Getting out on the water with a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) is an amazing way to experience the beauty of nature. Paddling is a fantastic opportunity to combine the enjoyment of the best sights and sounds the river has to offer with the pleasure of navigating fast flowing water.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could share this experience with your furry best friend?
Well, the good news is that you absolutely can! With a little extra preparation and special training for your buddy, you can both get in the water and share the experience and excitement that make paddling so popular. There is no better way to hang out with your pooch.
Teach your dog the ropes
Dogs are very similar to people when it comes to water. Some absolutely love it while others go out of their way to stay dry. The simple fact is that some dog breeds are better swimmers than others.
Breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and boxers are heavy in the chest area which makes them poor swimmers that you need to consider. If your pooch is scared or afraid of the water, they probably won’t enjoy paddling. Don’t put the problem any further, a scared dog in a kayak is a surefire recipe for disaster.
The real trick about paddling with your dog is to make sure he is used to your choice of watercraft and that you have a number of specific commands that will enable you to both get to the water safely and comfortably.
Find the right commands
No specialist is required to kayak with your dog Commands. The standard arrangement of basic commands like “sit”, “stay”, “come”, “lie down” and “go to bed” works fine. All you need to do is work with your dog to understand how these commands work in a paddling environment.
Here are some ideas on how to command your dog to make both of you as comfortable as possible on the water:
- Tell your dog to “stay” until you are safely in the boat. Then use the “Come” and “Lie down” commands to get comfortable in the boat.
- If you bring a waterproof dog bed, you can use the “go to bed” command if the water gets a little rough. If your dog is still lying down, the chances of him disturbing the boat are reduced, and the familiarity of his bed will help keep him calm.
- When you get into the bank, use “stay” to prevent your dog from jumping out once the water gets shallow. You want them to stay still and calm for as long as possible so that you are ashore and ready when they get off the boat.
The first step in getting your dog out on the water is to get them used to your canoe, kayak, or SUP. Sitting in a kayak will be a novel experience for your dog and he will have to get used to his space and movement.
Here are some tips on how to get your dog used to your boat:
- Start the acclimatization process on land: Don’t go straight to the water. Encourage your dog to explore the boat of your choice on land and get used to how it moves when it is in it. Encourage them into the boat with familiar items like toys or a bed.
- Take it slow: Gradually get your puppy used to your boat. Let them explore on their own first and then take up your normal paddling position while they are out with you in your canoe, kayak or SUP. As your dog gets used to your boat, they will gradually become less aroused with repetition. Reward them for being calm with their favorite pleasure.
- Introduce them to the water: First, find a relaxing, low-stress area with shallow water and enjoy some time with your buddy there. Let them play in the water and get used to the idea of hanging out with you there.
- Make your first trip: Keep your dog’s first experience on the water with you short. Maybe a drive of no more than 15 minutes. The key is to gradually build their tolerance and enjoyment of the experience without overwhelming them and undoing all of your previous good work.
- Rinse and repeat: Slowly build up the length of the trips your dog will take until you can be sure that he is saying rest when you are on the water. If your dog shows signs of anxiety, go to the bank immediately and give him the opportunity to calm down before continuing.
Having personal flotation equipment on is always a good idea when out on the water, and so does your dog. PFDs Dogs come in a range of sizes and shapes that are specific to different breeds. So you’re sure to find one that will keep your canine buddy safe.
- Adapt your boat to your dog, not the other way around. This sleek one-man kayak won’t stay stable with a fidgety Labrador. Tandem kayaks are a great way to make sure you and your pooch have enough space to be comfortable.
- Your dog needs the same necessities on the water as on land. Make sure there is room in your equipment flap for dog food, water, a leash, treats, and a convenient way to dispose of the trash.
- Make regular stops. You may enjoy the practice of paddling, but for your dog, paddling can involve a lot of still sitting. Make regular trips to the bank so they can get out and move around.
Enjoy the water together
Most dog owners would do anything to their dog if they could, and with a little time and effort, paddling is just another group of activities that you can do as a team. The trick to making sure you and your dog buddy are safe and happy on the water is to spend the time beforehand getting them used to your boat, water, and behavior. With patience, respect, and love, get your dog used to the water and you can both enjoy the thrill of paddling before you even know it.
Author: Pete is the owner of KayakAdvisors.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, sailing, and participating in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not on the water, you can ski him in the mountains, read his favorite books, and spend time with his family.