Nowadays, dogs in kayaks have become quite a common view. And it’s no wonder why. Not only is it a great way to get some exercise – for both the owner and the dog – but it is also a perfect bonding experience. Furthermore, kayaking for dogs is a good opportunity to let them explore the outdoors and enjoy nature. 

However, when it comes to kayaking, you can’t just put your dog in the watercraft and paddle away. There are a few things you need to do and gear you need to prepare to make sure you’ll both have a comfortable and safe ride. To help you out, here’s our ultimate guide to getting your dog kayak ready.

What to Consider Before Kayaking with a Dog

There are a few things you need to consider before you can bring dogs on a kayak, and these are:

1. Your dog

The truth is, kayaking isn’t for every dog. Some dogs are dangerous to bring into a kayak. Some dogs also love the water, and some don’t. Sometimes, dogs that you expect to enjoy water hate it. So the first thing you have to consider is whether or not your dog is capable of kayaking. 

To do that, you need to look out for the following:

  • Built

Generally, small to medium-sized dogs are better companions when kayaking. This is because large breeds (over 100 lbs) take up too much space. Their additional weight can also make it harder for you to maneuver the kayak. Plus, when they move and shift their weight, there’s a chance that you might capsize or flip over. 

Now, weight is not the only factor to consider. For instance, brachycephalic dogs or those with smoosh-noses like bulldogs and Shih Tzus already have difficulty in breathing. So an unexpected swim might not be safe for them. 

But this doesn’t mean you can’t take a large dog or a brachycephalic dog in kayak. You’ll just need more training and the right equipment to get them ready for paddling. 

  • Water Comfortability

You have to first figure out if your dog is comfortable in and around the water. You should also access their ability to swim and if they are comfortable wearing a personal floatation device. If all these make them anxious or nervous, you will have to take your training stage slower – and don’t forget to give them lots of treats!

  • Temperament

A dog’s temperament or personality is a great indicator of whether or not they are suitable for kayaking. While you can train them, sometimes, there’s just no going around their personality issues. For example, a dog that gets too excited or frantic during a ride can tip your kayak. The same goes for dogs that get easily distracted. For such dogs, they can be a hazard to be with while in the water. 

Now, knowing your dog’s temperament can be a challenge. But one good way to know how your dog might behave in a kayak is to observe how they are when riding a car. If they are usually relaxed throughout the trip, then they are more likely to feel comfortable in a kayak. However, if they’re already bad on the road, then you’ll probably need more time training and working it out with your dog. 

  • Discipline

Discipline is another important factor to consider about your dog. If they already respond to simple commands like “sit,” “lay down,” “stay,” and “go to your place,” then you’ll have an easier time with them while in the water. A well-trained and disciplined dog is also less likely to overturn your kayak. 

That said, if your dog still isn’t behaving on your commands alone, then they’re still not ready to go kayaking. 

2. You

Aside from your dog, you should also consider your own skills in operating a kayak, confidence in the water, and preparedness to teach and train your dog. If you’re still not competent with a kayak, then bringing your dog in with you might not be a great idea. 

You should also be willing to spend a lot of time and effort getting your dog ready to take the ride with you. While all these can be an arduous process, it will all be worth it. Because in the end, you’ll have a kayaking buddy for a very long time. 

How to Train a Dog for Kayaking

Before you can take your dog kayaking, you have to make sure that they are used to the water and to the kayak you’ll be using. While this may take a while (or not, depending on your dog), it is crucial to go through the process as it will ensure a safe and comfortable paddling experience. 

So how do you train for kayaking for dogs? Well, you can follow these steps:

1. Introduce your pup to the kayak

To help your dog feel at ease on a kayak, you should first introduce them to the kayak, itself. However, you can’t immediately put them in something that’s already floating. The unpredictable movement and rocking can spook your dog and discourage them from ever stepping in another kayak. 

What you need to do is start on land. Have your pet approach the kayak and sit in it. Of course, while praising and rewarding them with treats as they do so. You can sit with them inside while they are trying to look and sniff around. You can also have them come over and take a sit or lie down while you’re petting, praising, and giving them treats. 

All these can help teach your dog to associate the kayak with good things. 

2. Build their confidence with movement

Once your dog is used to the kayak, try to build their confidence with movement – but still on land. This will give you more control over the vessel’s movement while at the same time, helping your furry friend adjust to the feeling of being unstable.

First, you can rock the kayak while having your dog watch you. Again, while providing treats. This will help your dog to develop a good association with the rocking movement. The next step is for your dog to touch the kayak and, eventually, have them get in. Then finally, you have to teach them on and off cues that will allow them to understand that they need to wait to be told when to enter the kayak and when to jump off. Through all of these, make sure to reward them at every step.

Aside from the ground, you should also consider training with your dog on other uneven or wobbly surfaces. Have them stay in a sitting, standing, or lying down position on something unstable. This will help develop their skill of self-control as well as their confidence for motion while in the kayak. 

3. Teach your dog where to stay

Your furry friend needs a comfortable place to stay on the kayak. It’s somewhere they can sit or lie down and relax. You can use a mat, carpet, or any padding with a nonslip material on this spot to make it safer and more comfortable for your dog. This will also provide a safer footing for them. 

Now, you have to teach your dog a command, like “go to your place,” and have them associate it with them returning to their designated spot in the kayak. Once you’ve got this done, your boating experience with a dog will feel so much easier. 

4. Get your dog comfortable with your paddling and their life jacket

The final step you need to do while on land is to get them comfortable with your paddling as well as with their personal floatation device (PFD). Your dog should be able to feel at ease while you are paddling behind or in front of them. You can do this by first introducing the paddle and giving them a treat afterward. With your dog in kayak, you can then show them your paddling motion. 

As for the life jacket, it is critical that your dog feels comfortable with it and used to it before you head over to the water. To do this, have them wear it at home, while feeding them, or when you take them out for walks. Eventually, they’ll have to learn how to swim in it, too. 

5. Take it to the water

The last part of your training is to practice your dog getting in and out of the kayak while on the water. You should be the first one to enter as seeing you will encourage your dog to get on board, too. At first, your furry friend might jump out a few times – and that’s okay. This is new for them. 

You should also introduce your dog to water and everything around it, like other boats, swans, people swimming, etc. If your pup is still getting distracted, then they’re not yet ready to hit the kayak. But if they are showing self-control and discipline, and if they are comfortable in the water, then they’re good to go. 

What to Bring When Kayaking with Dog

Aside from training, you also need to bring a couple of pet supplies if you plan to take a dog on kayak journey. This will make sure you’ll both have a comfortable, safe, and easy ride. 

1. The right kayak

You want a kayak with dog-friendly features. It should be stable, durable, comfortable, and easy to get in and out of. You’ll also want to look for one with enough space for you and your pup whether they are sitting, standing, or lying down. Ideally, you should go with sit-on-top kayaks. Check out our guide of choosing kayak for Dogs

2. Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or Life Vest

Find a PFD that matches your dog’s body type and which will allow them to move freely. It should have a strong handle along the back since you’ll probably lift your dog from the water and into your kayak a lot of times. Also, try to check the attachments. Solid clips are better and more secure than Velcro. 

3. Plenty of fresh water

You’ll be surrounded by water, so you might be wondering why you still need to bring water. Well, it’s because the water you’ll be in may not be healthy for a dog to drink. So make sure to get lots of fresh water and a water bowl. Don’t forget to bring some for yourself, too. 

4. Snacks, treats, and toys

In case your dog gets bored, you can give them snacks or a toy. Treats are also important as they will help reinforce the behavior you want from your dog while riding a kayak. 

5. A leash

A leash will come in handy when your dog needs to get in and out of the water. Take note, however, that you should never tie your pup down in the kayak with a leash as it can be very dangerous in the event of a capsize.

6. A floor mat or dog bed

As mentioned, your dog needs a specific place in a kayak. To make it more comfortable, you can use a floor mat, or carpet, or even take your dog’s bed to make it more familiar to them. 

7. A towel

Bring a towel for when you need to dry off your dog.

8. Dog-friendly sunscreen

Yes, dogs can get sunburned. So to prevent that, make sure to carry dog-friendly sunscreen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Can a dog go on a kayak?

A:Yes, a dog can go on a kayak. In fact, it’s actually good to kayak with dogs. With proper training, equipment, and the right kayak, your dog will certainly have a great time, bonding and spending time with you in the water. 

Q: What kayak is best to use with a dog?

A: The best kayak to use with a dog is a sit-on-top (SOT) style kayak. It provides the most space, stability, and comfort during a ride. Plus, its open cockpit design makes it easier for your furry friend to enter and exit, especially when they decide to jump out while in the water. Ideally, it should also be a tandem kayak or a kayak that can fit two people. This is so you’ll have more space for you and your dog.

Q: How do I get my dog to stay in a kayak?

A: You can get your dog to stay in a kayak through proper training. You will need to teach your dog on and off cues, letting them understand that they need permission before they can jump off the kayak.