Top Tips for Kayaking with Your Dog

You love dogs and love kayaking, so why not combine the two? There’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than kayaking with your dog.


You love dogs and love kayaking, so why not combine the two? There’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than kayaking with your dog. It takes time to introduce your dog to the joys of exploring nature out on the water, but with a little bit of know-how, your dog can learn to love kayaking while remaining a safe passenger. Read on to learn more about how you can set yourself up for years of fun on the water kayaking with your dog!


Life jacket. There are tons of specialized personal flotation devices (PFDs) for all shapes and sizes of dogs nowadays. Look for features like a strong handle optimally positioned to lift dogs out of the water, a leash clip-in point, and bright colors with reflective trims to boost visibility.

First aid kit. Bandages, gauze, vet wrap, tweezers, a topical antiseptic, and antihistamines are all first aid kit essentials. Booties can also protect your dog’s pads from riverbeds and help hold bandages in place in the event of an injury.

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Fresh water. Dehydration can quickly become life-threatening. Even though you’re surrounded by water, lakes or rivers are sources of harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause profuse diarrhea and vomiting. So, be sure to bring plenty of water, a collapsible bowl will come in handy too!

Treats. Having high-value, tasty dog treats on hand is important. Positive reinforcement builds confidence and ingrains behaviors better than punishment. The more you reward good behavior, the more your dog will offer them!

Leash. Never tie your dog down in a boat when kayaking with your dog, but a leash is very handy and often legally required once ashore.

A floor mat. Your dog doesn’t like to sit on hard plastic any more than you do — put something down on the floor of your kayak to keep your friend comfortable.

Dog toys. Toys can keep them entertained and help them work through bouts of nervousness. Floating toys are easy to retrieve if your dog drops them in the water.

Poop bags. Sh*t happens, and when it does, you’ll need to clean up after your dog. Neglecting to do so can lead to dogs being banned from public lakes and the like, so don’t ruin the fun for everyone.


Practice swimming. Introduce your dog to their life jacket with positive reinforcement, and have them practice swimming in it (perfect opportunity for a game of fetch in the water). A dog that’s comfortable swimming can return to the kayak on their own and are more likely to remain calm as you scoop them back in.

Introducing the kayak. Start on dry land first. Encourage your dog to investigate the kayak and reward them with treats to build confidence. Sit in the kayak and throw treats inside the boat too, so they can get used to jumping in the kayak and the way it rocks. The goal is to develop positive associations, you want them to think of your kayak as the place where good things happen!

Green Perception Hangtime 11.0 Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayak

Teach cues for kayaking. Your dog needs to reliably respond to “sit/stay/lay down/leave it” to remain safe ashore and on the water. Start there first if your dog hasn’t mastered these simple cues. You’ll also want to teach your dog a few cues that you only use when kayaking. For example, “load/unload” for launching and exiting on the water, and “get in your spot” when you need your dog to quietly rest on their mat when things get a little rough on the water. Remember, practice makes perfect. Keep your sessions short and fun, no more than 10 minutes, and repeat these sessions until your dog gets the hang of things. If you’re struggling to teach your dog these cues and behaviors, reach out to an accredited positive reinforcement trainer for help.

Develop a boating routine. Keeping things predictable will make kayaking with your dog a seamless experience. So, when launching your kayak, cue your dog to jump in first and then follow. Do the reverse once you’re back ashore, exit the kayak, cue your dog, and leash them.

Practice on the water. It’s time to put your training to the test! Start with shorter trips on calm waters with few distractions at first, avoiding busy weekend beaches. Kayaking with your dog is supposed to be fun! If your dog isn’t enjoying being out on the water, then maybe you should leave your dog at home. Kayaking isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for every dog either. But like most things in life, it’s more fun when your dog is with you.


What to do if your dog jumps ship. Waterfowl and even floating branches can lead even the best-trained dogs to temptation. So, having a life jacket for your canine companion is critical as it significantly helps pull your dog back into the kayak and gives you extra time to come to their rescue if needed.

What to do if you tip over. Capsizing can happen to even the most seasoned paddler when kayaking with your dog. If you unexpectedly end up in the water, remember these five tips:

  1. Find your dog and hold them close.
  2. Calmly swim back towards your kayak with your dog.
  3. Get your kayak set back up again — flip it and put your paddle back in.
  4. Get your dog in the kayak — put their paws on the boat and push them in.
  5. Once your dog is secure, you can pull yourself into the kayak.

* If your dog is too anxious, or if you find it easier, you can enter the kayak yourself first and then pull your dog up by the handle on their life jacket.


Blue Perception Hangtime 11.0 Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayak

If you happen to capture your furry friend enjoying the waters on your kayak, be sure to tag us on social media! You can find Pelican (@mypelican) and Wilderness Systems (@wildernesssystems) on Instagram.