Article by: Tara Schatz, please see her Bio and Information about her blog at the end of the post.
Every dog must have its day. And for many dogs that day includes quality time spent playing outside with their favorite human companions. Throw in a spectacular mountain lake or a meandering river, and you’ve got yourself an adventure. It’s true that not all dogs are comfortable around water, and many more might balk at the idea of canoeing or kayaking, but plenty of adventurous dogs can be convinced to give it a shot. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of canoeing and kayaking with dogs. Is it the ultimate adventure or a disaster waiting to happen? Only one way to find out.
Whether or not your dog will get along with boats and water depends on all kinds of factors, including age, temperament, breed, and the environment they’ve been raised in. Just because your dog is a certain breed does not necessarily mean that they will or won’t take to water, but I’d be lying if I said that a dog’s breed didn’t play a role. While all dogs instinctively know how to swim, these breeds are said to be lovers of water and the best swimmers.
Dogs with heavy chests like bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and basset hounds don’t have body shapes designed for swimming, and many other breeds just don’t take to the water readily. For the record, we’ve raised a number of Labradors over the years and several of them did not enjoy the water. Our current Labrador hates swimming, but we can’t keep our German shepherd out of the water. We’ve also seen boxers, dachshunds, and pugs that love to swim, although some are more awkward than others. Your dog’s breed is just one factor in the equation.
There’s a process here, and before you even think about paddling with your dog, you should spend some time introducing him or her to the exciting world of lakes and rivers. You’ll learn pretty quickly whether or not your dog takes to the water. Some dogs will jump right in, while others will be perfectly content to watch from the shore. This is fine. What you don’t want is a dog that is anxious or fearful. If your dog is anxious around the water, please don’t be pushy — that will only make matters worse.
The first step is to ensure your dog is comfortable around the water. Here are a few tips to make the process go smoothly.
Whether you choose to paddle with your dog in a canoe or a kayak will probably be determined by the size of your dog. If you have a large breed, you may want to stick with the roomiest paddle craft — a canoe. Canoes are wide open and dogs can ride in the middle or on either end, plus you have extra space for your gear. The downside is that canoes are sometimes difficult to paddle solo.
Kayaks definitely have limitations when it comes to paddling with dogs, but they are easy for one person to handle and maneuver, which makes them desirable for many. If you don’t mind having your smaller breed on your lap for an extended amount of time, a kayak could be a great choice. I’ve also paddled around with an 80 pound Labrador in the kayak — lucky for us he was super mellow and curled right up between my legs. I wouldn’t do it for hours on end, but it wasn’t too bad.
A two-person kayak is another option for paddling with dogs — then you have a place for yourself and a separate spot for your dog. Now if we could only teach them how to paddle the boat, we’d be all set. Globo Surf has some great recommendations for the best kayaks for dogs. Most of the recommendations are sit-on-top models, which will give you and your dog more room, but there are a few traditional kayaks on the list as well.
Before you head out, be sure to pack some essentials to keep you and your dog happy, healthy, and comfortable. Here’s what you’ll need for canoeing or kayaking with your dog.
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Start by making a plan for where your dog will sit or stand in your canoe or kayak. Ideally, you’ll want your dog to remain in one spot — you won’t want a dog moving all around and rocking the boat. If you’re in a kayak, you won’t really get to choose your dog’s spot. He’ll have to ride where he can fit, either on your lap, between your legs, or in the extra seat if you’re in a double.
In a canoe you have more options. Unless your canoe is filled with gear, you’ll likely have lots of room in the wide center section. The bow, in front of the paddler, is another good choice because the dog has just enough room to stand and sit without causing any rocking motions. It’s also less tempting for most dogs to try and jump out of the bow of a canoe — it’s a little higher off the water than the sides. Another good spot in a canoe is between the legs of the person riding in the stern. Having the dog sit right in front of either paddler means someone will have to lift your paddle a little higher to clear your dog’s head. In both of these positions, you or your paddling partner have instant control of your dog, should the need arise. It’s harder to grab hold of your pet if they’re riding in the center section, but it works well for dogs who are well-trained and used to paddling.
If your dog is new to paddling, spend a bit of time introducing him to your boat on dry land. Use treats to teach him to hop in and out, and then go over some basic obedience commands inside the boat. When your dog can reliably sit, stay, and lie down in your kayak or canoe, you’ll be ready for your maiden voyage. If your dog is leary of the watercraft on land, try sweetening the pot by feeding him his meals, bones, or special treats in the boat.
By now your dog is used to the water and used to your boat. It’s time to put it all together to embark on a paddling adventure. Bring a dog-loving friend and make sure your pup is wearing his lifejacket before you head out.
Once you have your boat and gear ready to launch, hop in your canoe or kayak with your dog. I know I’m making this part seem easy — that’s because I hope it will be. Use plenty of treats and encouragement and everything will be awesome. Have your helper shove you off while you keep a firm hand on your dog’s collar to keep him from bolting.
Until your dog is a pro at riding in your canoe or kayak, it’s a good idea to paddle with another human being. Once you’re out on the water, most dogs will settle right into their role as captain and watchdog. If your dog shows signs of fear or severe anxiety that last more than a few minutes, return to dry land and continue practicing loading and unloading. Here are a few more tips for keeping you and your dog safe on the water.
In all honesty, there are as many ways to paddle with dogs as their are breeds of dogs, and my advice will only get you so far. You’re going to find a system that works for you and your pup, or your dog is going to end up staying home. Here are a few more tips to make things easier for you and your dog as you navigate the transition from land to water.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that almost every outdoor activity is more fun with a canine companion. Dogs love adventure, they rarely complain, and most importantly — they just want to be by your side. Take the time to teach your dog to swim, float, and ride the waves, and you’ll be rewarded with a partner who will enthusiastically share in all of your crazy adventures.
Author Info: Tara Schatz is a writer and photographer for BackRoadRamblers Blog. She is the main vacation planner in the house, and the voice behind most of what you'll find in the blog.
She is also a freelance writer- more Information HERE. She also raises puppies for Guiding Eyes For The Blind- More information HERE.
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