How to Kayak & SUP with Your Dog

dog in a kayak(photo courtesy of @fieldstoferries)

We can tell a lot of you love to kayak, canoe, packraft and paddleboard with your dogs—we see so many of our 4-legged friends in your social posts!

If you haven’t tried taking your dog along with you yet, but have wanted to try, we’ve collected some tips that’ll help you:

Be Patient

Training your dog to be on the water with you in your boat takes the same amount of patience as training it to do anything else. And maybe more so.

Don’t wait until the day you’re ready to leave on a day-long trip to introduce your pup to paddling with you. Work on it gradually until it’s comfortable with the whole process.

Work on Their Overall Obedience First

Andrew Holland (@fieldstoferries) adopted his dog, Jasper, from a Texas rescue. Andrew was keen on training Jasper to be a paddle dog, and knew he needed to work on basic obedience first.

Andrew says, “Start with good obedience training. Sit, Up, Place, Wait, Okay/Release are helpful cues to keep them calm in new situations. Teach your dog to love the water. Let them swim as much or as little as they like and always make it a fun experience (never toss them in!).”

dog napping in kayak(photo courtesy of @lizkrupka)

Start on Land

Introduce your dog to the boat you’ll be on together while it’s sitting on dry ground. One thing at a time!

Candace produced this video of how she trained her service dog, Remus, to get comfortable in her kayak, starting on land. Take a look here.

And here’s another video, this time from Chelsey, a dog trainer with Pawsitive Futures. Here she shows us how she trained her husky to get comfortable in a canoe, starting on land. Watch it here.

Be Generous with the Treats

You’ll notice from both those videos that treats play a major role in associating the kayak or canoe with a positive experience.

Use a generous amount of your dog’s favorite treat both in training and in your first few times on the water to reinforce their good behavior.

dog in a packraft
(photo courtesy of @jill.sessa)

Keep Your First Few Paddles Short Ones

Once your dog does great with your kayak, canoe or SUP on the ground, try a few short paddles near shore.

Andrew Holland recommends: “Begin with short trips near the shoreline on flat, calm water. Feed treats, give lots of praise—keep it lighthearted and fun!”

Instagram follower, @ovkbf tells us: “With my pug on board I bring her doggy bed and she knows where to go. That's her safe space.”

If your dog doesn’t like the water, it may take you longer to get it comfortable in your boat. Instagram follower, Kelly Hogue, shared this: “my GSD would rather be in the boat with me instead of in the water so that helps!”

On the other hand, if your dog loves to swim, your battle may be keeping it in your boat and out of the water!

Here’s another video from Pawsitive Futures, this time taking their dogs on paddleboards for the first time.

dog on paddleboard
(photo courtesy of Dara W.)

Keep Them (and you) Safe

First, invest in a quality canine PFD, or life jacket, even if your dog is a great swimmer. It’s not worth the risk to you or your dog to have safety compromised. Having a sturdy handle on top is a huge plus, too, especially if it needs help getting onboard…or back onboard after an unexpected plunge.

Next, Facebook follower Lisa Gove suggests: “Use either a yoga mat or a rug on your kayak so they can lay down and not slide everywhere.”

A boat on the water is unstable enough. Using a mat ensures your dog will have safe, secure footing.

Let Them Run Off Their Energy First

If your dog is high energy or gets too excited, take it for a long walk or run before trying it in or on your watercraft. Or give it some swim time before you launch. When your dog is tired and ready to relax, then load up and push off.

Have Fun!

As Instagram follower, @1lski says: “My best advice would be to bring them whenever you can!”

Have questions about choosing a paddle? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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