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How to kayak with your dog

Updated: May 13, 2019

Dogs are awesome, and kayaking is fun. So here's a tongue in cheek guide to combine the two.

My dog © all rights reserved

Step 1: Have a dog


If you’ve got a dog, move to step 2. If you hate them, get off my blog. If you need one:

  • They come in many varieties, but the bigger the dog the bigger kayak required. However, owning a dog is a big responsibility.

  • If you cannot commit to their 10-15 year life span, then don’t get one! It just makes you a swine for sentencing them to a life of misery in shelters, and euthanasia.

  • Instead, ask a friend to borrow their pal, or set up a dog walking service with dogs who like water.

1. photo credit: joanne clifford The Thinker via photopin (license) 2. photo credit: Bennilover Benni, waiting for Kerri and Don via photopin (license)

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Step 2: Get a kayak


You can buy, borrow or steal a kayak. However, you should know that you will upset the owner by thieving, and that you will incur instant bad karma. And I hope that karma results in you hitting the first tree stump as you paddle, and being swept off by the current to the waiting police officers.



Step 3: Get the gear

‘You will capsize at least once.’

There’s lots of gear out there, but you just need a paddle and a life jacket. And think about a jacket for your dog if they tend to sink.

You will capsize at least once. Either by hitting a stump or wave. An Olympic swimmer could get away without a jacket, because they’re used to post-training ice baths, so falling down into the murky frigid depths of a river won’t faze them. Neither will being pulled out to sea, because they can swim the miles back to shore. But for everyone else, wear one. Mainly because you need to be able to help your dog back on the boat and get them safely to shore.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplashs

Step 4: Be able to kayak.

photo credit: byronv2 Winter Canoeing 01 via photopin (license)
‘If you are going in circles you are doing it wrong.’

It’s not rocket science. You sit in the kayak and you paddle. Don’t race, you need to build up your muscles. Put your hands equal distance apart on the paddle, the width of your shoulders. Keep your core centred and lean into the strokes with your arms. If your back is twinging then you’re not using you core. If the kayak turns the wrong way, paddle more on the other side. You’ll find you need to straighten out the path of your kayak as you paddle, that’s normal. If you are going in circles you are doing it wrong.

Step 5: Familiarise your dog with the water & kayak


If your dog loves water, they’ll be rearing to go. But for the timid dog, you might as well ask them to leap off a cliff. So:

A mixed breed cattle dog paddles in a small canyon stream.photo credit: FotoGrazio Open-mouthed Dog Paddle via photopin (license)
  1. Build a strong relationship based on trust. You wouldn’t just grab a strange kid and dump them on a kayak? So don’t do it to a dog.

  2. Let your furry pal get used to wading in the water. It might take a few weeks but it will happen.

  3. Let them sniff the kayak on dry ground.

  4. Finally, paddle the kayak on your own, with your dog following along the bank.

  5. Do it in a dog friendly waterway, otherwise you’ll need money to pay the trespassing fines.

Step 6: Take you dog for a paddle

‘“King of the world!”  Now she is my very own sea dog.’
My dog, King of the world © all rights reserved).

At first my dog was more afraid of being left behind than riding on the kayak. She’d jump on and be too scared to jump off. It took a while, but eventually she relaxed and sat up front, ‘King of the world!’ Now she is my very own sea dog. 

Tips that helped:

  • Lots of pats and encouragement

  • No rocking the boat.

  • Rebalance the kayak as needed. My dog tends to lean to one side so I have to put my leg out the other side.

  • Let your dog get off for a break and a sniff.

  • More pats.

If all else fails, you could just drug your dog into a coma to get them on the boat. But that’s animal cruelty & defeats the point, so don’t do that.


photo credit: Eric@focus Les Vacances de Monsieur … via photopin (license)

Serious kayaking with dogs links:


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