10 Best Dog Breeds For Kayaking

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Most of us know that almost any outdoor adventure is better with friends. That’s why we were so often encouraged to practice the ‘buddy system’ when we were younger. 

But as we grow, we take on more responsibilities and our playtime doesn’t always line up with that of our buddies. That’s when having a trusted, furry adventure companion by your side is awesome. 

There are many reasons that humans can benefit from owning a dog. They urge you to be more active, help you break the ice in new social settings, and provide a happy welcome every time you come home after a long day. 

But, to be honest, not all dogs are created equal. While each unique breed has pros and cons, we tend to steer towards dog breeds that are built for adventure because, well, we like to adventure! 

In this article, we’re going to highlight ten of the best dog breeds for kayaking. We’ll also outline a few important pointers to keep in mind when you’re searching for your next adventure pup! 

Best Dog Breeds For Kayaking

  1. Golden Retriever
  2. Labrador Retriever
  3. Goldendoodle
  4. Jack Russell Terrier
  5. Australian Shepherd
  6. Portuguese Water Dog
  7. Brittany Spaniel
  8. Australian Cattle Dog
  9. Siberian Husky
  10. Irish Water Spaniel

Getting Your Dog Ready For Kayaking

Dogs quite honestly do make outdoor recreation a whole lot better. In this section, we’ll provide some general tips for getting whichever dog breed you choose ready for your next kayaking adventure. 

Get Comfortable With Water

This will come naturally for many dogs, but even though it’s in their genetics, most puppies require training. It’s always best to start off with shallow water where your pup can walk in up to its comfort level. 

It can also be a good idea to bring your pup to an off-leash beach where other dogs are playing in the water as well. Sometimes seeing a “big-brother” go for a long swim can give your pup the confidence to try it out for itself. 

One thing that can scar a dog for life is being thrown or dropped into deeper water during one of their first encounters. While many will rise to the occasion and learn to swim, not all will emerge feeling eager to repeat the experience.  

Establish A Reward System

Whenever you’re teaching your dog a new skill, rewards are critical. Make sure you bring along a Ziploc full of your pup’s favorite treat, as many breeds are highly food-motivated. 

Start small and provide a reward for every step of the way. Whether it’s for getting your dog’s PFD on or getting situated in your kayak, you can reinforce that this is going to be a fun activity by offering rewards for every ‘task’ completed. 

Familiarize Your Pup With The Kayak On Land

This might be counterintuitive, but it’s often much easier to get your pup familiar with your kayak on land. You can allow your pup to climb in on its own and then begin to work on the process for how you would prefer to load when the kayak is in the water. 

This process should include establishing where you want your pup to sit or lie down while you paddle. You may also take the time to simulate paddling so your pup can see what your paddle strokes might look like and, thus, be less likely to stand up into your paddle shaft. 

Get Your Pup A PFD

While dogs can swim for a long time on their own, a PFD is just as important to their safety on a long paddling trip as it is to yours. If you don’t want to rely just on your own stamina if you capsize, why would you ask your dog to do the same? 

Most PFDs made for dogs out there are sized for the dog’s weight. While the length of your dog’s spine can also play a role in whether the PFD fits properly or not, you should absolutely be sure that the PFD you choose is rated to support your dog’s weight. 

One added benefit of many dog-specific PFDs is that they usually have a handle sewn onto the top of them. This handle makes it much easier for you to pull your dog back into your kayak after it goes for a swim. 

More Gear To Bring For Your Dog

You should always have a leash on your kayak for when and if you need it. However, we don’t recommend keeping your dog tethered to the leash while you’re paddling because it can reduce its ability to swim to safety if you do capsize. 

A shallow or collapsible bowl for water is also a great bet to bring along for your pup. You might not always be paddling on freshwater and sometimes you won’t want your pup leaning over the edge of your kayak to quench its thirst. 

You should always think about bringing a dry bag on board, which, admittedly, is more for you than for your dog. Even if you manage to keep your boat upright for your entire paddle, your pup getting in and out of the water and shaking is guaranteed to soak everything on board that’s not in a dry bag. 

It’s also good to bring an old towel that you don’t mind getting wet or worn out. Sometimes this gives you a great tool to create a makeshift bed in the bow or stern of your kayak to help your pup get comfortable. 

And speaking of that comfortable state, that old, reliable bone or chew toy can be just the added motivator to keep your pup calm in your kayak. Think about something that your pup might be working on for a while too, so that it stays calm and you can paddle on! 

While we should all be carrying first aid kits for ourselves on our kayaks (among other safety equipment), you should also think about carrying waterproof Vet Wrap tape for your dog. If it’s not already in your personal FA Kit, an antihistamine like Benadryl is also great for any allergic reactions from bites and stings that happen on your adventures! 

Best Dog Breeds For Kayaking Reviews

1. Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are well known for their playful demeanor. Many will find great joy in chasing that same, slightly-mangled tennis ball back and forth across the yard for hours on end. 

This is one of the most obedient breeds out there, which is why they’re often selected as guides for the blind and in search-and-rescue operations. They’re also very muscular dogs and known to be excellent swimmers. 

There can be a lot of variation in size even within one breed, but Golden males typically weigh between 65 and 75 pounds and stand 23 to 24 inches tall. Female’s average weight will typically fall between 55 and 65 pounds and they’ll stand 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall. 

Golden Retrievers are known to be easy to train, which is important when you want to take your pup kayaking. You’ll want a dog that obeys commands to sit or lie down so that you can keep your kayak stable. 

Whether it’s on the water or in your backyard, Golden Retrievers can bring joy and playfulness to your life. And they keep many of those ‘puppy-like’ behaviors into adulthood, so they’ll help you keep feeling and recreating like you’re young as well. 

2. Labrador Retriever

Arguably America’s most popular dog breed, Labrador Retrievers haven’t earned this level of popularity by accident. This is one of the friendly, lovable, and outgoing breeds out there. 

With a Labrador, you’ll probably have a hard time keeping your pup out of the water. When it comes to kayaking, that’s actually a good thing because most dogs that aren’t great for kayaking get that reputation because they’re scared of the water. 

Labradors are also a very social breed. Having one of these guys (or gals) in the bow of your kayak is sure to spark up a conversation or two with other paddlers while you’re on the water. 

The males of this breed typically range from 65 to 80 pounds and stand 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall. Females typically weigh between 55 and 70 pounds and stand 21.5 to 23.5 inches tall. 

One of the most endearing qualities about labradors is their perpetual high spirits. So even on a rain-filled day of paddling that didn’t quite go as planned, your pup’s smile is sure to keep you going towards those warm cuddles at home. 

3. Goldendoodle

As you might guess, the Goldendoodle breed is a crossbreed. This breed is a mix between a Golden Retriever and either a standard, medium, or a miniature Poodle. 

Both of these breeds are intelligent and friendly in their own right, and you’ll be getting just that with a Goldendoodle as well. Goldendoodles are also very social and outgoing dogs to help you make friends everywhere you go. 

Goldendoodles also have a history of being easily trainable. Some have even served as guide dogs and therapy dogs in local hospitals. 

This is a fantastic trait for a companion you want to bring on your kayak. When conditions change and you need your pup to listen to you, it’ll be nice to know that your pup is well-trained. 

When bred with a miniature poodle, this breed can weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. If bred with a medium-sized poodle, weights range from 30 to 45 pounds. 

If this breed comes from the combination of a Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle, Goldendoodles range from 45 to 100 pounds. Overall, these pups stand between 13 and 24 inches tall. 

4. Jack Russell Terrier

If you’re looking for a smaller kayaking companion, the Jack Russell Terrier is an excellent choice. These pups are full of energy, always alert, and incredibly sociable. 

They are also known to be great swimmers, even with their smaller stature. Jack Russell’s have dark eyes and V-shaped ears that give them an expression of inquisitiveness. 

These are extremely intelligent pups and you’ll be able to train yours up to seamlessly adapt to your kayaking trips. This is also a very confident and expressive breed. 

Jack Russell Terriers can weigh between nine and 15 pounds and stand between 10 and 12 inches tall. They also have a long average life expectancy between 12 and 14 years.

This breed is known to enjoy problem-solving challenges when training. They can sometimes bore easily, so they’ll challenge you to keep things new and fun, which should play right into your adventurous lifestyle.  

5. Australian Shepherd

Contrary to their name, the Australian Shepherd breed actually traces its roots back to 19th-century American ranches. These pups are both super loyal and super smart, as they were bred to help with herding efforts. 

They also have some of the most beautiful coats of all dog breeds and they’re well known for their bright blue or light grey pupil color. These pups are super agile on land and in the water. 

Their drive to constantly keep the herd together can be a lot for more sedentary dog owners. But kayaking is a great example of an outlet for that energy, as well as the rest of your preferred outdoor activities. 

The males of this breed range between 50 and 65 pounds and stand between 20 and 23 inches tall. Females typically weigh between 40 and 55 pounds and stand between 18 and 21 inches tall. 

Australian Shepherds are an extremely intelligent breed and have even been known to trick novice owners. But when trained properly, this is one of the most loyal and adventurous breeds you can choose. 

6. Portuguese Water Dog

This fluffy breed literally has ‘water’ in its name! The Portuguese Water Dog breed is known to be adventurous and athletic, which are two traits that make these pups great as kayaking companions. 

These pups have a lot of energy for adventure and will encourage you to be more active. They’re known to be easy to train and super intelligent to pick up your unique commands. 

The males of this breed can weigh between 42 and 60 pounds and stand between 20 to 23 inches tall. Females can range from 35 to 50 pounds and stand from 17 to 21 inches tall. 

Historically, Portuguese Water Dogs were bred to provide aid to the all-around fisherman. Today, these pups love to find any excuse they can to get in the water. 

These pups thrive on human contact and attention, so they’ll also be great for making new social connections. In addition to kayaking, these pups like to dive from docks in search of a toy and enjoy play sessions that test their agility. 

7. Brittany Spaniel

The Brittany Spaniel breed traces its origins back to Brittany, France. Originally, these pups were bred as gun dogs for bird hunting, which is why some folks find similarities between them and pointers or setters. 

This breed is smaller than most setters with longer legs than you’d find on most spaniels. Their bird-hunting traits make them incredibly smooth, agile, and fleet-of-foot. 

They’re also very smart incredibly versatile. This breed loves to be challenged and shows a regular zest for learning new sports and games, which is great for the outdoor lover. 

This breed typically ranges from 30 to 40 pounds in weight and stands between 17.5 and 20.5 inches tall. They love a lot of exercise with their favorite human, which will quickly become you. 

The Brittany Spaniel breed is adept at learning new activities and loves swimming, dock diving, and trail running. It’ll also be that loyal companion to help you navigate from the bow of your kayak. 

8. Australian Cattle Dog

This breed was originally developed in Australia and bred to drive cattle for long distances over very rough terrain. As you might expect, Australian Cattle Dogs have lots of stamina, like to keep their herd intact, and very muscular. 

Actually a relative to Australia’s wild dog, the Dingo, this breed is sometimes also called the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler. They’re very energetic and intelligent, and some are known to have an independent streak. 

This is a compact, well-built, and highly-resilient breed. Their seemingly-endless energy makes them a great companion for trail running, but these dogs are also loyal enough to curl up or stand guard at the bow of your kayak. 

The males and females of this breed can weigh between 35 and 50 pounds. Males stand between 18 and 20 inches tall while females stand between 17 and 19 inches. 

Breeders recommend that owners of these dogs regularly engage in some type of work, sport, or physical activity with their pup. This gives them the regular physical and mental stimulation they need to keep them from becoming bored. 

9.  Siberian Husky

Originally hailing from Northeast Asia, Siberian Huskies were bred by the Chukchi people for sled-pulling, village guarding, and companionship. Because of their heritage withstanding the harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic, this is one of the most resilient breeds on our list. 

Siberian Huskies are incredibly active and energetic. They’ll need daily runs or another form of exercise if you want to keep them from becoming a whirling dervish in your household. 

This can be one of the more mischievous breeds out there because of their extreme intelligence. They’ll test you as an owner, but they are also one of the most loyal breeds once you’ve successfully packed up. 

The males of this breed can weigh between 45 and 60 pounds and stand 21 to 23.5 inches tall. Females generally weigh between 35 and 50 pounds and stand at a height between 20 and 22 inches. 

Huskies actually take to the water very easily and are known to be great swimmers. Although their unique coats will cause them to shed profusely at some times of the year, Huskies are actually very naturally clean with minimal doggy odor. 

10. Irish Water Spaniel

Another breed with ‘water’ in its name! The Irish Water Spaniel is actually the tallest of all the spaniel breeds and it has a coat of tight curls that is naturally water-repellent. 

This is actually a rarer breed and it is known to have a clownish reputation. While that might be obvious from the coat, these pups are sure to provide some much-needed comic relief to your outdoor adventures. 

Irish Water Spaniels are known to be playful, hardworking, and brave. These pups will be willing to go with you on those less-than-ideal kayaking days when only the most prepared are staying out. 

The males of this breed weigh between 55 and 68 pounds and stand 22 to 24 inches tall. Females can weigh between 45 and 58 pounds and reach heights between 21 and 23 inches. 

These pups are champion swimmers even if they happen to fall out of your kayak. They’ll also love to cuddle up affectionately when you get home from a long day of strenuous exercise. 

Our Pick – Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog gets our top pick as the best dog breed for kayaking. And no, it’s not just because of this absolutely adorable photo! 

We think it’s really important to be comfortable with your dog’s size in your kayak. And we find this breed to be the perfect mid-sized pup to fit comfortably in your kayak without taking up too much space. 

In addition, this breed is exceptionally loyal and protective of its ‘adopted’ family. That means they’ll always be eager to tag along for an adventure so they can make sure you’re safe. 

Their size should be too much to make paddling your kayak extra difficult and you should be able to train your dog to adapt to the specific type of paddlecraft you like to use (as you can see from the photo above!). 

Lastly, we’ve chosen this breed as our top pick because they have exceptional general health, a long average lifespan of 12 to 16 years, and they are easy to keep groomed and smelling fresh!

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