How To Kayak With A Dog: A Detailed Guide To Kayaking With Dogs

How To Kayak With A Dog

How To Kayak With A Dog

Kayaking is a fun paddle sport in which the paddler uses a double-bladed paddle to navigate his vessel. The sport is a great way to exercise and enjoy nature. As you become a more experienced kayaker, you may find yourself wishing to share your paddling sessions with your dog. 

Unlike a motorboat or canoe, however, you can’t simply load your dog into your kayak and start kayaking. The good news is that your dog can be trained to love kayaking, so all hope is not lost.

With some effort, patience, and know-how, you can introduce your dog to the water and make it your loyal kayaking partner as soon as possible. In this article, all you need to know and do to turn your dog into an avid kayaker is brought to you. Read on and enjoy!

Is my dog suitable for kayaking?

Why ask this question, you may wonder. Is the point of this article not to teach people to train their dogs for kayaking? 

The truth is that knowing how suitable your dog is for the sport before you start training can give you insight into how to go about the training and help you gauge how long it will take before your furry friend becomes your trusted kayaking buddy.

The good news is that regardless of whether your dog immediately likes the sport or if it does not fancy kayaking, you can practice with it and ultimately bring out the kayaker in it. 

The traits to check when determining how suitable your pet is for kayaking are discussed below.


Any dog owner knows that a time will come when you must assert dominance over your pet. You needn’t be cruel about it; the dog simply has to know that you are in charge. 

How well your furry friend learns this lesson goes a long way in determining how suitable it will be for kayaking. 

How quickly your dog responds to simple commands like “sit”, “go to your place,” “lay down,” and “stay” can be what makes or keeps you from having a tipped-over kayak when your dog gets excited.

You should never tie your dog down in a kayak, as that can backfire if the vessel is tipped over or another emergency should arise. That is why your dog being able to obey you even when excited is an important trait if it is to become a good kayaker.


Believe it or not, your dog’s emotions matter when it comes to kayaking. How quickly your dog changes its moods and its reactions, particularly when excited, goes a long way in determining how suitable it will be for the paddle sport. 

Several distractions, such as waterfowl and anglers, can be found on the water, and if your dog gives in to the temptation to give chase, you could have an overturned kayak or worse on your hands. 

Carefully assess your dog’s temperament and if it is not suited for kayaking, don’t be discouraged. It simply means you will have to work longer to get the dog to behave on the water.

Comfort on the water

Kayaking is a watersport, and as such, how at ease your dog is on the water plays a huge role in how easily it will embrace kayaking. 

For your dog to be a good kayaking partner, it has to associate the sport with fond memories, so you don’t want the dog to be stressed or unsafe, especially in the early days of training.

If you are someone who takes their dog on car trips, your pet’s behavior on these trips can give you a good idea of what to expect on the water. If your dog is relaxed on trips, it may mean they will enjoy time on the water.

If your furry friend is antsy, however, you know you will have to work harder to make it kayak-worthy. Your dog should also learn how to swim and be comfortable in a life jacket; you don’t want your pet to drown or be a liability in emergencies.

Making Your Dog Kayak-Ready

After evaluating your dog’s suitability for kayaking, your next task is to make them kayak-ready. The aim of the process is to patiently and lovingly work with your furry friend such that it looks forward to the time you will spend together on the water. 

You will need to familiarize your pet with the kayak you will be paddling, get used to spending time in the vessel, and get the dog comfortable with the water and safety gear. 

It may seem like a lot of work, and truthfully, the time you will spend acclimatizing your dog to the sport depends on the dog, but trust me, when the trial period is done, you will be glad you went through it as you will have a trusted kayaking partner for years to come.

Introduce Your Dog To Water

As you will be kayaking on the water, it is only reasonable that your furry friend gets used to the water as well. 

You can start simply by taking it with you to the body of water you plan to kayak in in the future and simply spending some time there. Eventually, your dog will have to learn how to swim. 

It is indispensable that the dog can swim, as you never can tell when the skill will come in handy. You also have to help your dog get used to wearing a life jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD). 

You can let the dog wear the life jacket at home for considerable periods of time so it gets used to it.

Your dog’s ability to swim will help them get back to the kayak if they somehow fall overboard, and a life jacket will help keep your pet safe and reduce the strain on them. Remember that patience is key in this endeavor, so be patient and kind to your pet.

Introduce Your Dog To Your Kayak

As your dog begins to get used to the water, you should introduce it to your kayak. After all, it is in the kayak that you will spend most of your time on the water. The kayak should be on dry land when your pet makes its acquaintance. 

Taking the dog in a kayak on the water before the appropriate time can ruin the entire exercise. This is because the dog may not like the unfamiliar motion of the vessel on the water and get scared. 

Always keep in mind that for your dog to love kayaking, it has to associate the sport with good memories. Encourage your furry friend to approach and spend time in the kayak. 

Reward it with treats and praise for complying. Try hiding treats in the kayak for your pet to find and reward your furry friend for spending time in the spot that will eventually become its “seat” in the kayak. 

Encourage your pet to spend time with you in the kayak. As time goes on, you can reward less. The important thing is for the dog to associate the kayak with good things.

I recommend introducing the paddle when the dog is already quite used to the kayak and on land, of course. You can have the dog stay in its “seat” while you make paddling motions with the paddle or rock the kayak from side to side as it may be rocked on the water. 

Remember to reward the dog for appropriate behavior to foster it and to withhold treats when they behave poorly. Your furry kayak buddy’s training will be going smoothly when your pet gets used to it.

Develop a routine

As a dog owner, you may already have a routine with your pet. It knows when it is to be fed, when it is time for a walk, when you want to cuddle or play, the list goes on. 

Similarly, developing a routine with your pet when it comes to kayaking will prove to be very rewarding. Develop a routine for getting into and out of the kayak. The routine will be up to you.

You may want the dog to enter the kayak first before you, as your entering routine, and then the dog getting out of the kayak before you do, as your exit routine. Sticking to the routine will become a ritual, and that will help the dog know what to expect.

Part of your routine should be enforcing discipline. Make sure the dog does not enter the kayak without you ordering it to and it does not leave the kayak without your say-so. 

You can enforce this by giving or withholding treats. With time, the dog will get used to the kayak and the commands, and you will have made a lot of progress.

Introduce your dog to commands for kayaking

Teaching your dog to behave on command is very important and useful on land, but it is even more important on the water. 

To make kayaking safer and more enjoyable for your furry friend, it must get used to obeying commands immediately after they are issued. Common commands you can train your dog with are given below:

  • “Get in” or “Up”: This command should be used to tell the dog to get into the kayak. Remember to stick to the routine and ensure the dog does not enter the kayak without your say-so. It has to know that you are in charge.
  •  “Get out,” “Hup,” or “Time to leave”: Just as your dog should not enter the kayak without your say-so, it must not leave unless you order it to. Any of the aforementioned commands can be used to issue the order.
  • “Go to your place”: This command is a great way to redirect your dog’s energy when it gets too excited or frantic. The place the dog is to return to is its “seat” on the kayak. That is the spot you trained it to recognize as its place on the vessel. You will notice that issuing this command gives the dog something to do as opposed to ordering it to be quiet. Redirecting your dog’s energy is always a better way to control them than expecting them to behave while bristling with energy. The dog’s place on the kayak should be soft and comfortable. You could cover the place with an indoor/outdoor carpet or even a yoga mat. The important thing is that your dog knows that spot belongs to it and should be able to return there on command.
  • “Leave it”: This command is useful in diffusing incredibly intense situations. It is a command that appeals to your dog’s self-control with the promise of delayed gratification. For instance, if your dog is very interested in chasing waterfowl in the river, the moment you say “leave it,” your dog should be able to abandon the chase. The delayed gratification here is that the dog should know that by leaving this excitement and being patient, you have even better excitement in store for it. This command is perhaps the most difficult for the dog to obey, as a dog that can genuinely “leave it” is considered a paragon of self-control. It may take a while for your dog to master “leave it,” even after it is used to kayaking, but you can be sure that once the command is mastered, you will be grateful for it. If the situation is intense and you are not sure your dog will “leave it”, you can always command it to “go to your place.” I strongly advise you to keep your word and reward your furry friend with treats or whatever reward you have in mind. Remember that dogs like routine, and if your pet knows it will be rewarded, it will obey your commands.
  • If your dog fancies swimming, it can be good to allow it some time in the water from time to time. As repeatedly emphasized, your dog should know you are in charge, so it must not get into the water without your say-so. The command you issue for the swimming break could be the same one you issue when it’s time to leave the kayak, but I recommend picking a new command of your choice that the dog will associate solely with its swimming break. You can also have a command to let it know when its swimming time is over, or you could simply issue the command for it to get into the kayak. The important thing is that you call the shots and your dog obeys immediately.

Practicing Kayaking With Your Dog

Once your furry friend is obedient and used to your kayak, it is time to hit the water and prepare it for a kayaking adventure. Start simple. Practice getting the vessel into and out of the water with your dog in the kayak.

Sticking to your routine, you and your dog should get into the kayak, then you can either push the vessel into the water yourself or have a friend do it for you. 

You should not launch the kayak into the water until you are both in the vessel, and if your presence is not enough, you can try calming your furry friend by comforting it and promising it treats.

Now, since this is your first time on the water with your pet, the dog may find the rocking motion of the vessel on the water uncomfortable, or even give in to temptation and abandon ship a few times due to distractions. 

How you handle this stage is crucial as it can either make or mar your dog’s kayaking career. No matter how your dog behaves, you are to gently and lovingly calm it with no harsh treatments. 

I also advise making your first few trips on the water short and gradually increasing the distance you kayak as your dog gets more and more used to the sport.

If your furry friend freaks out the first time or is particularly antsy, I suggest ending the kayaking trip of the day and giving it a rest. 

You can always try later. Rewarding the dog for spending time with you on the water, even if it freaks out, is also a good idea, as it will help reinforce the idea that good things happen whenever the kayak is around. 

For your furry friend to be a good kayaker, it has to associate kayaking with good memories, and being harsh with it, especially on the first few trips, will be counterproductive.

How long it will take for your furry friend to embrace your paddle sport and water adventures varies with the dog, so be patient until your dog gets the hang of the sport, even if it takes a few trips. 

You will be grateful for your patience in the end when your pet becomes an avid kayaker and your faithful kayaking partner for years to come.

Best Water To Kayak In With Your Furry Friend

As you well know, kayaking can be done in several water conditions, so learning which one will best suit your furry friend is a wise course of action. 

Smooth, calm waters are best suited for kayaking with dogs, especially the first few times when your dog is still finding its water legs. 

The calm water will be to your advantage if the dog goes overboard, as it will be quite easy for it to swim to safety. Even when your dog is virtually an avid kayaker, you should stick to calm flat water like rivers, creeks, and lakes. 

For safety reasons, you should try to avoid any body of water where the chances of tipping over or other accidents are high, like places where you have to deal with large waves and rapids. 

One good reason to avoid these waters is that, besides safety, the small kayaks used to navigate rapids and the narrow kayaks used for touring are just not roomy enough to safely and comfortably accommodate your dog. 

You can always have separate solo trips to enjoy kayaking in those waters if you so desire.

What To Look For In A Kayak For Your Dog

Up till now, we’ve been talking about acclimatizing your furry friend to your kayak. It is therefore only fair that some sacrifice is expected of you when it comes to the kayak you will use. 

For starters, your kayak should be spacious, with enough space for both you and your dog to be comfortable. That means your kayak should have a large cockpit, or better yet, it should be a sit-on-top kayak. 

Your kayak should also be wide enough as not only will that make it spacious, it will also make it more stable and thus safer for you and your dog. Wider kayaks are also able to handle more weight, so there is that benefit.

If you want your dog to be as comfortable as possible, you can procure a tandem kayak. That way, the dog has a seat of its own. 

Some tandem kayaks are large enough to accommodate two people and a dog, so ultimately, the ball is in your court to make the trip as fun as possible for your furry friend.

Kayaking Gear For Your Dog

When you go kayaking, you need accessories for a safe and enjoyable trip, and your dog is no exception. The gear necessary for your dog to safely kayak is given below.

  1. A life vest: No matter how well it can swim, even your dog needs a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for protection when on the water. Finding life jackets tailored to your pet is not that hard, you just have to look. Many life jackets for pets also have a handle or strap along the back to help you lift your furry friend out of the water and back into the kayak.
  2. Food and water: Just as you need food to keep your strength and water for hydration, your dog needs them too. Make sure you bring enough food and drinking water for your furry friend and don’t forget a bowl. Put the dog food in an airtight container or bag so that it is not compromised when you present it to your pet.
  3. A first aid kit: You probably already have one for yourself, but you should make sure it contains supplies for your dog too. For instance, dogs can get sunburned just like you, so they also need sunscreen. Pack bandages, hydrogen peroxide, and other first aid supplies to treat small injuries or other such situations that can easily be resolved on the water.
  4. A floor mat: This is to be placed on the dog’s “seat.” The dog’s place in the kayak should be comfortable if you don’t want your pet to become irritable. Some people use indoor/outdoor carpets or even yoga mats for this.
  5. Dog toys: While you will be paddling and enjoying nature, your dog will get restless if it has nothing to do. To prevent this, you should get your pet something to play with. Having something to chew on can help keep your dog occupied and give it an outlet for energy.
  6. Dog treats: The main purpose of having these is to reinforce good behavior. Any time your dog behaves itself, especially when the temptation is great, you should reward it with a treat. Doing so helps build your pet’s trust and ensures it behaves as you want it to more than punishment would. As time goes on, you can give your dog fewer treats, but it is nice to be rewarded now and then.
  7. A leash and harness: While it is true that you should never tie down your dog in a kayak, a leash and harness could still come in handy for any part of your trip that takes place on land. You may wind up in a camp or ark with leash requirements, so it is better to be prepared. Having your dog on a leash can also help you keep your dog close and protected, particularly if there are some ill-behaved dogs in the vicinity.
  8. Musher’s booties: Even dogs can get wounded when swimming in open water, and that is what Musher’s booties are for. These booties help hold bandages in place and provide foot protection for your pet.
  9. A towel: After your paddling adventure, when you are ready to go home, you probably won’t want a wet dog in your car, and that is where the towel comes in. A dog-friendly towel will help you quickly and efficiently dry your furry friend so that no water gets into your vehicle.
  10. Bags: Eventually, nature will call and you will have to clean up after your pet. Having bags to efficiently pack and dispose of your dog’s waste is thus important.

How to handle tipping over

If, for whatever reason, your kayak tips over, knowing how to handle the situation is of utmost importance. Below is a step-by-step guide on what to do in such situations.

  1. Find your dog and keep it close to you.
  2. Swim towards your kayak with your furry friend by your side. Do all you can to keep it calm. There is no need for it to associate the sport with danger.
  3. Right your kayak and put your paddle in it.
  4. Get your dog into the kayak. It may not understand why it is in the kayak before you, so try to keep it calm and reassured.
  5. Once your furry friend is safely in the kayak, you can also get in. (Keep in mind that, depending on circumstances or if you find it easier, you can get into the kayak first before picking up your pet and placing it in the kayak.

How to handle your dog jumping out

How you handle any unauthorized jump out of your kayak can affect how it happens in the future or even if a future for you and your dog in kayaking will exist. Below is how to handle such situations.

  1. Use a firm but gentle tone to tell your dog to get into the kayak. You can make use of the “get in” command.
  2. Keep your paddle out of the way to avoid hitting the dog b accident.
  3. Grab your pet by the strap on its life jacket and haul it in.
  4. If it is not wearing a life jacket, pull its body parallel to the side of the kayak, then place your hand on its chest between its front legs. Scoop it up and place it in the kayak.
  5. Once your pet is back in the kayak, you should not punish it. Instead, reward it for coming back to you so it can remember that good things await it when it comes back to you. That way, if ever there is a future occurrence, the retrieval of your pet will be easy.

Be a strong paddler

A core part of getting your furry friend kayak-ready is discipline. You spend time ingraining obedience to your commands in the dog so that it will not rock the vessel unnecessarily and cause accidents, especially capsizing. 

If the dog does its part, it’s only fair you do yours. Paddle with strong, long, and steady strokes that will make the time on the water enjoyable for your dog.

Kayaking is a fun paddle sport, and there is no reason you should not enjoy it with your furry best friend. Getting your dog kayak-ready will take effort and patience, but the result is well worth it. 

Introduce your pet to the water and your kayak (preferably a stable sit-on-top kayak) on dry land. Patiently reinforce good memories and routine with the kayak and your dog, and it will be ready for adventure in no time. 

Deck your dog in its life vest, give it a try, and hit the water. Kayaking with your dog is a great way to spend time with it and deepen your bond. So hit the water today and have fun kayaking with your furry friend.

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