How to Canoe and Kayak with Your Dog

dog in canoe
Gryphon is ready for his next canoe excursion

“Vermont Paddle Pups” 13 Tips for Canoeing with Your Dog

Sheila and Duncan Goss paddle with their two pups, Gryphon and Edgar, often—up to 130 days a year in northern New England where they live.

On their Vermont Paddle Pups website, they offer lots of recommendations they’ve found to work great when taking their dogs along in the canoe or kayak.

Here’s a synopsis of their article: Canine Canoeing: Our Tips for Successful Dog Paddling! (you can read the full article here):

1. A dog that happily rides in a car will likely be a good candidate for paddling.

2. Start with a stable, family-friendly canoe. A non-aluminum boat is best, since aluminum is both noisy and can get very hot.

3. Lay a covering down on the floor so your dog feels stable. Outdoor carpeting is perfect for canoes, and they’ve found the adhesive “Punt Surf” traction mat (designed for SUPs) works well in kayaks.

Sheila Goss with her canoe partner, Edgar
Sheila Goss with her canoe partner, Edgar

4. Be confident with your own canoe/kayak skills before getting your dog acclimated to paddling. Choose quiet, calm water with an easy launch site for your first few trips out.

5. In the beginning, the fewer the distractions from other people, boats and dogs, the better!

6. Even if your dog loves to swim, have it wear a dog life jacket. It helps provide warmth in cold water, has a handle to help you lift, and is brightly colored so other boaters will see it in the water.

7. Train your dog well first—the basics of come, sit, stay, down, etc. And work on these skills in the boat on dry land before launching on the water. The Goss’s dogs started by sitting in back just in front of the stern paddler for better control. Once they had the idea, they “graduated” to their own spot in the boat.

8. Practice paddling etiquette—don’t allow your dog to bark! Not only will it annoy other boaters, but it’ll harass any local wildlife.

9. Have a standard routine for your dog when getting in and out of the boat, and make sure it knows you’re in charge.

Duncan Goss and Edgar in the kayak
Duncan Goss and Edgar in the kayak

10. Keep a short leash with you, both for getting to your launch site and while in the boat—although don’t leash your dog to the boat. The Goss’s like the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash. (Ruffwear also sells dog PFDs)

11. Keep drinking water and bowls for your pups in the boat. Drinking lake water from the boat can be hazardous for your stability!

12. Keep first aid supplies for your dog in your first aid kit, in case you come across broken glass and other hazards on the shore.

13. Start with short trips and move up to longer ones as your dog acclimates to the paddling experience. And have fun!

Those are great tips from some paddling pup pros. Follow these recommendations and everyone will have a fun and safe paddle.

The Goss Family out in the canoe
The Goss Family out in the canoe

(Thanks to Sheila and Duncan for their tips and great photos!)

Tips from Our Instagram Followers

Many of our Instagram followers were generous with their advice, too. Here’s what they had to say about paddling with your dog(s):

Matt Vaughn kayaks with his pooch, Camille. His advice is:

  • Have patience—it can take time for them to get used to the new experience of being on the water.
  • Have a spot that is theirs—just like in your house they have a spot that they can go to be comfortable, give them the same consideration on a kayak or boat.
  • Start on calm water—most animals don't enjoy rapid changes to their environment. Avoid heavy rapids, they won't enjoy them, which in turns means you won't enjoy them.
  • Give your pet a life jacket or "boat coat”—just like you would for your children.
  • A snack for your pet is always a good way to distract them and help get them used to floating.
Matt Vaughn and Camille on a Missouri river
Matt Vaughn and Camille on a Missouri river

Damian Privitera canoes with his dog, Miley, in Connecticut. His top tips include:

Try to tire your dog out a bit before going paddling, either with a trip to a dog park or a brisk walk.
Get your dog comfortable in the boat on land before trying to go out on the water.

damien privitera canoeing with his dog Miley
Damian Privitera and Miley canoeing in Connecticut (photo courtesy of Evan Perkoski)

Ryan Bryer canoes with his dog, Rambo. Ryan’s advice is to bring a towel for the boat so your dog has his spot. And an umbrella makes shade available for it on hot sunny days.

ryan bryer canoes with his dog Rambo
Ryan Bryer’s dog, Rambo, ready for a canoe ride in North Carolina

Caleb Proctor paddles with two dogs, Belle and Bailey. He also had some great tips:

  • Have a towel for your pup to lay on, kayaks get hot.
  • Always have clean water and water bowl in your kayak or canoe.
  • Never leash them to the kayak, it’s best for the dog to have freedom to move and it’s much safer for them if something happens.
  • When fishing be extra mindful of what you and your dog are doing, especially when landing a fish. I have taken a couple baths from both my dog and myself leaning too hard in one direction!
  • And finally just remember to have fun. It can be a stressful situation when first getting your pet used to being in a kayak, but with patience you’ll have a faithful paddling buddy in no time.

We sure appreciate everyone’s tips on paddling with your dog! Thanks to all of you who contributed.

Do you have paddle questions for our helpful Customer Service team? They’d love to answer them for you! Contact them today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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