There is a lot to think about before you head out on the water with your dog, so before you decide to go kayaking with your fur friend – read the tips below to see if what you can do to make the experience better, safer and more fun for both of you. It is always best to be properly prepared and to know what you are getting into.
1. Choose the Right Kayak
Buy or rent a kayak that fits both your needs and the needs of your dog. There are kayaks made for two paddlers and those made for one, so always consider if you will be going out alone or if you will be accompanied by a friend or family member, as this will make the choice easier.
You should also look for a wider kayak as this will offer better stability, especially if you have a larger dog, and you need to make sure there is enough extra room both for the dog to lie down comfortably and for your gear.
2. Take it Slow
Do not rush when preparing to go out on the water. Take a few days to get your dog comfortable with water, by taking them to play on the beach or by a lake. If they are not too convinced, see if you can get someone else to come along with their water-loving dog, as dogs will sometimes copy the behavior of other canines.
Also, leave the kayak out for a day or two and practice getting into it by using treats and plenty of praise and appreciation. Never force your dog to do anything they don’t want to do.
3. Avoid Hot Weather
It can get steamy out there on the open water, so avoid going kayaking on days when it is too hot. You may be on the water, but that does not help against overheating and heatstroke – both potentially life-threatening conditions for a dog. Instead, save kayaking for a cloudy day or for days with lower temperatures.
4. Pack Adequately
Bringing snacks for you and your dog is always a good idea, as you might get hungry while out there! Bring a first-aid kit for accidents, a dog drying towel, plenty of water and a leash, and pack everything that you don’t want getting wet in a dry-bag, in case some water comes into the kayak.
5. Wear Life Jackets
Going out on the water without a life jacket can be dangerous, as you never know what might happen or go wrong when you are out in the wild. You and your dog could be the best swimmers in the world, but you should still both be wearing safety vests when out kayaking. Get a fitted and comfortable life jacket for your dog and one for you and avoid taking any unnecessary risks.
6. Bring a Chew Toy
Some dogs love just looking out over the water, but it can also get boring. Bring your dog’s favorite chew toy or a long-lasting snack for if he or she starts getting restless and let them have their fun while you paddle the kayak across the open water.
7. Take Breaks
If you are going for a longer kayaking trip, take breaks every 20-30 minutes where your dog gets to stretch its legs. Dogs aren’t quite like us, and they could need leg-stretchers more often than we do. Take a short break, let the dog run around or play a few rounds of fetch, let him or her do their business, offer freshwater and then get back on the kayak for the next leg of the trip.
8. Consider Your Dog’s Personality
Consider if your dog is truly suited for being on a kayak, to avoid causing unnecessary stress and discomfort. A very hyperactive dog might struggle to stay still while on the water, and a dog that is afraid of water is likely to hate the whole experience. If kayaking isn’t right for your dog – neither of you will have fun out there.
9. Reward Good Behavior
Bring plenty of delicious snacks to reward your dog with if he or she acts as expected, as this will make it more enjoyable for your furry friend. You might want to avoid feeding snacks when out on the kayak, especially if your pup tends to get very excited and possibly fall off or tip you over. If so, feed the snacks during your breaks instead.
10. Keep it Fun for Everyone
Being out in nature should be a relaxing and therapeutic experience, and the second you feel it is starting to become something else – abort the mission and head out another day instead. If your dog is restless or not complying, perhaps he or she just isn’t in the mood. Never force your dog to get into a kayak or to go out on the water before they are ready, as this could cause permanent trauma and reluctance to trying it again.