and those with cargo space can provide extra space for larger dogs.

Before you tackle faster waters or a multi-day adventure, you will want to get some practice. If your dog is poorly trained, you may want to work on his obedience first. If your dog is hyperactive, you will want to take him for a run before you get out on the water. Small treats can be a great motivator for a hesitant or nervous dog. A life jacket is a safety essential, even good swimmers can get tired or disoriented in the water. Bring a leash, and keep it on the dog if you like, but don’t tie your dog to the kayak. If an accident happens, you want him to be able to get clear of the boat. Dogs are most comfortable when they have secure footing. Kayaks can be slippery, so you may want to consider adding a non-slip surface to the area your dog will be riding in. Rubber mats can help them stay secure and comfortable.

Pick a calm spot to practice, and start with teaching your dog how to get in and out of the boat. You can hold the kayak steady at first, so it doesn’t move too much. Put the dog in first, then go ahead and launch the boat. Take a short trip in calm waters, and be sure to praise your dog for sitting still. Rather than heading out for a substantial trip right away, you may want to practice getting in, launching, paddling a bit, and returning several times. Your dog might be a little surprised by the new sights and sounds at first, but he’ll get used to them gradually. You can help him understand that this is a fun activity by remaining calm and upbeat.

Location is a very important consideration when bringing your dog along. White water adventures aren’t really safe for anyone without thumbs and a helmet. Areas with lots of wildlife may be a bad choice for dogs that can’t help chasing squirrels or ducks. Be sure to be respectful of other paddlers and anyone else sharing the same river. Keep your dog under control and have a great time.