How to Train a Dog to Kayak
Aug 30, 2018
It’s Raining Kayaks & Dogs
- Is Your Dog Trained?
- How to Train Your Dog to Kayak
- Testing the Water
- The Perfect Ride
- Doggie Style
- Setting Sail
- One Last Thing
Your Dog and Your Kayak
We all know about mans best friend, your trusty dog, but have you ever really thought about taking your best friend out on the open water with you? We’ve all seen the videos, the skateboarding dog, the dude that takes dogs out surfing… but what about getting your pooch to sit up front on an adventure in your kayak?
Can dogs even resist the temptation to not jump in the passing water? We are about to explain why taking your dog out in your kayak is the thing that’s been missing from your already awesome life.
Before you jump right in and give ‘pooch paddling’ a go, there’s the basics you need to look into and the first is training.
Is Your Dog Trained?
Here’s the thing, we all know it, some dogs hate it, some love it and others think they love it only to jump in head first and realise they can’t swim. Having a dog that is well trained can mean the difference between a nice relaxing paddle or the most stressful time of your life. If your dog can respond well to commands, then the chances are you’re ready to take them out on the water.
With a well trained dog, all aspects of safety are covered. They are less likely to take a dive out of your kayak chasing dolphins (yes that is a dolphin below and not a shark!) and there’s no chance both of you and all your belongings are going to end up wet.
How to Train Your Dog to Kayak
If you don’t feel confident about taking your dog out in your fishing kayak, then we have a few tips on where to begin in dog training and helping them gain their sea legs.
- Make sure your dog has a good understanding of commands. Stay and sit are very important when it comes to being out on the water.
- Bring your kayak into your house or garden when your dog is playing. It’s a good idea to introduce them slowly to something that big and it helps them feel more at ease. The more they see it and interact with the kayak you use, whether it’s a touring kayak, surf kayak or even a fishing kayak, the less daunting it will become.
- Sit in the Kayak with your dog. Do this on dry land, it helps both you and your dog define what space you both need and what seating position works best. Rewarding them will help them remember this when you set out on your journey. Get them to stay in the kayak even when you get out as there might be times you need to jump out whilst your dog remains seated.
- Use dog treats to help train them to stay sitting still and remain calm. Should you find yourself in slightly choppy water, the last thing you need is a dog getting flustered. It’s always a good idea to take treats with you on your journey.
- Train your dog to be comfortable in and around water. Trips to the beach or lakes are a good way to start and little shore paddles help them to gain more confidence.
- One of the most commonly used commands whilst out in your kayak with your dog is ‘leave it’. There are so many opportunities for them to pick items up whilst on board and it’s best to make sure they are trained to ‘drop’ or ‘leave it’ as your attention will be focused on your dog and you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle.
Most of your day to day commands will be the same when out kayaking, those we have just listed are just some to keep in mind before setting off. If your dog is already well trained, then you’ll be heading out on your water adventure in no time.
Testing the Water
Like we said previously, you don’t just want to get stuck right in and go kayaking with your pooch as it could end in a less than desirable trip. So what better way to test the whole idea than in flat, shallow water.
Going for a paddle on a lake or a flat day at the beach is always far more relaxing than having to battle fast currents and is a great way to give you dog their first kayaking experience. Should they decide to jump out, it’s a lot easier to salvage the situation than on a choppy day.
Not only is this a great way to see how they react on water but it’s also a perfect way to get them familiar with your kayak. Whether it’s a sea kayak, fishing specific or just for fun, the more time they spend in the kayak the more comfortable they will become… and not just for the dog, but also for you.
Give it a try on dry land first and see if they are happy to get into the Kayak with you.
If they struggle to come around to the idea on dry land the chances are they might not want to get in whilst on water. If you are planning on heading down a river, keep to the middle. If land seems close, there could be a chance they make a jump for it.
We do think it goes without saying that the size and breed of your dog and the size of your kayak will determine whether or not this new joint adventure is going to work, for the both of you! A large dog, when excited and in an unfamiliar environment WILL capsize a kayak.
The Perfect Ride
There’s obviously something you need to think about before taking to the water… is your dog going to fit in your kayak? You don’t want to balance your best friend on your lap the entire time you are out paddling, that’s not going to be comfortable for either of you.
We also can’t imagine that your dog is going to be too happy about sitting on the bow of your kayak for the duration of your journey… even if it’s not a lengthy trip.
So, what’s the best kayak for a dog?
A few things to be considered are;
- Size - Make sure there is enough room for the both of you to be relaxed and comfortable. If you have a recreational family kayak, then you’ll need to make sure that there a decent amount of room towards the front. Like us, dogs also like to have a view of what’s going on in front.
- Stability – Having a kayak which is stable makes sense when you think about adding your four legged friend. They are probably going to move about and even if they are small, this can still cause added rocking that could end up in disaster. If you sometimes struggle to keep control of your kayak when you are on a solo mission, throwing a dog into the mix is going to be tricky.
- Weight Whilst Moving – Taking your dog with you will add extra weight to your kayak. In some cases, this may be great as it can add to the stability but if you struggle with the weight of your craft before the dog has jumped in then you may want to look into a more lightweight kayak. Flip that around though, if your kayak is quite light and you have a pretty big dog, this could end up with both of you in the water.
- Kayak Design – If you plan on taking your dog on an adventure and you currently have an inflatable kayak, just double check the material its made from. Some entry level inflatable kayaks on the market today have been made with thinner, cheaper materials and dog claws could easily penetrate through the outer layer. We don’t really need to tell you the outcome should that happen to an inflatable, do we? An inflatable kayak made from 100% drop-stitch are generally tougher, thanks to military grade PVC material being used, allowing you to take out your dog without the worry of it sinking!
If you are in the market for a new kayak and like the idea of taking Fido with you, have a little think about your dog’s behaviour and personality. If they are the type of dog that you need to keep an eye on, you may want to look at something that has extra space by your feet like the sit on top kayaks (this also means you can grab them should they start to play up) and excitable dogs have a tendency to want to get wet.
And if there'll be more than just you and one dog heading out, you may want to go for the Nereus Tandem Sit on Top Kayak, which has room for two adults and could easily fit two of your furry friends, as it has a generous 250kgs weight capacity.
Most dogs we know get pretty spoilt these days with the amount of toys and accessories, so why not invest in a dog style life jacket and dog kayak accessories. Yes, buoyancy aids for your hound do exist and just because your dog swims like a fish perfectly in the water, doesn’t mean that they are exempt from drowning. Just like most humans who can handle themselves in still water, it can be a different scenario whilst battling fast currents or choppy seas.
A life vest specially tailored for dogs will add that perfect amount of float but also has an added bonus should they jump out of the kayak at any given moment, you have something to grab hold of and pull them back in. They come in a number of different shapes and sizes, so make sure that you have a good fitting jacket.
One piece of advice we can definitely offer, similar to getting them used to being in a kayak, is to make sure they are comfortable wearing a buoyancy aid, as this new sensation could end up with one very restless and uneasy dog.
A few other items you will want to bring along include a dog lead and harness suitable for getting wet, for obvious reasons, and some water dog toys as a reward for you four legged friend for being so well behaved.
Take everything slow, no one said this was going to be easy. It’s safe to say you can’t really expect to just jump into your kayak and head out for open waters without running into some kind of problem. A good idea would be to try short trips just to get them used to being on the water and let that nervousness slowly disappear.
A dog will react very similarly to us when we first get into a kayak. It’s hard to work out why you have been stood on solid ground your whole life to then suddenly be placed in something that’s very unstable. This will take a little bit of getting used to.
Do not, at any point, tie your dog to your kayak. For the obvious reason of the kayak capsizing, you are going to want your dog to able to swim away. Being attached could mean they get stuck under the capsized boat and really start to panic. It will also make it easier for you to rectify the situation. Having an obedient dog who’s really mastered the art of sit & stay will make setting off very stress free.
Your dog will need to stay in the kayak as you push off from the shore and this usually involves wading out slightly. The most common state of play is the dog wanting to leap out of the kayak when it starts to move, especially if you are not sat with them.
Once you have mastered the dog kayaking then the ocean is your oyster. If your dog is comfortable in a kayak, they are probably going to enjoy being on a SUP (that's Stand Up Paddle board for short) too. You now have all the gear to make for a safe adventure and your four legged friend has (hopefully) really got a taste for the watersports lifestyle.
Dogs tend to be fascinated by the water moving at speed and being close enough to stare into the blue, kinda the same way you felt when you first stood up on a Surfboard or Paddle Board and looked down… that’s going to keep them entertained for a long time. Plus, let’s face it, it does look pretty awesome and they’ll never complain!!
Inflatable Stand Up Paddle boards such as the 11'6 Tour or 11' Mandala SUP Yoga are great boards to take your dog out on the water as they have extra volume and are extra buoyant, making it easy to paddle, even with bigger dogs on deck.
Now, go get out there and hit the water and we will bring the dog treats!
One Last Thing
This may seem a bit obvious, but a lot of people really overlook the importance of having a chat to your vet about your planned adventures. The main reason for this is Mosquitos. They seem to love being around large amounts of water and your dog is just as susceptible as we are to getting bitten.
They may advise for your dog to be put on heartworm medication or vaccinations should you plan on being around water for long periods of time.
We recommend running the idea by your vet as they might also be able to offer some other advice to make your trips go plain sailing.