If you love your dog and you love to kayak or canoe, you might want to try bringing your dog out in the boat with you. Before you do, though, you should take precautions to ensure your dog doesn’t get injured or become uncomfortable.

Help Your Dog Adjust to the Canoe or Kayak

First consider your dog’s temperament and personality. Not every dog likes the water, and some dogs are afraid of it. Start by taking your dog to a lake or river just to test the waters, so to speak, and see if he’s interested in it.

Then get your dog used to your boat. Canoes and kayaks make a lot of noise, so you just want your dog to get used to the different sounds yours makes and the motion of the paddle. It’s a good idea to do a slow introduction. Also consider your dog’s size in relation to the boat. Canoes are wider and have some space to move around, but kayak cockpits are smaller and just designed for one.

Beyond the Canoe and Kayak: Your Dog’s Equipment Checklist

Once you’re ready for water, make sure your pup is outfitted for safety. Here’s what you need:

  • Personal flotation device: Definitely invest in a personal flotation device (PFD) for dogs. This is similar to what any person would wear in a kayak. It’s great to have your dog out there swimming around, but it can be dangerous if your dog tires or if the canoe or kayak flips and causes injury. The PFD fits your dog like a vest and buckles around the chest and neck. It has a little handle in the back so you can hoist your dog back into the boat after he goes swimming. Try it out to make sure it fits your dog well, just like you would with your own life vest.

  • First-aid kit: A first-aid kit is important, no matter what you’re doing outdoors. 

  • Leash: You should always bring a leash, even if you don’t want to use it. It’s a good idea because you’re probably not going to be the only one there, and you need to be in control of your dog at all times. Never tie your dog into the boat, though. In the event that the boat capsizes or in the worst case sinks, your pet could sink with the boat.

  • Refreshments: Bring a collapsible water bowl and treats.

Watch your pet's signals carefully when swimming, if your dog approaches the boat and stays there, or tries to climb in or push up against you - he may need a break.

Just remember: Kayaking with your dog is supposed to be fun! If you take your dog out and it seems like he’s not enjoying it, then maybe you should leave your dog at home. It’s not going to be for every dog, just like it’s not for every person. But like most things, it’s more fun when your dog is with you.