How to Kayak with a Dog The Ultimate Guide

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The Short Answer:

Before you take a kayak into the water with your dog, make sure that you get a personal flotation device for your pet. Dogs will not be comfortable in kayaks, so have your furry friend sit in the kayak before moving it to help get them used to it.

If you enjoy spending time in a kayak and you have a dog who loves spending time with you, consider taking them with you to enjoy some quality time with you on the water. I love doing things with my dog, and this is one of the activities that we love doing together. In this guide, we are going to give you tips on how to make this a fun time for you both as well as steps to follow to make sure that your dog is safe.

Take a look at this video of a dog who loves to kayak with his humans!

What You Will Need

A Dog

To go kayaking with a dog, you need to have a dog that trusts you. Since you are going to be in the water, you should make sure that your dog is comfortable in case he happens to fall out of the kayak or happens to jump out because he sees something in the water. The last thing that you want is to have a dog who is panicking because he is unsure of the water that is surrounding him.

If your dog is afraid of the water, you can use a small kid’s pool to help them get used to the water before trying it in a larger body of water. This is much more difficult to do once the dog is no longer a puppy, so if you can do it early, you will be able to condition them to like the water more quickly.

Dog Breeds for Kayaking

Not all dogs will be built to be adventurous like this, and some dog breeds will be more suited for these types of paddling adventures. The best breeds for kayaking include:

  • Golden Retriever: They are extremely obedient, and their muscular physique makes them excellent swimmers. They also learn things with ease, so teaching a golden retriever to swim should be a breeze.
  • Labrador Retriever: This is a lovable and outgoing dog that will love playing in the water. This means that they won’t be afraid of the water, and they are likely to try and converse with others who are kayaking as well.
  • Jack Russell Terrier: Atypically known as great swimmers, the Jack Russell Terrier is a pup that is full of energy. They are brilliant dogs that will be simple to train, and their smaller size means that they will easily fit in most kayaks.
  • Australian Shepherd: The Australian Shepherd is a dog that is very intelligent and very loyal. They have a lot of energy, and they can easily be trained to herd animals, so swimming is a breeze for them.
  • Portuguese Water Dog: These are athletic dogs that love to have a bit of adventure. They typically love the water and will find any excuse to get closer to the humans that they adore. They are very easy to train, and they tend to listen when given a command.
  • Siberian Husky: Known for dog sled pulling, this is a very energetic breed. They are also extremely intelligent and loyal. This breed is an excellent swimmer, so they are unlikely to be afraid of the water while they are surrounded by it.

dog in an inflatable kayak

A Kayak with an Open Floor Plan

There are several different types of kayaks or boats that you can consider using for your trip with your dog. They are not all great ideas, especially a large dog and a canoe that has a smaller opening. A larger dog will not be comfortable lying on the top of the boat. They will need space to lay inside of the boat with you without feeling uncomfortable. If your dog has never been kayaking with you before, a narrow, mid-sided cockpit and a large dog will not work together. With that being said, let’s take a look at the different types of kayaks and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Inflatable Kayak


  • Inflatable kayaks are stable which will help your dog feel more secure.
  • They offer a good bit of space, so you can store your dog’s toys.


  • They take longer to set up, which can make a dog impatient.

Sit on Top Kayak


  • It is easy to get you and your dog the board the sit on top kayak.
  • It has a wide surface that gives your dog more space to walk.


  • The dog will be on top of the kayak, so they may not be the most comfortable if they are afraid of water.



  • There is a lot of space in a canoe.
  • Your dog can sit upright and still be secure in the canoe.


  • Smaller dogs may not be able to see over the side of the canoe, which could make them anxious.

Tandem Kayak


  • There is a seat in the tandem kayak for your dog.
  • Seats can be removed, so your dog has a place to lie down.


  • It’s more difficult to travel with this type of kayak.

best dog life jacket, best kayak for dogs


Whether you or your dog can swim, a personal float device is essential to ensure safety while on the water. This can help your dog to feel more secure when they are in the water, especially if the dog is not the best swimmer, and it will also make you feel more confident that your dog is not going to drown if he falls or jumps into the water. There should also be a handle on the back of the lifejacket so that you can quickly grab your dog if they need your assistance when they get into the water unexpectedly.

One of the best personal float devices for dogs is the Ruffwear Float Coat. It comes in four different colors, which include blue, yellow, red, and orange. It is also available in six different sizes, so it will fit an extra small dog with a girth of 13 inches to an extra-large dog with a girth of up to 42 inches. Regardless of the size, it will be adjustable as well. The vest also has reflective trim so that you can see your dog, and a durable handle on the back to raise your dog out of the water.

Other Essentials

Some of the other essential that you will need to bring on your kayaking trip include:

  • Treats: These are something that you should always have on hand so that you can give your dog a treat as positive reinforcement. If your dog is motivated by treats, they are likely to behave better knowing that you have some on-hand.
  • Water: When kayaking, you could be out in the hot sun for an extended period, so make sure that you have some water for your dog to drink during the trip. You could use a small dish and pour some water from your water bottle into his to make sure that he gets enough to drink throughout the day.
  • Poop Bags: Your dog is going to need to go to the bathroom during the trip, and you don’t want to leave his poop where someone can step in it, so make sure to bring bags along so that you can pick it up.
  • A Leash: Most dogs are not perfectly trained, so going into an area that they are unfamiliar with will require them to be on a leash. Once you get in the boat, you may want to remove the leash, but you may need it for walking to the water. Do not tie the leash to the kayak as this risks danger for you pup
  • Chew Toys: Make sure to bring some toys with you so that your dog has something to chew on in the kayak. This can keep him busy and give you some time to paddle.
  • A Towel: A towel can make a comfortable place for your dog to lay. It can also be used to make sure your dog is dry before you get into the car and head home.

kayaking with a dog

How to Kayak with Your Dog

If you decide that this is a good activity to try with your dog, here are the steps that you will need to follow.

Familiarize Your Dog with the Kayak

The first thing that you will need to do before you start on this adventure is to get your dog familiar with the kayak that you will be using. The best way to begin introducing your pup to the kayak is to let them explore it on dry land. You can put toys inside the kayak and let them get into the boat at their leisure. Treats can be an excellent tool to teach him how to get in and out of the boat as well. Once they are comfortable with the kayak on dry land, you can attempt to take it to shallow water so that they can get in the boat in the water.

Have Commands Ready

The next step that you will need to complete is to make sure that your dog can follow basic commands that you give them. You can practice these commands when you are familiarizing him with the kayak. Teach your pup to board the kayak and have them sit or lie down once they are inside. Also, make sure that they are familiar with the command stay as well so that they will listen when you encounter distractions on the water. They will need to follow these commands before going in the water with the kayak to make sure that they are safe.

How to Launch with Your Dog

Once your dog is obedient and comfortable with the kayak, it is time to get the boat into the water. Make sure to secure both of your life jackets, and you can both get in the kayak. If you are kayaking with a friend, have them push your boat into the water while you are holding onto your dog. This will help to ensure that they do not jump off of the boat and run for shore.

Get in the Kayak with Him

If you are not kayaking with a friend, you are going to need to get your dog in the kayak before you launch. Once he is in the kayak and settled, you can tell him to stay as you climb into the kayak. Once you are seated in the kayak with your pup, make sure to reinforce his positive behavior by giving him a treat.

Special Tips

  • Don’t paddle right after you take off so that your dog can get used to the kayak before you introduce something new.
  • Bring sunscreen for your dog, especially if they are shaved or their fur is relatively short.
  • Don’t allow your dog to get dehydrated.
  • Never tie your dog to the kayak.
  • Try to get your dog to use the bathroom before boarding the kayak.
  • Don’t kayak in the rain the first few times you take your dog.
  • Start out kayaking in shallow water that is still.
  • Stop frequently during the trip to allow your dog to move around and stretch.
  • Have fun, and don’t be afraid to let your dog enjoy the water if they are well trained.

Final Thoughts

If you love outdoor adventures, doing them with your canine friend can add a lot of excitement and enjoyment to your trip. Once your dog learns the ropes and is comfortable in your kayak, they will show enthusiasm every time you go out on an adventure. Some dogs will even try to encourage you to go more frequently, which is good for your health as well as theirs. Hopefully, this guide has given you the tips that you need to make your next kayaking trip with your dog an enjoyable one.

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