Have you ever seen people paddling with their dogs and thought, “Man, I wish my dog would get in a kayak, too”. Seeing a dog out on a paddleboard is definitely a surprising sight! You’d probably assume that dog has been thoroughly trained to behave that well on the water. Surely normal dogs wouldn’t do that, right?
Getting your dog to go on a kayak outing with you isn’t as daunting as it sounds. As it turns out, many dogs love water sports. Give it a shot! But before you head to the water, there are a few tips that will make paddling with your pooch a lot easier.
Reinforce Basic Commands For Kayaking
Before you can jump straight into kayaking down a river with your dog, you’re going to need to start at the beginning. Does your dog understand basic commands? On the water, a frantic dog could upset the balance of your kayak and end up capsizing you both.
Make sure your dog can sit, lay down, and stay. Practice these commands frequently so that your dog will be familiar with them on the water. Having your dog sit or lay down in the kayak will make your kayaking trip a lot easier.
Can Your Dog Swim?
Before you even get to paddling, you’ll want to make sure your dog is familiar with the water. Does your pup love to swim, or does he shy away from the water? Assess where your dog is at before making any moves to get him in a kayak. (Take a look here at what dog breeds are naturally born to swim!)
If your dog doesn’t naturally take to the water, here are some tips that might help get him used to it:
- Bring other dogs: If you have friends whose dogs like to swim, plan a beach date with them. Sometimes having other dogs around who love the water can help to show your dog the ropes.
- Get in the water with them: Throw on your suit and show your dog that the water isn’t so bad by jumping in first. If your dog loves to play with you, that might be enough for them to jump on in.
- Bring toys or balls: Throwing your dog’s favorite ball into the water might be just what it takes to get him to run in after it.
- Head to the dog beach: If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has a waterfront dog park, taking your dog there can be a great resource. Seeing lots of other dogs playing in the water might push yours to join in.
Familiarize Your Dog with Your Kayak on Land
Once you know your dog can listen and swim, it’s time to introduce them to your kayak. The best way to do this is on dry land. If your dog doesn’t like being in the kayak, you don’t want to make that discovery while on the water.
Make sure the boat is somewhere your dog is comfortable with, like your backyard. Practice sitting in the boat with your dog while it’s on land. This is a great time to practice those commands and get your dog to sit or lay down inside the kayak.
Do this repeatedly for a few days (or weeks, if your dog is really timid). Make sure your dog becomes familiar with the ins and outs of your kayak and knows where to sit and what to do. The kayak should feel as familiar as the living room couch to your pup. Adding a blanket or mat to the bottom of the boat can sometimes help them know where to sit or lay down.
Start with the Shallows
Now it’s time to hit the water! For your dog’s first outing in the kayak, try to aim for 20 minutes or less. You want to ease your dog into life on the water, and the first time can be overwhelming. Starting with a short trip is a great way to introduce your dog to kayaking on the water without overwhelming him.
Start somewhere with flat water, like a pond or lake. For your first trip on the water, you don’t want to risk jumping straight into river rapids or ocean waves. Ease your dog onto flat water for a few minutes at a time.
Once your dog is really comfortable on flat water, you can move to rivers or open water, depending on how they handle it. Start small and move up from there. Pretty soon you’ll be paddling with your pup everywhere!
A Few Extra Tips!
- Get a PFD for your dog. Even if your dog is a great swimmer, you never know what can happen on the water. Having a life jacket for you and your dog is an important way to ensure your safety on the water.
- Consider a wide, flat-bottomed kayak for paddling with your dog. Narrow or small boats are great, but when you have a 4-legged companion along with you, you want as much stability as possible. Finding the right kayak for your dog is important.
- Repetition, repetition, repetition. Take it slow at first with your dog and make sure they’re comfortable each step of the way. Introduce them to your kayak repeatedly before getting on the water. Have them wear their PFD frequently before getting on the boat. This ensures there will be no surprises when you get on the water.
- Pack treats and toys in a dry bag. Just in case your dog needs some extra motivation or reward on your kayaking trip, having some treats and toys on board can be a great plan.
If you want to kayak with your dog, there’s no need to be intimidated. By easing your dog into the idea of kayaking little by little, you’ll be sure to have a great time on the water. Be patient and start small, and pretty soon you and your dog will be paddling together with ease!