The great outdoors are even greater when you’re with your dog!
There are so many sights and smells to ponder that your furry companion will stay happy, stimulated, and engaged for hours. An awesome activity for bonding that you and your pooch can enjoy together is a little cruise in a cozy kayak.
While you’ll be the one doing the heavy lifting with the paddles, your pooch will love spending quality time with you! No doubt your pooch will also love having you chauffeur him around your local lake while he soaks up the fresh air and sun.
But before you hit the high seas, there are some basic safety protocols you’ll want to consider and some special considerations you’ll want to make when you pick out your vessel.
Read on to learn more about picking a pooch-friendly kayak and keeping Fido safe during your next kayaking adventure! We’ll also identify our five favorite kayaks for dogs!
In a hurry? Just want some product recommendations? Check out our quick picks below!
Quick Picks: Three Pawsome Kayaks
- Ocean Kayak Malibu Two [Best Overall Kayak for Dogs]: Measuring 12 feet long and nearly 3 feet wide, this hard-shell kayak comes with removable seats, which can free up space for your pooch.
- Intex Explorer K2 [Most Affordable Kayak for Dogs]: An affordable and travel-friendly inflatable kayak that’s big enough to accommodate you and your four-footer.
- Perception Rambler 13.5 [Best Kayak for Large Dogs]: Measuring 34 inches wide and boasting a 550-pound weight limit, this tandem kayak will work great for you and your big ol’ doggo.
Can You Take Your Dog on a Kayak?
Chances are, your dog will love kayaking as much as you do! Many dogs love the water, and it’s a fact that your dog will love spending time with you.
However, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before you get out there. Kayaks are pretty safe, but they require good canine behavior and a bit of balance to keep upright.
Here’s a checklist of considerations to run through before you bring your pup along with you on a kayaking adventure:
- Your dog’s feelings about the water: This may seem like a no-brainer, but your dog’s feelings towards the water are an important factor to carefully consider before you bring him on a kayak. You don’t want him panicking or scared the entire time you’re out cruising when he should be relaxing. Don’t know how your pooch feels about the water? Introduce her to water gradually, by starting with a little walk through shallow water before you bring him out on the boat.
- Safety on the water: Kayaks are generally safe by design, but with a pup as a passenger there are a few special considerations. Chiefly, make sure you have an appropriately-sized and comfortable life jacket for your dog. But aside from fitting your dog with a life vest, you’ll also want to avoid choppy water and make sure your pooch is on a leash at all times.
- Water conditions: For less experienced kayaking pups, you’ll want to be especially cautious on your first couple of trips out. Make sure you’re kayaking on a tranquil body of water for starters, preferably on the shallow side. Flat waters are much safer for paddling puppers than whitewater rapids.
Check out our infographic below to see some more general safety tips for aquatic doggo adventures (not all are applicable to kayaks).
The 6 Best Kayaks for Dogs
Buying a kayak is a big decision for you and your pooch — you’ll spend many hours drifting on the water together, so make sure you pick a comfy model for both of you!
If you’re just starting to browse the options available, be sure to check out our top six vessels for you and your dog:
1. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
About: You and your furry friend will enjoy hours on the water in the versatile Ocean Kayak Malibu Two.
This sturdy-yet-cozy option offers the durability you need to stand up to your dog’s nails with a polyethylene frame, but the comfort to sustain you for hours in the outdoors with molded footrests and roomy sit-on-top design.
Best of all, these seats can be set up in three different configurations: solo, tandem, or tandem paddling with a child or pet. We’ve even seen photos of owners paddling this model around with TWO large dogs onboard!
- Holds up to 362 pounds of human and dog
- Stretches 12 feet long and nearly 3 feet across
- Removable and adjustable Comfort Plus seats provide excellent cushioning for longer journeys
- Convenient handles for ground transportation and straps for securing supplies
Options: This model comes in Green or Sunrise colors, but both are the same design.
- Super sturdy to withstand your dog’s claws (and the rocks you’ll accidentally hit while paddling)
- Owners report that it’s an extremely stable kayak
- Seats can conveniently be arranged or removed to accommodate your dog
- A bit heavy and challenging for one person to carry
- Large size can be trickier to transport on your vehicle
2. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak
About: Inflatable kayaks are often intriguing to kayaking newbies, thanks to their affordable price points and the ease with which you can transport them. However, inflatable kayaks lack the rigidity and durability that hard-shell models provide, which presents obvious challenges.
But the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak splits the difference a bit. It offers the convenience of inflatable kayaks with the added durability of a strong internal structure. For example, it comes with rigid foot rests and a stabilizer to help the vessel retain its shape.
Throw in an air pump, a pair of paddles, and a matching storage bag, and you’ve got yourself a great entry-level kayak to enjoy with your canine.
- Made with a PVC shell and polyester core
- Weight capacity of 400 pounds
- Comes with paddles, an air pump, storage bag, and a pressure gauge
- Included inflatable and adjustable seats for maximum comfort while cruising
- Lightweight design makes it easy to transport
- More affordably priced than most hard-shell kayaks
- Comes with a number of awesome bonus features
- Some consumers note the material isn’t nearly as sturdy as advertised
- The seating area is a bit cramped
3. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
About: If you just want an affordable way to take a cozy cruise down a lazy river with your four-footed friend, the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is the perfect choice. This inflatable polypropylene vessel is not only easy on the wallet, but it’s easy to carry, store, and pack, making it one of the most convenient kayaks around.
Additionally, this is one of the relatively few inflatable kayaks that features a skeg (a fin extending from the bottom of the vessel). This helps improve stability and tracking, so the ‘yak will stay pointed where you’re trying to go.
Best of all, it comes with everything you’ll need to get out on the water, including an air pump and paddles.
- Boasts a 400-pound capacity
- Just over 10 feet long and nearly 2 feet wide
- Comes with inflatable seats, air pump, and paddles
- Added skeg (fin) for added stability and improved tracking
- It’s priced very affordably
- Excellent weight limit allows bigger people and doggos to float together with ease
- User-friendly, lightweight design
- Isn’t as durable as hard shell kayaks — be sure to trim Fido’s nails
- Not intended for rougher waters, so you’ll need to be wary of choppy waves or debris
4. Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler
About: Looking for an affordable ‘yak that is likely to hold up a little better than an inflatable model? Well, the Pelican Sentinel 100X Kayak may be the ideal choice.
A sit-on-top vessel made of hard plastic and featuring additional floatation built into the hull, this kayak will keep you and your canine bobbing along safely during outings. It isn’t quite as affordable as some of the inflatable models examined above, but it’ll undoubtedly last longer and perform better, thereby improving the cost-to-value algebra considerably.
Additionally, it has a multi-line flat bottom to provide extra stability, which is great for kayaking newbies and especially helpful for those paddling with a pupper.
- Weighs 44 pounds and stretches 9.5 feet long
- Supports up to 275 pounds
- Included removable ExoPak storage compartment for toting accessories
- Comes with heaps of extras, including footrests, paddler holders, fishing pole tie downs, and more
Options: Available in EXO Neptune White and Fade Black Green/Light Khaki finishes.
- Chockfull of adventure must-haves, including rod holders and eyelets for securing gear
- Maneuverability gets a thumb’s up from users
- Well-engineered bottom allows for maximum speed over water without a ton of effort
- The relatively low weight limit can be a concern with larger pet parents and doggos
- Though it is pretty stable, it isn’t as wide as some other kayaks
5. Jackson Kayak Yupik Kayak
Jackson Kayak Yupik Kayak
A spacious, stable, and feature-packed fishing kayak that’ll let you fish with your floof until your cooler is full!
About: Like to go fishing with a fury first mate? The Jackson Kayak’s Yupik Kayak may be the ideal kayak for you and your pooch!
Featuring a raised seat and spacious standing pad that would be a perfect resting spot for your pooch, this 35-inch-wide kayak will provide more than enough room to paddle around your local pond or lake with your woofer.
And because it is specifically designed for anglers, this kayak comes with a rod holder and multiple extra storage points for all your necessary gear, including a 25-liter tank well.
- Best for fishing and leisurely boating in flatwater conditions
- Spacious standing pad you or your furry friend can use
- Spacious scooped bow allows for toting buckets, packs, and more
- 12.2-foot vessel weighs 90 pounds
- Rated for up to 425 pounds of passenger and cargo
Options: Offered in Aurora and Forest patterns.
- Scooped bow offers plenty of space for hunting, fishing, and canine accessories
- Weight limit works great for most pup parents and canines
- We love the included standing pad, as it provides a perfect place for your dog to rest
- It’s a pretty heavy kayak that may be difficult for small people to move without help
- It’s one of the most expensive options on our list
6. Perception Rambler 13.5
About: While there are tons of kayaks on the market that’ll work well for people with small pooches, large dog owners don’t have as many options available. Fortunately, there are a few kayaks that will easily accommodate you and your mega-sized mutt, including the Perception Rambler 13.5.
A roomy tandem model, this durable kayak measures 13.5 feet long and 34 inches wide, making it super spacious — not to mention stable! You can sit in one of the padded seats, while allowing your pupper to stretch out in the other. For that matter, small and medium-sized dogs may find the molded center seat sufficient, meaning you could use this with a human friend and your dog at the same time!
And because this vessel has an incredible 550-pound capacity, it’ll easily accommodate large people and pooches at the same time.
- 34 inches wide to provide space and stability
- Seats three humans via fore and aft seats and a molded seat in between
- Spacious rear cargo space with cargo straps
- Molded footrests
- Rated for up to 550 pounds
Options: Available in two colors: Dapper and Sunset.
- Like many tandem kayaks, it provides tons of extra space
- Very generous weight capacity is great for large dogs and large humans alike
- Provides a very stable ride
- The Sunset color option costs nearly 50% more than the Dapper option
- Some found the adjustable seats uncomfortable
Types of Kayaks: What Kind of Kayak Is Best for Paddling with a Dog?
Kayaks come in an array of shapes, sizes, and designs, which can make it challenging for beginners to even know where to start. But don’t worry — we’ll explain some of the most common types of kayaks — including which ones are the most dog-friendly kayaks — below so you know where to start your journey.
- Recreational Kayaks: The term recreational kayak is typically used to distinguish the types of kayaks we focus on above from fishing kayaks and high-end, professional-caliber ocean-voyaging vessels. Generally speaking, these are the kinds of kayaks most dog owners will want. Recreational kayaks are also designed for calm water, rather than choppy water.
- Fishing Kayaks: A fishing kayak is typically just a recreational kayak that has a few features designed to provide additional convenience for anglers. This includes things like fishing rod holders, paddle holders, and live wells for caught fish. Most fishing kayaks will work well for dog owners, although you may want to remove some of the added accessories to keep the craft’s weight low and space maximized.
- Tandem Kayaks: Tandem kayaks are larger vessels that provide seating for two paddlers. These are especially helpful for dog owners (they’re often the most dog-friendly kayaks available), as they provide more room than single-seat kayaks. Often, the extra seat is removable, which means your pooch will have even more space.
- Sit-In Kayaks: Sit-in kayaks are the older of the two primary types of kayaks (with the other being sit-on-top kayaks, discussed below). Sit-in kayaks have a “cockpit,” in which you’ll sit while paddling. This can provide some advantages for paddlers traveling alone, but most dog owners will find that a sit-on-top kayak is better for paddling with a pet.
- Sit-on-Top Kayaks: Sit-on-top kayaks lack a cockpit; instead, they are more akin to a paddleboard or surfboard, in that you’ll simply sit right on top of the vessel. Sit-on-top kayaks are typically the better option for people floating with a dog, and they’re easier for dogs to board.
- Hardshell Kayaks: Hardshell kayaks (also called hard shell kayaks, hard-shell kayaks, or rigid kayaks) are those with a rigid, usually plastic hull. These are the most common variety, and they’re typically what people think of when envisioning a kayak.
- Inflatable Kayaks: Inflatable kayaks lack a hard plastic shell and instead derive their shape from inflatable air bladders. This makes inflatable kayaks much more portable (and often more affordable) than rigid kayaks, but the tradeoff is reduced durability. Most high-quality inflatable kayaks come with a hand or foot pump to facilitate inflation.
Picking a Kayak for Your Dog: What Features Do You Need in a Dog-Friendly Kayak?
Good kayaking practice for pooches starts as soon as you select a kayak. No doubt you have your own personal wants and needs, but if your pooch will be a frequent passenger, make sure his needs are equally weighted when you make your decision.
Sniff out these must-have features for a safe water outing with your dog:
- Stability: The last thing you want to do is flip your kayak, especially while traveling with a pup passenger. Select a boat that can handle your dog’s occasional wiggles and jiggles. These typically feature a broader deck and properly angled hull. Using a kayak dog outrigger can also help (more on these accessories in a moment.)
- Open-top Design: Also known as sit-on-top or “ocean kayaks,” these vessels don’t enclose your legs, leaving plenty of room for you and your dog to ride comfortably. They’re the safest option for boating with a dog, as there’s far less risk of your pup getting trapped if the boat flips.
- Storage Space: You’ll likely be toting around treats and water toys while enjoying a boat outing with your dog. Storing these in a hideaway cubby is far more ideal than leaving them at your doggo’s disposal while rowing. Ideally, you’ll stick to vessels with a dry storage compartment, which is designed to prevent the contents from getting wet during your travels.
- Suitable Maximum Weight Capacity: You need to be mindful of the combined weight of you and your pooch. Larger people and big pooches might run into problems, as some kayaks have a maximum weight capacity of as low as 250 pounds. That can be a big problem if you have a mega-sized mutt.
- Carrying Handles: Obviously, you’ll need to get your kayak from your vehicle down to the water, so you want to pick one that has a good set of carrying handles. This will just make it easier to drag or carry the boat down to the shore.
- Durability: Most kayaks are made with hardy plastics that can withstand some wear and tear, but inflatable options may be at risk of dog nails and even teeth. Ensure your pooch’s nails are kept trimmed to avoid an accidental puncture, and always pick a quality material that can handle UV exposure and minor scratching.
- A Comfortable Seat: Though it is often overlooked by novice kayak buyers, it is very important to select a kayak with a comfortable seat. Otherwise, you’ll find your back and legs hurting before you’ve been paddling very long at all. Fortunately, most modern kayaks provide comfortable seating, and you can usually adjust the seats in numerous ways to achieve a comfortable position.
- Intended Function: Kayaks come in various styles, with some only meant to handle leisurely lake journeys while others can handle rough rapids or bay excursions. Always review the manufacturer’s notes to make sure a kayak can perform to your needs.
In addition to all of these considerations, you may want to look for a few convenient extras, such as a built-in cup holder, adjustable foot braces, grip pads, and additional safety equipment.
Introducing Your Dog to a Kayak
Like any new experiences for your dog, make sure the first trips are highly positive experiences without overwhelming the senses.
It’s a good idea to get your canine friend comfortable in the kayak on dry ground so he can sniff around and check things out before you get on the water.
Once your pupper is comfortable, set sail in shallow and still water so he can get used to things before you get out there too far.
Start out with shorter journeys and work up to longer adventures over time.
It might be a good idea to give your pooch a few informal swimming lessons before you hit the deck.
Most dogs are natural-born doggie paddlers, but some just aren’t fans of getting wet, and some aren’t naturally coordinated. You’ll want to ensure swimming won’t be a problem before you get out in open water, just in case it becomes necessary.
DIY Kayak Platforms and Outriggers for Dogs
Looking to take your dog’s comfort on your kayak a bit further? A DIY kayak dog platform is a popular strategy among kayaking dog owners because it gives your pooch a bit extra legroom.
Creating a platform requires a bit of woodworking, but it isn’t too complicated of a process.
Basically, it involves creating a stand for a plywood platform and a few ledges, which effectively widens the back of your kayak and gives your dog a place to stretch out. This new kayak dog deck is perfect for canine sunbathing and napping!
Similarly, a kayak dog outrigger is a great choice to add a little stability and give your canine companion plenty of space. An outrigger is basically a miniature kayak attached to your vessel by poles, which greatly improves the balance of your ‘yak.
You can then make a little nest for your doggo in the space between the connecting poles, offering a little extra elbow room to go with a little extra balance.
Pups and the water are a perfect pair – throw in a kayak and you’ve got a perfect day of canine bonding! What is your kayak of choice when you hit the water with your pooch? Have you found an especially dog-friendly kayak that you love?
Let us know in the comments!