If you’ve ever spent time on the water, you’ve probably already seen at least one other paddler cruising around with their furry companion on board.
Did you find yourself wondering how the heck they got their dog to sit still long enough to truly enjoy paddling?
Well, the good news is that all dogs can be trained with the proper approach and just the right amount of patience.
In this guide to sea kayaking with a dog buddy, we’ll provide some useful training tips as well as a bunch of information to help you prepare for successful sea kayaking adventures with your pup.
So let’s get right to it!
Table of Contents
- 1 What To Know Before Heading Down This Path
- 2 How Far Can You Sea Kayak With A Dog
- 3 What To Pack For Your Dog
- 4 How To Teach Your Dog To Enter A Sea Kayak
- 5 Training Your Dog To Sit Still in A Sea Kayak
- 6 Gear That’ll Make Your Life Easier
- 7 Final Thoughts
- 8 Enjoyed A Guide To Sea Kayaking With Dog? Share it with your friends so they too can follow the KayakHelp journey.
What To Know Before Heading Down This Path
Before we go any further, we think it’s pretty important to mention a few caveats that come along with bringing a dog on your kayaking adventures.
These caveats aren’t meant to dissuade you from doing so, but we just feel that it’s important that you have as much knowledge as possible before you head down this path.
So, here are a few things that you’ll have to wrap your head around before you take your dog kayaking:
You’ll Most Likely Get Wetter Than Normal
If you’re used to calm, dry kayaking adventures where you have plenty of time to focus on your breath and take in the surroundings, you’ll have to resign yourself to the fact that might not always be the case when you’re paddling with your dog, at least in the early going.
Dogs hold quite a bit of water and they have this amazing tendency to shake as much of it off as possible at the most inopportune times.
Even if you’re able to initially get your dog into your kayak without it going in the water, the odds are pretty high that it will go for a swim before the day is over.
That’s why the summer months can be one of the best times to explore sea kayaking with your dog.
There’s less concern over cold-related illnesses and you probably won’t mind if your dog shakes some water onto you to help you cool off once in a while.
You’ll Definitely Need To Expect The Unexpected
Kayaking without a dog might actually start to feel boring after you and your pup get used to adventuring together.
It’s like having a partner for one of the best tandem kayaks that has an extremely keen sense of smell.
Your dog will undoubtedly notice things when you’re paddling that you never would’ve seen if you hadn’t brought it along.
This can lead to some really cool discoveries that you’d never make otherwise, but it can also lead to your dog unexpectedly jumping out of your kayak and making a beeline for the shore.
You’ll then find yourself chasing it down and trying to get it back into your kayak without going for a swim yourself.
And while this might not be the biggest deal, having it happen multiple times can very well derail your paddling timeline if you have a specific destination you’re trying to reach.
You Might Enjoy Kayaking Even More
Whenever I’ve moved to a new city, having a dog has been the perfect way to meet people and make new friends.
When you start kayaking with your dog, we can almost guarantee that you’ll start to notice a lot more people noticing you!
Some folks will probably stare a bit and they might just talk amongst themselves.
But others will steer their kayaks over towards yours to catch a glimpse of how the heck you’re keeping a four-legged beast securely on such a small paddle craft.
These new connections, paired with the quality time that you and your pup get to spend outdoors, might just make your kayaking adventures more fun.
The only risk is that you might feel a little bit bored when you take your kayak out without your pup in tow!
How Far Can You Sea Kayak With A Dog
Is there really any limit? The short answer to that question is no, but the real answer will depend on several factors, including how well your dog is trained, how much paddling expertise you have, how much stamina you possess, and much more.
From our experience, most dogs can be expected to stay calmly in place on a kayak for an hour or two, at best.
After that, most dogs become antsy and will want to go for a swim or run on the closest stretch of shoreline.
If your dog is getting particularly antsy on your kayak, the odds are pretty good that it needs to find a stretch of shoreline to do its business.
We’ve seen plenty of pups behave terribly on kayaks only to find out that they just needed to evacuate their bowels on dry land.
After that, they had no problem getting back on the kayak and settling in for another stretch of paddling.
So if you and your dog are in tune with each other’s needs, there’s really no limit to how far you can travel in your sea kayak.
What To Pack For Your Dog
Being prepared is one of the most important things you can do to make paddling with a pup more enjoyable.
But packing for a dog can be a little different than packing for yourself or packing a sea kayak for camping.
So here are a few things you should consider putting in your dry bag or kayak’s storage hatch for your pup.
We call them the three T’s of sea kayaking with a pup!
They’re also the best way to distract your dog from ducks or geese that are swimming a little too close to your kayak.
Tons of Water!
Even though kayaking isn’t a particularly stressful exercise for your pup, you’ll still be spending a lot of time in direct sunlight.
How To Teach Your Dog To Enter A Sea Kayak
Just getting your pup into your kayak can sometimes be the most difficult part of taking it kayaking. So here are a few useful tips that we hope make the process a bit smoother.
Who Goes First
While the picture above might suggest otherwise, we recommend that you get into your kayak first before inviting your pup in.
That’s because you can at least trust yourself to sit reasonably still while your pup tries to get his or her body situated in the cockpit.
If you can situate your kayak next to a dock or some sort of pier that you can hold onto, you’ll be able to keep your kayak more stable while you coax your pup in.
If you try to do things backward, you’ll be much more likely to capsize before you even get started.
Where Should Your Pup Sit
The challenge with many of the best sea kayaks is that the cockpit area can be very narrow and tight, even for one person.
That’s why only kayakers with smaller dogs usually attempt to put their dog in the cockpit of their kayak with them.
If you have a larger pup, he or she might be more comfortable sitting in one of the bulkhead compartments of your sea kayak.
That is, of course, assuming that the sea kayak you’re working with is of the sit-inside variety.
If you have a sit-on-top sea kayak, on the other hand, you’ll have a little more flexibility as to where your dog sits while you’re paddling.
But usually, the open bow and stern storage areas are a good, safe bet.
Dry Land Training
It might seem funny at first, but the best way to teach your dog how to get into your kayak is to do it on dry land first.
That’s because you won’t have to worry about the rocking and rolling that’ll happen when your kayak is sitting in the water.
It also minimizes the risk of traumatizing your dog before you even get to enjoy kayaking together.
Unfortunately, we’ve known several dogs that went for a swim before they were ready to do so when they were first learning how to kayak.
Some of these dogs were so spooked by their experiences that they were very timid the next time their owners tried to get them into a kayak.
But if you teach your dog how to get into a kayak when it’s on dry land (and reward them for doing so), they will be more likely to remember those rewards than the sting of cold water if they do go for a swim later on.
Reinforcements Are Critical
If you’ve ever trained a puppy, you already know that reinforcing good behavior is even more important than punishing behaviors that you don’t want your dog to repeat.
As believers in positive affirmation, we here at Kayak Help urge you to buy an extra bag or two of dog treats for teaching your pup how to get into your kayak.
We’ve suggested dog treats here because, well, most dogs we know are pretty highly motivated by the reward of a treat that tastes better than their standard kibble.
But if your dog isn’t particularly food-motivated, you may need to get creative.
Either way, the key here is to reinforce positive behavior as much as possible when you’re teaching your pup how to get into your kayak.
Even if that means giving them the first treat when they simply put their head on the side of your kayak, the key is to teach them that kayaking is fun!
Training Your Dog To Sit Still in A Sea Kayak
Sea kayaks aren’t like your standard recreational kayaks in that they can be tough to get a dog back into, especially in deep water.
So, the importance of teaching your dog to stay in your kayak increases when you’re talking about sea kayaking with your dog.
While much of this process goes back to our point on reinforcements in the previous section, there are a few additional points we’d like to visit here.
The Importance of Diligence
Because we already mentioned how important it is for you to expect the unexpected while kayaking with dogs, you should already recognize that tuning into your dog’s movements is critical if you want them to sit still.
If your dog is well-trained on land, the odds are pretty good that it’s going to remain well-trained on the water.
For example, if your dog loves to chase ducks when you allow it off-leash time at your local park, you might need to think about how it will react to seeing ducks swim by when you’re sitting in your kayak.
The best thing you can do is to keep a watchful eye on your pup at all times when you’re both getting used to paddling together.
This will increase your odds of being able to utter a timely “Stay!” or distract your pup with a reward for sitting so still in your kayak when you want its attention to be drawn away from something on shore or in the waters nearby.
How You Situate Your Pup
When I first began paddling with my pup, I quickly found that the best place to put him was in the cockpit right between my thighs.
This allowed me to command him by squeezing more or less depending on what I wanted and it kept my hands free to paddle.
Over time, he learned that more pressure meant to stay and less pressure meant it was okay to relax.
But he also began to recognize that more pressure was applied every time something outside of our boat was tempting him to jump out.
Little by little, we were able to enjoy longer and longer stretches of uninterrupted paddling before I allowed him to swim to cool off.
This is why I would definitely recommend training your pup by sitting him or her in the cockpit rather than way upfront in a bulkhead compartment or, at worst, behind you in the stern bulkhead compartment.
Gear That’ll Make Your Life Easier
When your pup moves around in your kayak, you’ll feel like you’re back to the first time you ever sat in a kayak and wondered how the heck you’re going to be able to stay in it for any reasonable length of time.
But, the good news is that plenty of people have encountered this problem before you.
And someone much smarter than us came up with a great way to increase the stability of pretty much any kayak on the market these days.
These outriggers are adjustable to be able to fit on a wide variety of kayaks and they come with all of the mounting gear, hardware, and instructions you’ll need to install them in a matter of minutes.
Some folks even use their outriggers to create a platform that gives their dog a dedicated place to lie down while they’re paddling!
2. Doggy PFD
And because we’re going to ASSUME that you already have one of the best kayaking life vests for yourself, the next thing you’ll need is one for your pup.
These modern dog life jackets actually serve two purposes: they help your pup stay afloat in deep water and they also give you straps to make pulling your pup back up into your kayak much easier.
While it might take some time for your dog to get used to wearing a life jacket, soon it will probably be taking advantage of it.
We’ve seen some pets that looked far too comfortable in these life jackets, so the trick might be getting your pup to pull its weight once it has it on.
We must also mention at least one more benefit of these doggy PFDs.
Most of them are intentionally made in bright colors so that you and your dog both enjoy increased visibility on the water, and it’s also easier for you to see your dog if it swims a little further away than you’d like.
3. Bungee Leash
Some folks like to keep their dog securely attached to their kayak and others like their dog to be free in case they capsize.
If you feel confident that your dog is trained well enough to obey verbal commands, you might not have the need for a leash. But if you want to make sure your pup doesn’t stray too far from your kayak when it goes for a swim, a bungee leash is the way to go.
The best versions of these leashes allow you to secure one end of the leash around your waist and the other to the top of your pup’s life jacket.
This keeps your hands free and puts the stress of your dog’s weight (if it jumps out of your kayak) right at the centermost point of your kayak.
This last point is critical because it can make a huge difference in how often you capsize, especially when you and your pup are just getting familiar with kayaking.
Attaching your pup to your body’s center of gravity (instead of to a random point on your kayak itself) will ultimately make your kayak much more stable.
4. Paddle Float
But it’s especially important for sea kayaking with a dog because it can be the difference between you both staying in cold water for just a few minutes versus an uncomfortable (and dangerous) amount of time.
These inflatable floats slide onto one of the blades of your kayak paddle and then inflate by mouth.
With that extra buoyancy, a paddle float will turn your standard kayak paddle into the perfect tool to help you self-rescue in a sea kayak.
5. Paddle Leash
While there’s a full list of gear you should always have on board for any sea kayaking adventure (which you can read here), a paddle leash is an additional inclusion when you’re kayaking with a pup.
This gear item is a fail-safe for when you aren’t able to keep you and your pup safely inside your kayak (and your kayak upright!).
Instead of having to worry about where all of your gear is, you’ll be able to tend to yourself and your dog.
Your paddle will remain securely attached to your kayak so that you can retrieve it once you and your pup are seated back inside.
And these leashes give you plenty of freedom to attach them to any hardpoint on your kayak so that it’s not in the way while you’re paddling.
If you’re like most pet owners, your dog is by your side nearly everywhere you go.
The good news is that there’s no reason why he or she can’t accompany you on your upcoming sea kayaking trips as well.
You’ll just need to be safe and smart about doing so, and it may require a little more up-front training than you initially expected.
But with patience and perseverance, you and your pup will soon be the envy of all other pet-owning kayakers on your local coastal waterway.
We sure hope you learned something that you’ll be able to apply to your adventures sea kayaking with dog friends in the future.
And, as always, we urge all Kayak Help readers to keep calm and paddle on!