Are you wondering how you can introduce your furry friend to your other love, kayaking?
The good news is that your dog won’t complain about getting wet. They require minimal equipment and their low sense of gravity means they are built for boating.
But before we get started, it’s important to find the best kayaks for dogs here. Once you are done, read our top tips below on how to kayak with your dog.
- Desensitizing Your Dog to the Kayak
- Getting In & Out/Loading and Unloading
- Launching The Kayak
- Keeping Your Dog in the Kayak
- Essential Kayaking Gear for your Dog
- Basic Safety
- Speak With Your Veterinarian
- About Poop & Pee
- Behavioural Signs To Watch Out For
- Final Thoughts
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When it comes to kayaking with your canine, know that not all dog breeds are created equal. Some dogs are simply built for outdoors. This includes Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Bernese Moutain Dogs, Vizlas, Australian Shepards, Collies, Portuguese Water Dogs, Rhodesian Ridgeback, German Shorthair Pointer, Australian Cattle dog and more.
Bear in mind that the size does matter when it comes to kayaking since a big dog has the potential to capsize a kayak. Similarly, a small dog might struggle with the whole experience since they can’t see over the sides of the kayak.
Some canine kayakers also suggest considering age factor. If your dog has reached old age and has never been introduced to water sports before, it’s probably not the best time to try it.
If you have a small puppy, you might find them over excitable during the wrong moment. On the other side, a puppy well through the toddler years and hasn’t been introduced to the sport, you can take the steps to introduce him to the water adventure.
For middle-aged dogs, it’s vital to assess their adaptability first. Our advice is to ride their puppy years through and then introduce them to the water.
Basically, use your judgment, look beyond size, age and breed to understand your dog’s ability to both sit still and stay calm around the water. Your pooch should be comfortable enough to enjoy kayaking.
Also Read: How To Modify A Kayak For A Dog?
So have you decided that your furry friend has the interest level and temperament for kayaking? Let’s begin with the training then.
Like every skill your dog has acquired, the result comes with the time you put in, so it’s important you put the effort in before hitting the waters.
This time of training is perfect to introduce any would-be canine kayaker to the joys of water, in case they have been a bit apprehensive earlier. (Experts say that the dislike of water need not be a deal breaker to canine kayaking).
If you are keen kayaker, it’s best that you work to introduce your dog to the water as early as possible. Puppies are much more open to new situations and learnings than older dogs – but, as the old saying goes, ‘it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks so know that you can work to make any dog confident around (and even in) the water.
To desensitize your dog to water, many dog owners recommend starting out in place that has non-running water – like a pond, pool or lake. Find a sloping bank, where the dog can access the water easily. Be prepared to enter the water with the dog. Take along his favorite toy.
Once your dog enters the water, they should have a paddling motion – whereby the body is kept flat on the surface. If your dog is struggling with this, you can support his body with a hand under the belly.
Look out for signs of shaking which is a natural response from your dog but it is one that can lead to apprehension, particularly if they are carrying something in their mouth.
When your dog shakes, remember to reward him with praise and continue to motivate him to swim. Most importantly, remember to take every step slowly – never push your dog beyond his comfort zone.
Check Out: A Guide To Sea Kayaking With A Dog
An essential part of the training are commands. By commands, we mean cues that manage the dog’s expectations on what is coming next.
There should be a command for entering the kayak and exiting (loading and unloading), one for staying close when on land and also one for when the kayak is coming to land and the dog can have a play.
we suggest you reiterate the usual dog-owner ‘sit/stay/down’ commands, whilst in the kayak, and a similar calming command for when the water gets a little rough (“it’s ok”). It’s essential that your dog has the ability to respond to basic commands immediately (1 to 2 seconds) since any delay may prove a safety hazard.
Desensitizing Your Dog to the Kayak
Once your dog has a good grasp of the commands, start first by introducing your canine to the kayak away from the water. Remember, kayaks are big and it can all be a bit overwhelming for your pooch.
Let them sit in it, move around, sniff a bit. Move the kayak around slowly so they get used to movements and the sounds that come with it.
Remember you are acclimatizing your dog to not just the inside of the kayak, but also to the environment outside.
It is also suggested to leave the kayak permanently where the dog can find it (when logistically possible) so that there is no increased anxiety when it is seen.
This is also a great time to decide what kayak is best for you both, a single one-man or a tandem. Remember to think carefully about your dog’s personality and mobility. Will they feel confident riding up front or will they feel more snug and secure beneath your feet?
Keep in mind that the more excitable the dog is, the more you want to have them in collar reach so you can grab them when needed.
If your dog seems reluctant to bond, put their favorite toys in the kayak or bring their bed closer? Some experts even recommend rewarding your pooch with treats! Remember, you are working to make your dog feel calm (and even happy) around the kayak.
As well as desensitizing your dog to the kayak, it’s important to get them accustomed to your Personal Flotation Device and your dog’s PFD.
A PFD is as important for your dog, as it is for you. Firstly, it will give your dog buoyancy if they fall into the water, secondly, there is also a handle to be able to grip your pooch and pull them out (if your dog is too big you can at least pull them in the right direction).
Explore more tips on how to kayak with your dog here.
Getting In & Out/Loading and Unloading
It’s important to teach your dog how to hop in and out of the kayak on dry land.
Of course, small dogs can be lifted in but you never know what situation you might get in, so it’s always wise to teach every dog (regardless of size) the entry and exit skill.
When your dog hops into the kayak, they should be encouraged to immediately sit. Similarly when they hop out. After they have mastered getting in and out of the kayak, it’s time to try the new skill on the water.
Start out in calm waters, like a lake, pond or bay and hold the kayak still for your pooch so that it doesn’t move too much as they enter. Some experts suggest rewarding your dog with a treat when they enter the kayak. They are more likely to sit and feel good.
This also goes a long way to reinforcing the idea that the kayak equals calm behavior (no pacing or wiggling).
Launching The Kayak
Once loaded, comes the great launch. This is where the commands you’ve taught come into play, after all – your dog might have the instinct to jump out of the kayak as he sees you pushing it away.
Tell your dog to ‘stay’ or ‘sit’ and reassure that you are coming, gently push the kayak out and then jump in. Of course, if you’re kayaking with another person, and your dog is able to be lifted, you also have the option of having the dog passed over to you after push off.
Once pushed off, take a few seconds to assess your dog’s wellbeing before beginning to paddle. Remember that the noises and sensations associated with paddling are new to your dog and might be met with surprise.
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- Continue using your commands (‘stay’ ‘sit’)
- Don’t start paddling immediately after push off, take a few seconds to monitor your dog’s mood.
- Keep reassuring. Dogs respond well to praise.
Keeping Your Dog in the Kayak
Dog owners believe that keeping your dog in the kayak starts on land! If you work to train your dog to have him stay by your side every day, you go some way to defusing the same curiosity which might see them leap out of a kayak with every passing fish, bird or kayak.
Don’t allow your dog to ran manically around the shore and then expect them to totally sit still on the kayak.
Once you’ve established the level of expectation, work to enforce it with a range of commands (“stay” and “sit”). Think about teaching additional commands to counter added curiosities (like “leave it”). In fact, teach anything you can think of that can help remove the novelty value and reinforces the behavioral expectations of your dog whilst in the kayak.
It is also suggested to take your dog for a long walk (and a poop break) before setting off on your kayak to help burn some of their energy.
Also Read: Best Sit-on-top Kayaks For Dogs
Essential Kayaking Gear for your Dog
These tips probably have you itching to kayak with your dog, but before you do – remember to invest in some necessary safety equipment for your dog – after all, they are precious cargo.
- A PFD (or life vest) is an essential piece of equipment for your dog. Remember, just because your dog is a natural swimmer – does not mean that they can go without a buoyancy aid. Here are some recommendations.
- Remember that, just like us, dogs are susceptible to increased exposure to the sun when in open. Animal experts recommend keeping their SPF topped up (particularly on the nose and belly).
- All that excitement and exposure to the elements is bound to make your dog thirsty. Remember to bring a supply of fresh water and a drinking bowl.
- Keep offering your dog plenty of fluids to keep up their hydration levels.
- Don’t forget the leash! You might make the mistake of thinking that kayaking means roaming free, but you need to pack a leash for when you hit land. They can be overly excitable at times.
- Pack some doggy treats to reward for good behavior.
- Also pack some water toys for your dog so that they can have fun in the water although some insist that the water itself is a playground enough.
- Add a towel to the list.
- Doggy poop bags.
- Also a mat. Nails make it difficult for your dog to stand on the kayak. Counter this with something as simple as a mat for extra grip.
- If you are planning a long trip, bring your dog’s bed (it’s good to invest in a loaded cell foam type that can be positioned away from water) and food supply.
As you become a more frequent kayaker, you might make additions to the list.
As well as echoing (again!) the importance of a PFD, there are some basic safety rules that must be covered when in the water with your pooch.
First up, don’t ever tie your dog to the kayak. This is a death sentence to your pooch if the kayak were to tip. It’s ok to keep the collar on your friend though.
Speak With Your Veterinarian
It’s not immediately obvious, but it’s always good to have a chat with your vet before undertaking any new activities. After all, kayaking comes with a little additional risk in the form of heart-worm and mosquitoes.
Your vet should be able to educate on the heart-worm treatment and suggest appropriate vaccines and medications to ensure your dog stays fit and fine.
About Poop & Pee
When a dog has to go – he has to go! So how do you get around the problem of your dog needing to poop?
Well, it all comes down to training and instructing the dog on the right time to go – meaning they can eliminate before boarding.
If you want to pursue a command lead process of elimination, use a reward-based approach. You can also start by picking the words you will use for ‘peeing’ and ‘pooping’. Use them when your dog has to go.
Keep repeating the commands, bestow praise and even treats. Eventually, the dog would learn to link the words you say, with the act of doing – which means you can take advantage of these cues before boarding the kayak.
Remember to always carry scoop and bag. Bury your dog’s waste when they get ashore for their business.
Check Out: Best Canoes For Dogs
Behavioural Signs To Watch Out For
Dogs can feel uncomfortable to take a trip so it’s important to keep an eye on their behavior. By doing so, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience for both you and your furry friend.
- If your dog is trying to jump out of the vassel, it’s a clear sign that he doesn’t want to go.
- Excessive panting is another thing that points to their discomfort. It might also be due to humid conditions though.
- Not interested in taking treats or not making eye contact is another sign of disinterest.
Hope this guide helped!
We believe this would be the start of wonderful days that lie ahead of you and your pooch in the open water. Allow your dog to get familiar with necessary equipment and commands. Be gentle, your dog will quickly understand the great adventure ahead of him.
Stay safe and have fun with your friend!