Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking With Your Dog

Pet Travel


Meg Marrs


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dog kayaking

Kayaking with your dog can be intimidating. If you’ve never done it but have dreams of taking your furry best friend out on the water, don’t worry! From preparing your dog beforehand to what to do if your dog falls in, we’ll prepare you for any scenario.

This guide will give you everything you need to know to have a successful first kayaking trip with your dog – let’s get paddling!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Before you even think about setting out on the water, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into making sure your dog is ready to kayak.

There are things you’ll want to test out and practice with your dog on the safety of solid ground. This will make sure you know what to expect with your pooch before pushing off into the water.

Here are a few tips for how to prepare your dog for kayaking:

  • Make sure your dog listens to your commands. Understanding “sit,” “stay,” and “lay down” are all really important in making sure your dog behaves on the water (this is true for sailing too). If he hasn’t mastered these simple commands, start there first. Make sure your dog will listen while on the water to prevent an unnecessary capsizing!
  • Familiarize your dog with your kayak on dry land. Have your dog sit in the kayak with you on the shore or in your backyard before putting it in the water. This will help him feel comfortable being in it before adding another element: floating on water.
  • Practice swimming with your dog. Is your pet comfortable in the water? This is an important step to ensuring a good kayaking trip. You want to make sure your dog can swim back to you if he falls out. He also should be familiar and enthusiastic about being in the water!

Getting the Right Dog-Friendly Kayak

Even if you’re an experienced kayaker, kayaking with a dog can be a challenge.

You want to make sure you have the right type of dog-friendly kayak that will be suited for an extra furry passenger. This is not the time to try out a tiny whitewater boat on the rapids.

Choose a boat with a wide, flat bottom and a large cockpit with plenty of space for your pooch. These boats will also be easier to balance so you don’t have to worry about capsizing.

You can even give your dog his own seat by using a tandem kayak and letting him paddle in style!

Don’t Forget the Supplies

When setting out on a kayaking trip with your dog, you don’t just need to worry about your own gear. You’ll have to make sure you have all the right gear for your dog, too! You want to make sure your dog is happy no matter how long you’re on the water.

The exact list of what you bring might vary, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Treats and toys. Having some rewards for your dog is a great way to make sure he stays happy in your boat. A chew toy or ball can be great, too, especially if you want to let him out to play in the water at any point. Just make sure whatever you bring is a water-friendly toy that floats!
  • A doggie life jacket. Yes, dogs need PFDs too! Even if your dog knows how to swim, having a life vest is still a good idea. You never know what kind of situations you might get into on the water, and even dogs get tired swimming. Getting a PFD for your dog could be the thing that ensures his safety.
  • Pack a towel in a dry bag. You can also leave this in your car if you’ll be returning to the same spot, but it never hurts to keep some towers and extra supplies in a waterproof bag. Consider a dog-friendly towel that will dry off quickly!
  • Put a pad down. Some people like to pack a little mat, towel, or blanket to put on the bottom of their kayak. This gives your dog somewhere comfortable to lie on and also gives him an indicator of where he should stay, instead of moving around.

Start Small & Slow For Canine Kayaking

The first time you take your dog out in your kayak can be a big deal, for both you and the dog! Because you might not know how your dog will react to being in your kayak on the water, it’s best to start small.

Find a place that has calm, flat water. Ponds and lakes are usually great for this, but a wide, slow-moving river could work, too. You want to be somewhere with shallow water at first, with no rapids or waves. This will ensure your dog has the gentlest introduction to kayaking possible.

Start with a short trip the first time you go out. 10 – 20 minutes is plenty. You just want to give your dog a taste of kayaking without overwhelming him. Paddle around slowly in the shallows, keeping an eye out for your dog’s reactions. If he does well, you can go out further the next time or try out new paddling spots.

What to Do If Things Don’t Go Well

Not all dogs will like kayaking at first. That’s OK! Don’t panic if your dog doesn’t immediately take to the water.

The key is taking it slow. Repetition and training will be your friend in this situation. The more you familiarize your dog with your kayak and the water, the better your chances of him loving it are. It just takes time!

If your dog is scared of the water, try just getting him to stick his paws in. If he loves the water but hates the kayak, try putting your kayak in your living room and getting him to sit in it. The more familiar he becomes, the comfortable he will become. Repetition is key!

What If My Dog Jumps out of the Kayak?

This can definitely happen. Your dog might not take to kayaking right away. Or he might love the water so much he just wants to go for a swim! Whatever the case, make sure you’re in the shallows close to the shore the first time you go out.

If he jumps out, just paddle back to shore and try again. It’s not a good idea (unless it’s a very small dog) to try to pull him back into the boat from the water. You don’t want to risk capsizing your boat, too!

Need a place to paddle with your pupper? Check out some of the best dog-friendly beaches on the east coast!


Kayaking with your dog doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just use a lot of patience and remember that your dog might be nervous, too! But with a little effort, you and your dog can be paddling together in no time. Just remember to start out small and practice, practice, practice!

Spotlight Contributor: This article was written by Pete Danylewycz of Kayak Advisors — a site dedicated to all things kayak!

Thanks for the guide to canine kayaking Petro. I’m sure many readers can’t wait to get out on the water with their pups! If you’ve ever kayaked with your canines, share some of your tips and stories in the comments!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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  1. Julie Avatar

    Something I learned from kayaking with my dog is to exercise him first. He loves to fetch his floaty toy in the water and with a high energy dog (German Shepard) it’s good to burn off a little of that energy before going out on the kayak because it helps him to stay calm and still. We are still baby stepping our way into kayaking together, but this is one tip that I learned quickly and it’s been very helpful.

    1. Ben Team Avatar

      Great tip, Julie!

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