How To Go Kayaking With Your Dog

How To Go Kayaking With Your Dog

You may have wondered about taking your dog on your kayak with you. But what exactly do you need for this? This article will break down what you need to know about your dog, the kayak, the equipment, the commands, and the procedures necessary to go kayaking with dogs.

If you are going kayaking with your dog, know its:

  • Breed – To determine your dog’s behavior, and also the type of kayak you may need to use,
  • Size – the best performance capacity of your kayak is 65 percent of the maximum weight capacity, so plan accordingly,
  • Temperament – know if your dog gets nervous around water, can swim, and how well it can adapt to situations, and
  • Ability to obey commands – if you have a good working relationship with your dog.

If your dog isn’t comfortable around water, has a tendency to get out of control, or can not adapt well to new situations, don’t take them out on a kayak.

kayaking with my dog

What Type of Kayak Should I Use?

There are a few basic kayak types you might want to consider:

  • Sit-On-Top Kayaks,
  • Sit-Inside Kayaks,
  • Inflatable Kayaks, and
  • Tandem Kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks are accessible for beginners. They, and specialty kayaks like fishing kayaks, are designed for stability, and generally have more room for your dog.

Sit-inside kayaks keep your dog in a more fixed position. If your dog is not the out-and-about type, a sitinside kayak may suit it better.

Inflatable kayaks are lightweight and allow for the extra combined weight of you and your dog. Since the skin of most inflatables is made of rubber and PVC, you may not have to worry so much about punctures — but always use your best judgement.

Tandem kayaks are designed for two people, or in this case, you and your dog. They have enough room for your dog to sit, lie down, or walk around.

Where Should I Kayak?

When starting out, you should generally kayak in calm lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. Whitewater rafting or rapids will likely frighten your dog and put it in danger.

Always take the rear position to your dog in a kayak, to keep an eye on it.

How Do I Get My Dog Accustomed To A Kayak?

kayaking with a dog

You should introduce your dog to your kayak in a neutral place, like a park or in your backyard. Get inside the kayak and have your dog approach the bow. Use commands like “Get In Your Spot!” to have your dog take the spot in front you. Use “Sit!” and “Stay!” to keep your dog in one place inside the kayak, and “Okay!” to get your dog to leave the kayak.

Practice this enough to keep your dog in your kayak for a significant amount of time. Reward them with special treats for each well-received command.

What Equipment Do I Take?

You should take the following equipment, including:

  • A PFD – A fitting, comfortable Personal Flotation Device for your dog, preferably one with handles,
  • Sun Block – Protection for your dog against sun rays and light reflecting off the water,
  • Dog Treats, Fresh Water, and a Bowl – To feed and give your dog something fresh to drink. Also to reward your dog,
  • A Collar and Harness – In order to more easily retrieve your dog, should it jump or fall out of the kayak, and
  • A Leash – NEVER use a leash in the kayak or out on the water. This is only to more easily secure your dog once ashore.

What Kind Of Commands Should I Use?

To keep your dog safely in your kayak, use the following commands:

  • Leave It – to keep your dog from chasing outside distractions (ducks, geese, buoys, other boaters, even dolphins),
  • Lay Down – If your dog ever needs to take cover from large waves,
  • Get In Your Spot – The general command to get your dog in their “spot” in front of you. Use with “sit” or “stay”,
  • Okay – If close to shore, use “okay” to get your dog out of the boat, and
  • Get In The Boat/Get In The Water – If your dog is outside the boat, or if you want it to swim alongside it.

Positively reinforce these commands and reward your dog as necessary.

How Do I Launch A Kayak With A Dog?

Launch A Kayak With A Dog

Align your kayak parallel to the shore with the hull “half-on” the shore. Command your dog to “Get In Your Spot”, and reward it if it does. Repeat this until your dog is comfortable. Launch slowly by pushing away from shore. If your dog gets nervous, head back.

If you are launching from a dock, get in the kayak, hold the dock tightly, and command your dog to “Get In Your Spot”, rewarding it if it does. Again, make sure your dog is comfortable with the launch.

What If My Dog Jumps Out?

First, remain calm. Paddle over to your dog and either try to grab hold of their PFD or command them to “Get In The Boat” calmly. Don’t yell or panic, this will frighten your dog.

Once aboard again, reward your dog with a treat — and assume a calming, comforting behavior as the dog recovers its bearings.

What If We Tip Over?

If you tip over, remain calm. Find your dog and carefully paddle beside it. Hold on to the handle of its PFD and guide it with you to the kayak. Flip over the kayak if necessary, and retrieve the paddle.

Then, gently hoist your dog up to the deck. Depending on where you are, you may want to swim your kayak to shore without getting back in yourself. The most important thing is to remain calm and take deliberate action.


Kayaking with your dog can be fun, as long as you keep some safety precautions in mind. By knowing your dog, choosing the right kayak, and using careful commands and training, you can keep things safe for everyone on board.