Kayaking is a fun way to explore the great outdoors whilst floating down a river. What's even better is you can share this wonderful experience with your furry best friend. Gone are the days when you would have had to leave your best friend on the shore! Now your dog can be your trusty skipper as you navigate your local lakes. Keep reading for some helpful tips for a safe and enjoyable trip.
Introduce Your Dog to the Kayak
If you have recently received your dog-friendly kayak in the mail, then you can start to introduce it to your dog. Place the kayak in an open space, such as your yard or drive and allow your dog to naturally enquire about this new object.
Reward your pup with treats when they go near the kayak, so they build up a positive association with it. Encourage them to climb aboard the kayak and reward them with more treats. Don't force your dog onto the kayak. These should all be natural and positive movements.
If you are renting a kayak for your trip, then try and arrive at the kayak rental a little earlier. This will give you time to introduce your dog to the kayak. This may take a little bit longer as there will be lots of mental stimulation, such as animals and people, which your dog may be distracted by.
Sit-on-top, tandem, recreational kayaks are the best dog-friendly kayaks, so ask for this type at the rental hut. Don’t forget to clip your dog’s nails if using an inflatable kayak.
Practice the Commands Used During Kayaking
There are a few basic commands your dog should know before you go out onto the water. This is to safely get them in and out of the kayak and prevent them from jumping overboard.
A command for getting into their place on the kayak
I usually use the command "place" when I am asking my dog to move anywhere. You likely have a command that you use when asking your dog to jump into the car or jump onto the sofa, so you can use the same one. Other examples are "go to..." and "here."
A command for getting out of the kayak
When you arrive back at the shore, you should have a command to let your dog know they can jump off of the kayak onto the land. This is to stop them from jumping into the water when they are close to land, as there may be rocks on which they can hurt themselves. Commands such as "break," "OK," and "off" are good options.
A command for leaving other animals alone
There may be lots of distractions on the lake, such as ducks or even other dogs in kayaks. It's good to have a command to break their attention from these distractions, so they don't jump off the kayak to chase them. Commands such as "leave it" or "watch me" are good choices.
The lie-down command
When you are leaving or coming back to the shore, it's best to have your dog laying down so their center of gravity is lower and they are more balanced. This is to make them feel more secure in the kayak, so they don't jump out.
Practice Getting In and Out of the Kayak
Once you have the commands down, it's time to practice getting in and out of the kayak with your pup. Practice on dry land first so they become familiar with the sounds and movements and use lots of treats to help build their confidence and positive reinforcement.
I have found the easiest way to get in and out of the kayak with a dog is to get in it myself first and then use the "place" command to ask my dog to get into its position. I then ask them to lie down, and with my paddle, I gently push off of the shore and out into the water.
When returning to shore, I wait until the front of my kayak is on the land and stable, and then I use the "OK" command to let my dog know he can jump off of the kayak and onto the land before I get out myself.
Purchase a Dog Life Jacket
It's a good idea to use a dog life jacket, even if your dog is a confident swimmer. One reason for this is that dog life jackets have handles on them, so you can pull your dog back into the kayak if they jump out.
Another reason for a dog life jacket is to keep your dog warm whilst they are sitting on the kayak, especially if they are wet. Some dog life vests are made with neoprene which is designed to keep your pup warm.
Finally, and most importantly, a dog life jacket is necessary to keep your dog safe. You never know what could happen on the water. Your dog can only swim for so long (even if they are incredibly athletic) so a dog life jacket will keep them afloat, and the materials are usually brightly colored, which is perfect for emergencies.
Remember Potty Breaks
It's important your dog has had an opportunity to go to the bathroom before and after the kayaking trip. This will allow them to be more relaxed, so they won't be looking to jump off the kayak and find a spot to relieve themselves.
If you are planning to be out on the kayak for a long time, try to plan potty breaks into your trip. Plan somewhere safe and secure to land your kayak ahead of time, so you know a good spot for your dog to use the bathroom. Don’t forget the poop bag and other essentials.
Kayaking with your dog is a lot of fun and a great way to build your pup's confidence and strengthen your bond together. By using simple commands, having the right safety equipment, and planning ahead for potty breaks, you can ensure that your kayaking trip is safe and enjoyable for both you and your dog. Happy paddling!