Kayaking is one of the most popular water activities because kayaks allow you to explore nature. However, unlike canoeing or riding in a motorboat, you can’t just put your dog in the kayak and go. Does this mean that you can’t kayak with your dog? No! But this begs the question: How to kayak with a dog?
With some simple acclimatization and patient training, you can teach your dog to love being on your kayak and be a safe passenger.
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How to Kayak with a Dog
According to Sarah Mairs, a dog trainer at Tamsu Learning Center, anyone who’s competent with a kayak can learn how to kayak with a dog if they’re willing to teach their dog some basic skills.
Develop Confidence with the Kayak’s Movement
Mairs states you should start kayak training on land to build your dog’s confidence. If you begin in a floating kayak, it will rock and move unexpectedly during the training process, which can scare your dog and make them not trust the kayak.
Therefore, on-land training will allow you to have more control over the kayak’s movements to help your dog slowly adjust to the kayak’s instability.
The first step to learning how to kayak with a dog is to teach your dog confidence with movement. At some point, your dog will be able to hop on and off the kayak by themselves, but until they’re comfortable with the slippery, hollow, plastic surfaces, this step can be tricky.
Additionally, most dogs will want to step onto the side of your kayak, and depending on what type of kayak you have, it can move and scare them.
So, what do you do? Mairs suggests that you reward your dog with treats for watching you move the kayak back and forth in a rocking motion, and this can help teach them to associate the rocking movement with something positive.
The next step is to work toward having your dog touch the kayak, eventually learning to jump into it – reward them with a dog treat at every step! Finally, it would help to teach them on and off cues so the dog knows they should wait for an invitation before jumping on and off the kayak.
If you don’t want to train in your kayak on land, you can train on a different wobbly surface. According to Mairs, having your dog work on sit, lay down, or stand commands on an unstable surface will help build their confidence in your kayak’s movement.
How to Teach Your Dog Where to Stay on Your Kayak
Your dog will need a spot to stay on your kayak when you’re in the water. Mairs states that the size of your dog and the type of kayak you have will determine where your dog sits.
A sit-on kayak allows more space for your dog and gives them enough space to lay down and relax. When training your dog, make sure you reward them when they’re in the chosen place to reinforce that place.
However, while it would be great to have a dog that says stationary during your kayaking session, the reality is much different. Your dog might choose to shift positions or move around as you paddle along.
To make the dog kayaking experience as safe and comfortable as possible, add nonslip material and padding to give your dog safe footing and ensure a more dog friendly kayak. Mairs suggests using yoga mats for the places on the kayak where your dog is drawn to and marine traction tape around the edges of the kayak for safer exits and entries.
How to Make Your Dog Comfortable with Paddling
The last step to on-land training is to get your dog comfortable with the paddling motion. Mairs says to introduce the paddle to your dog first and pair it with a dog treat reward. Then, have your dog get on the kayak with you and start introducing them to the paddling motion, rewarding them with a dog treat as you go.
Teaching Your Dog to Be Okay With Their Life Jacket
Your dog should always wear a personal floatation device when you’re in the water – even if it’s shallow water. Find a personal floatation device that fits your dog’s body type but still allows for fluid motion from their shoulders. Mairs suggests finding a personal floatation device with strong handles and solid clasps instead of Velcro attachments.
Make sure to introduce your furry friend to the life jacket before entering the water. The best way to do this is to allow them to wear the life jacket in the house, take them for walks wearing the life jacket, feed them while they wear it, and so on until your dog is completely comfortable wearing the life jacket.
It’s also crucial that your dog learns how to swim wearing the life jacket so that they can build confidence wearing the life jacket.
Assess If Your Dog is Ready to Kayak
Before taking your dog out on the water, you must check if they possess the training and skills needed to be safe on a kayaking trip.
- Is my dog comfortable around and in water?
- Is my dog able to swim? (Keep in mind they will be wearing a life jacket)
- Will my dog be comfortable in their life jacket or personal floatation device?
- Does my dog follow basic commands, such as “lay down,” “get in your spot,” “okay,” “leave it,” and “sit”?
- Is my dog capable of ignoring distractions without jumping into the water and going after them?
If you can say yes to these questions, then your dog is ready to go into the water with you.
How to Kayak with a Dog in Water
The last thing you should do when training is introduce your dog to the kind of water life you’ll encounter on your kayak trips, such as people swimming, other boats, and geese. Mairs suggests that if your dog can’t control themselves around these distractions, they’re not ready to be taken out onto the water with you.
Once your dog can show good behavior around these distractions, they’re ready to be taken on a kayak in the water.
Look for shallow water for an entry point and beach your kayak on the shore. If you can, enlist a friend’s help to hold your kayak still while you get on it. Mairs suggests that you get comfortable first, so it’s dry. Then, invite your dog to hop in.
Because you’ve practiced on land, they should know what direction to face after jumping onto the kayak. Once you feel settled and organized, ask your friend to push you out into deeper water so you can put your on-land training to use.
What to Do If Your Dog Jumps Off the Kayak
Even the best-trained dog will get excited by something during your kayaking trip. Your dog jumping off the kayak can happen to anyone, so ensuring that they have a life jacket is crucial because it helps you pull your dog out of the water and back onto your kayak.
Here’s what to do if your dog jumps off your kayak:
- If your dog jumps without your permission, keep your voice firm but calm.
- Tell them to “get in the boat” as you start to paddle toward them.
- When you’re close to them, lift your paddle out of the water, so it doesn’t scare or hit them, then lean over to grab your dog by the handle of their life jacket and pull them onto the kayak.
- If your dog isn’t wearing a life jacket, lay down your paddle so it won’t fall into the water, then reach down and pull your dog so they’re parallel to the kayak. Keep them as calm as possible by making your voice soothing.
- Place your arm across their back and hook it under their front legs so you can get a good grip on them to bring them back into the kayak.
Once your dog is back in the kayak, praise them give them a dog treat. This is important because your dog thinks about how they just survived getting out of the water, not how they jumped off the kayak without your permission. So, make sure you reassure them that they did the right thing by coming back to you.