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How to Kayak with Your Dog (With 11 actionable Tips)

Many dog owners would like to share their hobbies with their own four-legged friends. For this reason SUP with dog on board enjoys great popularity, but the Stand Up paddlers are no nose length ahead of kayakers. With the right preparations and taking into account some safety aspects, kayaking with a dog is also possible.

Kayaking with a dog is not an easy thing. In this comprehensive guidebook we will teach you everything you need to know. From important preparations and the first meeting of dog and kayak up to your first tour together we cover many questions and give practical tips so that kayak with dog also works for you.

1. Your dog comes first

A common day on the water sounds like a great idea, admittedly. But you shouldn’t leave your dog out in the cold. The nature and personality of your dog is indeed important.

Is your dog a good swimmer? If the kayak capsizes, that’s exactly what matters. Would your dog like a trip of several hours on the water at all? After all, he is quite limited in space during this time. What about the natural waves of the water? Can your dog cope with it? As you can see, the personality of your designated kayak buddy cannot be neglected.

Many dogs are much more active than humans. They have difficulty sitting quietly in a kayak for a long time. Another problem is that your dog may feel intimidated or provoked by the kayak paddle.

We do not recommend kayaking with several dogs at first. In addition to the behaviour of the individual dogs, you must also pay attention to the dynamics of the group. The whole situation on the kayak is a completely new experience for dogs. The ground moves back and forth, drops of water splash on her fur and her master’s head gets redder and redder from time to time. The behaviour of a single dog – let alone that of several – is difficult to predict.

Hyperactive dogs can even capsize the kayak. Especially in cold water this only increases your problems. With particularly active dogs you should first play a round. A bit worn out they are in a much better condition for a kayak tour.

Some dogs are also simply not made for kayaking. Dogs that are already in the car
If you get nervous, the speed and the additional threatening movement of the paddle won’t do you any good. Some dogs generally hate water. For them a trip in a kayak constantly surrounded by water would be no fun either.

In our experience many dogs enjoy kayaking. The person who knows your dog best is you. Consequently, you are the one who can best judge whether kayaking with a dog is something for both of you.

2. Accustom your dog to the kayak

Kayaking your dog is not a project for an afternoon. Before it can go on tour together, you have to get your dog used to the sports equipment. The large plastic bowls are often completely unknown to dogs. They are large, brightly coloured and often threaten dogs.

Just put the kayak on the ground and let your dog explore it by himself. If the kayak doesn’t interest your dog in the bean, you should help him with some food. It is best to put the food on the seat so that your dog sees the seat as something positive right from the start. This uncomplicated first step will make your first tour a lot easier.

Your dog will have given up his first fear of the big plastic thing. In the next step you sit down in the boat. Take some time in the kayak. Let your dog see that you feel comfortable sitting in the kayak.

Now it’s time for your dog to find his way into the kayak on his own. Don’t just put him in, but make him want to come on his own instead. The best way is to place some treats or toys on the kayak seat.

3. Preparations before the tour

If your dog willingly jumps into the kayak standing on the ground in the garden, it doesn’t mean much per se. The truth is that there is a big difference between a standing object in a familiar environment and a floating kayak in a new area.

Training on land still helps a lot. Only in this way can your dog develop a first feeling for the kayak and lose the initial fear.

Teach your dog to always jump on the front seat and sit down immediately. Of course there is no such thing as jumping on the water, but the reflex to sit down immediately is very important for you. Only if your dog sits down quickly will you retain control of the kayak.

The duration of the training depends on your dog. Your dog’s weight also plays a decisive role. A dog weighing 20 kilograms should be able to sit down quickly and perfectly, otherwise your kayak will start to wobble later on the water.

4. The first time on the water

In the first tours you should load and unload the kayak in shallow water. In the beginning it may be easier to help your dog into the canoe first. However, many dogs are frightened when the boat swings back and forth when you climb into the kayak. It’s best to try both and see what works better for you.

Once you’re both in the boat, you shouldn’t paddle directly. It is important to take it slowly at first. If you start right away, you might scare your dog and he will jump into the water. Slowly test the limits of the four-legged friend and remind him again and again to sit down. Be patient and repeat the game until your dog feels comfortable.

The paddle is threatening to dogs. It is best if you have familiarized your four-legged friend with it beforehand. On the first tour you should wait a few minutes until you pick up the paddle. At first only glide over the water.

Watch your dog constantly and calm him down with a treat if necessary. When the situation is calm, it is time for the first slow paddle stroke. Use the paddle strokes extra slowly to give your dog time to calm down between strokes.

Keep paddling at a low pace. Now it’s time to familiarize your dog with the feeling of speed. During this phase it becomes even more important to teach your dog to sit still. The whole situation is very demanding for your dog. A lot of new experience is pelting in on him. So give him time.

On the first tours you should take it slowly. Before each trip on the water the loading and unloading is practiced in shallow water. In the beginning the trips on the water should be very short with only 5 minutes. The background to this is that you want to get your dog used to kayaking without him fearing not to return.

5. The first tour

Your dog has already gained confidence in the kayak on your first short trips to the lake. Now is the time to start a longer tour. The tricks that helped with the first short trips on the water will also work here again.

Did the treats help? Then take some with you again. Or was it a certain dog toy or the dog bed? All these little things help to make your dog as comfortable as possible on the kayak.

On a kayak tour you will meet other water sports enthusiasts, anglers, birds, fish and other dogs barking from the shore. You know best what bothers your dog and how he is likely to react. In the best case, you can cleverly avoid everything your dog jumps at. If this is not possible, you should keep a sharp eye on your four-legged friend. Warnings or another treat can help to keep your dog calm.

Dogs that react particularly excited as soon as they see other dogs are likely to do so on the water. Try to sensitize your dog to this. If you go to dog parks with him more often, he will get used to it and your dog will not jump from the kayak when barking for the first time.

6. The best kayaks for paddling together with dogs

The choice of a suitable kayak depends strongly on your dog. A larger animal also requires a larger boat. In most cases a tandem kayak will do. Sit-on-top kayaks are the most suitable in terms of design. This type offers your dog enough space to move around.

You should always sit your dog in front of you. This way you have him in view and the back seated kayaker can steer the boat better anyway. For a particularly active animal, two seats close to each other are handy because they make it easier to calm your dog down.

The inflatable kayak should also have storage space for your equipment. Unlike normal kayaking, kayaking with dogs requires additional equipment.

7. A dog lifejacket is mandatory

Many dog owners spontaneously think that their dog can swim. This is basically correct, but it can always come to emergency situations, in which a dog life jacket becomes a life saver. Completely independent of how well your dog can swim, a dog lifejacket should be put on.

In the (unlikely) event that the boat capsizes, the lifejacket is especially practical because you can pull the dog out of the water.

8. Pack a dog key

When touring in fresh water, your dog may drink the water, but in fact the kayak is too high above the water, so it is not possible for your dog to reach the water.  It is best to take your dog’s bowl with you to skim off some water and serve it on the deck of the kayak. Nervous dogs tend to drink little. So encourage your dog to drink by regularly bringing up new water.

9. (Water) toys and the dog bed must not be missing either.

With toys and your own dog bed you help your dog to make himself comfortable. The toys you bring with you are practical because you can use them to keep your dog busy during breaks. At best, you’ll power it up so that it stays calm during the next part of the tour while you’re paddling.

10. Pack a leash

Your dog won’t stay on a leash in a kayak. However, a dog leash is useful for breaks. The leash does not take up much space or weigh much and can therefore easily be stowed in a dry bag.

11. Make sure you’ve got enough food

A large sealable bag of dog food is mandatory for longer tours. Plans are not carved in stone. Even if you only reckon with a short round, this is how short trips turn into real adventures. The last thing you want on half your trip is a hungry dog sitting right next to you.


Kayaking with a dog requires a certain amount of preparation. Once the training phase is over, it can really start and the fun begins.

With all the focus on the dog, you should not lose sight of your own safety. Wearing a life jacket is also essential when kayaking with a dog.

If the kayak should capsize, you will quickly have the problem with a dog on board that your dog wants to swim to the next shore. At the same time you have to keep yourself afloat and somehow turn the kayak around again. If you wear a lifejacket, at least you don’t have to worry about your buoyancy and you can take care of your dog and the kayak instead.

Under no circumstances should you put the leash on your dog and tie it to the boat. In an emergency, the dog leash could become a deadly trap for your dog.

Talk to the vet about your plan. Before you start planning the training and the first tour, the doctor should give you the green light. Additional vaccinations against certain worm species may be required.







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