I can’t think of many things more enjoyable than paddling with your pooch. You, the water and your best friend, what else can beat that? Not to mention he’ll never complain of the rain, he’ll play with you ashore and cuddle with you in your tent at night. Pooch paddling does require some preparation to make sure your best buddy will have as good a time as you.
Training: A lack of training is directly related to safety issues for all involved, even on calm waters. As you probably already know, some dogs are great around water and others not so much. Some dogs will avidly splish-splash and swim as soon as they see water. Some dogs avoid water at all costs. This is very important: If your dog doesn’t consistently follow commands unerringly, they aren’t ready for the water! Be patient and consistent in your training efforts and allow your dog to get plenty of out-of-the water exposure to your kayak or canoe. This can really help even the most hydrophobic hounds enjoy boating with you.
Poop!: Yes, it can be a challenge to find a place for your dog to do his business mid-paddle. This is why a well trained dog with good recall will help a lot. Just like any other command, training your dog to poop on command can be learned. Please follow Leave No Trace just for yourself. This means carry and bury or pack it out. If you choose to bury, make sure you take your dogs poop at least 200+ feet from the water, camp and trails. Be sure to bury it at least 6 – 8 inches deep. If you’d rather pack it, then bag it and take it. Sometimes accidental punctures happen, so it may be a good idea to have a dedicated plastic container to place full poop bags in.
Commands: DO NOT ever let a dog get on board any boat until you’ve given the command. Use something along the lines of “Up We Go” or another appropriate command. Keep it consistent so the dog knows exactly what you’re asking to do. The same goes for exiting. Often when approaching land, your pooch will get excited and start looking for critters to chase, etc. Once you’ve given the command that it’s okay to jump off the boat, make sure to also command your dog to stay close until you’ve disembarked. You don’t want your pup running off into the bushes while you’re still in your boat. In rough waters, sometimes your dog will get anxious and a good command would be to say “Lay down, It’s all good” with a smile. This helps keep your doggie calm.
Breeds: The ideal breed size is 30 to 50 pounds for a canoe, perhaps a bit more for a stable kayak. Big dogs are great for protection, but they can also capsize a canoe or yak if they get excited. Consider the temperament of your breed and individual dog. An excited dog can get you into trouble fast! If your dog is excited by animal encounters, the roar of rapids or weather, it can turn a minor situation into a major situation. It’s definitely best if you introduce your dog to kayaking and canoeing when it’s a puppy. Certain breeds are especially well suited for water travels: Labrador Retriever, Husky and the Nova Scotia Duck Toller. When introduced young, these dogs can really relax and enjoy the ride. Unless its a transparent kayak then your dog can get anxious. Just as an aside, dogs are good to have along when boating, as they serve as early warning systems, picking up on sounds and smells way before we do.
Essential Gear: Get a lifejacket that fits your dog snugly. Bring a leash to keep your puppy safe once on land. If you’re going out on salt water, make sure to bring a bowl and fresh water. If you’re camping overnight, make sure to bring food and a bowl.
Toys aren’t’ really necessary because the great outdoors is the Toy of The Century! If you’re going to be out for more than 1 day, definitely bring along some peroxide or Neosporin in case your dogs feet get sore or cut.
Boats: Kayaks that have a padded traction deck are ideal for dogs. They’ll go sliding right off a hard plastic surface. Stand up paddleboards are ideal but there are also many kayaks on the market today that have a traction deck meant for stand up and fly fishing. You can see a review of some popular brands here some of which have models that have a traction deck. In rapids, squeeze your knees around your dog’s hind quarters while he sits on deck. Adding closed cell foam wherever you can on whatever boat you have helps incredibly. A good idea is to use VHB tape, which is a Very High Bond double stick tape. 3M makes a VHB tape that’s excellent, but they advertise it as a rivet and screw replacement.