Do you love getting out on the water, but hate the sad look your pet gives you when you leave them at home? Most dogs are great companions on land. You can always take them out for a walk or a run. Sometimes, your pet can also accompany you when hiking or camping. But what about on a small, somewhat tipsy water vessel? Good news … if you love water sports, then it’s also possible to go kayaking with your dog. Read on for some essential tips, including how to introduce your pup to the kayak, provide positive reinforcement, and how to calm a nervous dog in a kayak so you both don’t end up swimming home.
If you love going to the beach, then you may have taken your dog with you a few times. If your pet likes the water as much as you do, one activity you can enjoy together is kayaking.
Before you take your furry friend on a ride, consider whether they would make a suitable kayaking buddy. Some dogs are fussy around water and there are also some which are adventurous. You need to make sure that your pet is prepared to board that kayak with you.
Here are some things you may want to keep in mind before you venture on the water with your pup.
Consider Your Dog’s Temperament, Size, and Health
If you have been a pet-parent for a while, then you may know how your pet behaves around water. However, it also wouldn’t hurt to ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your dog get easily excited, nervous, or distressed?
- Can they sit or stand still for long periods?
- How does your dog react when they see other animals?
- Is your pet healthy enough to endure varying weather conditions that you may face while kayaking?
- Can you and your dog fit comfortably on your kayak?
Your answers to these questions will help you determine whether your dog is ready to go with you in your kayak.
Some dogs love the water, but there are also those who feel uncomfortable at the sight of water. If your dog is over-excitable, then you might find it hard to manage them once you’re out paddling. Large dogs might be too heavy, and the extra weight can capsize your kayak.
If your dog is suffering from health issues, such as visual impairment or hearing loss, then they may not be physically fit to join you in kayaking. It may also be a good idea to take your pet to a visit to the vet before you bring him on a kayaking adventure.
Brush Up on Obedience Training Before Kayaking With Your Dog
Once you’ve determined that your pet is a suitable kayaking companion, it is also crucial that they know basic commands. Examples include “stay,” “let’s go,” “time for a break,” or “leave it”. Nature is full of wildlife and beautiful sights that will pique your pet’s curiosity. These views can also be a huge distraction that your dog might want to leap out of the kayak and chase after if they don’t follow such commands. Thus, basic obedience training is essential before kayaking with your dog.
Familiarize Your Dog with Your Kayak
Kayaks can be scary and intimidating, especially if your pet hasn’t seen or been on one before. It is important to let your pet explore the kayak and get used to it before you take them on the water. You can put the kayak inside your house, in the backyard, or in any spot in your home where your dog likes to play. Sit inside the kayak while it’s on the floor and invite your dog to sit with you.
Make sure to provide lots of positive reinforcement when your dog goes near or inside your kayak. Soon enough, your dog might feel it’s safe to go inside the kayak. Once this happens, then you can try the same technique outdoors, but this time, have the kayak half in and half out the water. It is best to start in flat water, like a pond or lake.
Have your pet sit or stand on the kayak while it is docked so that they can get familiar with it. Sit on the kayak first, then encourage your pet to climb inside. Your dog is more inclined to follow suit if they see you sitting on the kayak. Also, training your dog to board the kayak by themselves is better than lifting them onto it.
When both of you are on the kayak, try to move the kayak a little until your pet feels that there is nothing to fear. Remember to give lots of treats to reward good behaviour and connect kayaking with something they like (treats). Once your dog is comfortable, you can push the kayak towards the water, but make sure you are still close enough to the shore.
Calming Your Pooch Down
In case your dog becomes distressed or anxious while you’re on the water, try to talk to them and calm them down and distract them with treats. If you are in shallow-enough water, you may want to try putting a leg out of the kayak to steady it. Try to do this a few times until it develops into a routine, and your dog feels accustomed to riding the kayak.
Safety and Comfort First When Kayaking with Dog Pals
Whether your pooch is a good swimmer or not, have them wear a dog life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) (I’ve used this one from Amazon). You may want to find one which offers thermal protection, so your pet is kept warm in case you want to go for a swim in cooler temperatures. Also, choosing a life jacket with a safety harness will make it easier for you to pull your pet out of the water if you see them struggling.
You might also need to bring sunscreen. Your dog’s nose and belly are vulnerable to sunburn and you can buy sunscreen formulated for dogs (like this one on Amazon). You can also pack some snacks, drinking water, and water toys as motivator and reward for good behavior.
You will need a leash to keep your pet safe when you’re on dry land, but remember to not tie your dog to the kayak. Doing this is a safety hazard for you and your pet, especially when your kayak capsizes. The leash or rope can get caught under the kayak or get entangled, which may prevent you from untying your dog quickly.
If it’s your first time kayaking with your dog, then you might also want to bring a friend with you in case you need help in controlling or managing your pet. You may also want to look into my tips on making a kayak more stable.
The Best Kayaks for Kayaking With Dogs
If you’re renting or buying a new kayak, it is nice to have your pet’s needs in mind before purchasing one. Generally, the best ones are those with larger decks or cockpits. Here are some kayaks types that you may want to consider, and you can also read my thoughts about the best kayak brands out there.
A sit-on-top kayak has an open deck that provides ample room for your dog to lie down as you sit and paddle comfortably. It is also easier to board and exit.
Inflatable kayaks are another good choice because of their canoe-like design. The higher walls will keep your dog from jumping out of the kayak and into the water. If you’re worried that your dog’s nails might puncture the boat, you’ll be glad to know that there are inflatable kayaks made of high quality materials and multiple air chambers. Should your dog’s nails puncture one area, it won’t be enough to deflate the entire kayak. But to be on the safe side, you can always trim your dog’s nails before getting on the water. Placing a blanket, rug, or carpet on the deck will also help to stop a puncture.
If you want to have your dog sit upfront while you paddle at the back, a tandem kayak is a good choice. Not only will you have more spacious legroom, but you will also be able to keep an eye on your dog at all times.
Enjoy Kayaking With Your Dog
Kayaking can be an enjoyable activity and a great bonding experience for you and your beloved pet. The above tips will help you and your dog prepare for an adventure of a lifetime.