Canoe Camping with Your Dog

 dog at canoe campsite
(photo courtesy of @rjwyllie)


Branches ProStaffer Careena Belnap, of Alexis Outdoors, writes in her article, Tips and Tricks for Camping with a Dog:

“Everyone posts those epic adventure dog pics—the dog wrapped in the sleeping bag atop a mountain, the mid-run action shot on the trail, ears flowing in the wind. You know the ones.

“But no one talks about the chewed up tent, popped sleeping pad, how everything smells like wet, stinky dog, enough shedded fur in the tent to insulate a whole new sleeping bag, and all the extra things you need to carry along (or make the dog carry) and prepare for!”

So let’s go over a few tips for a successful canoe camping adventure for both you and your dog:

Get Your Dog’s Canoe Skills Down First

Don’t wait until the day you leave on a multi-day trip to introduce your pooch to canoeing!

You want a well-behaved companion with you that’s already comfortable being in the canoe and on the water.

  • Here are a few tips to make canoeing successful for both of you:
  • Train your dog well, with basic obedience commands well in hand.
  • Lay down a covering on the canoe floor so your dog won’t slip and slide. Outdoor carpet or other weather-proof material works great.
  • Canoe with your dog in calm water with an easy launch for short paddles a few times before venturing out for several days.
  • Give your dog its own spot in the canoe

For a lot more tips, read: How to Canoe and Kayak with Your Dog.

canoe camping with your dog
(photo courtesy of Nathaniel Corum

Pre-Canoe Trip Preparations

Careena shares some things she does when she and her husband bring their dog, Grizz, along canoe camping:

First, keep its nails cut and filed smooth. You don’t want it puncturing holes in your tent floor or sleeping mats. Short, smooth claws equals peace of mind.

Next, if your dog is the shedding kind, give it a thorough brushing before you head out. It won’t completely stop the shedding, but may help. Bring your dog its own towel so you can rub off the dirt, mud and wet before bringing it into your tent.

Dogs like to work, so invest in its own well-fitting pack. Your dog can carry its food on the portages.

Careena has a great tip for that:

“I measure out Grizz's food before the trip and pack it into two ziplock bags, one for each side of his pack, then then use them evenly throughout the trip so that his pack doesn't get lopsided and uncomfortable for him.”

A collapsible silicon bowl is perfect for its food bowl at your campsites.

Don’t forget a PFD for your dog. Even if it’s a strong swimmer:

  • A PFD will add warmth in cold water or a cold day…
  • It’ll have a handle on top for easy grabbing…
  • Even strong swimmers tire in harsh conditions if you end up in an emergency situation.

Your Dog and the Bugs

If the bugs are really bad where you’re going (for example, black fly season in the Boundary Waters) you’ll do your dog a favor by leaving it home.

If you choose to bring your pup along during bug season, have some kind of screened shelter it can escape to in your campsite, since you can’t provide it with a face screen, DEET or a swatter. Set it up as soon as you get to your site and your dog will thank you.

Canoe Camping Dog Etiquette

Unless you’ll always canoe camp alone and in remote areas where no one else goes, you’ll need to train your dog well and know some basic etiquette:

  • Don’t allow it to bark obnoxiously at other dogs, people or the local wildlife.
  • Keep it on-leash at portages and launches if other people—and especially other dogs—are around, even if your dog is well-behaved.
  • Pick up after it around the campsites and portages so the next folks to stay there don’t have to deal with dog poo (or bury it according to Leave No Trace principles).
dog ready for canoe camping
(photo courtesy of Vermont Paddle Pups)


Kevin Callan of The Happy Camper has a thorough video about canoe camping with your dog, too. You can see it here (it’s quite entertaining!).

He always brings along:

  • A dog whistle (with training) so he’s not shouting through the woods…
  • Bell for the collar so he knows where his dog is at the campsites…
  • First Aid kit for the dog—your vet can help you create this.

We hope you have lots of fun adventures canoe camping with your dog! When you do, let us know about it. Post photos and comments on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Do you have more questions about canoe paddles? Get in touch with our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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