Doggie Paddle: Sharing Kayak Adventures with your Pup
Kayaking with your dog can be an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. Getting from dreaming about it and actually doing it can be a daunting task. Not counting all the human things you need to do first, there is also the task of teaching your pup how to be comfortable and safe. Every winter I help my dog brush up on his kayaking skills, and am happy to share with you the important steps to helping your pup be "sea-worthy." So grab your life vest, secure your paddle, and let's dive in.
Before anything involving life jackets and introducing your dog to a kayak, ensure that they
have a good foundation in basic cues such as sit, stay (or wait), coming when called, and leave it (for when the ducks are torturing your water dog with all their quacking). This will help your dog understand the ground rules, and make the training process easier.
Choose the Right Kayak
Choose a kayak that provides stability and has enough space for both you and your dog. A sit-on-top kayak is often a good choice as it offers more room for your dog and makes it easier for them to get on and off. My dog had a rough time until we figured out that HE prefers a flat bottom, stand up kayak. It's a good idea to rent a few different types and test drive them with your pup before purchasing your dog friendly yak.
Familiarize your Dog with the Kayak
Begin by letting your dog explore the kayak while it is on dry land. Allow them to sniff and investigate it, rewarding them with treats and praise for calm behavior around the kayak. My kayak lived in my living room for three months. We ate dinner on it, trained on it, and watched TV on it. This helps your dog become comfortable with the kayak.
It is important to ensure the safety of your dog while they are on the kayak.
Purchase a properly fitted dog life jacket to provide buoyancy and keep your dog safe in case of fall or leap into the water. Start with introducing the life jacket to your dog with treats and sniffing. Gradually have your dog start to wear the life jacket around the house, in the care, or even on walks. The goal is for your dog to think nothing of wearing it.
If your dog is not accustomed to being around water without a boat, start there. Gradually introduce them to it. Start with shallow water and slowly increase the depth over time.
Use positive reinforcement, rewards, and play fetch in it to make the experience enjoyable for your dog.
Please keep in mind that not all bodies of water are suitable for dogs. Avoid areas with
fast-moving currents, deep drop-offs, or excessive boat traffic. Look for designated dog-friendly beaches, lakes, or pools that have safe and controlled environments for your dog to enjoy the water.
Practice on Dry Land
Once your dog is comfortable around the kayak and water, practice getting
them on and off the kayak while it is on dry land. Use treats and positive reinforcement to
reward them for calm behavior and getting in and out of the kayak.
Encourage your dog to sit or lie down in a balanced position on the kayak. Use treats and praise to reward them for maintaining balance and staying calm during the ride.
Remember, not all dogs may be comfortable riding in a kayak, so it's important to assess
your dog before proceeding with the training. Always keep your vet in the loop if your pup has medical concerns, and if your dog shows signs of fear, stress, or discomfort, it may be time to bring in a trainer.
With puppy and kitty love,
Lily the Dog Mama