How To Kayak With A Dog: Everything You Need To Know

The owner and the dog in a life jacket floating in a kayak boat
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Having a four-legged friend is a beautiful thing, so it’s understandable you want to take them with you wherever you go. 

Some people might feel like you can’t take dogs kayaking with you… but they would be wrong.

Taking a dog kayaking is a fantastic experience, not only for you but for your dog too. And let’s face it: 

It’s better than leaving your dog at home alone.

So if you’re keen on paddling and your dog loves water, why not take the trip together?

In this article, I want to show you some top tips for taking your dogs with you and some training drills your dogs must know.

Sound good?

Top Tips For Kayaking With A Dog

Dog in a kayak resting

Okay, you’re ready to start a kayaking adventure with your furry friend, but you’re probably wondering how to get started.

This section will detail some of the top tips you need to know before taking your pup kayaking and how to keep your dog safe. 

Let’s take a look:

Get Your Dog Familiar With The Kayak

A dog on land with a kayak

Before you set off on your adventures, you need to get your dog familiar with the kayak. But how do you do this?

The best way to get your dogs comfortable with the kayak is on dry land. There are too many variables that could go wrong in the water.

Lay your kayak in the garden or somewhere in the house and call your dogs over. 

Let it get used to the smells of the kayak. Once you feel your dog is ready, sit in the kayak so they know it’s safe.

Develop Your Dogs Confidence With Movement 

Once your dogs feel comfortable in the kayak, the next step is to get them comfortable sitting on the boat while moving.

Dogs don’t really deal well with movements they can’t control, as you’ve probably noticed when driving in your car. Again, you want to do this on dry land, so they don’t jump out of the ‘yak and into the water.

Move your kayak around while it’s on the floor and reward them for watching it move around. If your dog feels comfortable, you can try to get your puppy to hop on the kayak and sit on it why you slowly wobble it.

If your dog isn’t ready for the kayak, you can train them on other wobbly objects they feel a little more comfortable with.

Make Sure Your Dog Has a PFD (Personal Floatation Device)

Dog being carried by a PFD

The safety of your pet should be your number one concern. If you’re going out in open water with your dogs, you need to know they’re going to be safe, even if your dog knows how to swim.

For this, you’ll need to get a Personal Floatation Device for your dogs; this is for two reasons:

  1. If your dog jumps into the water, you know the life jacket will hold them up and keep them safe until you get there.
  2. Most dog PFDs have a handle at the top, making it easier to pick your dog up and put them back on your kayak. If your dog is too heavy to pick up, you can guide them to an area where they can quickly get out of the water.

Make sure you choose the correct lifejacket for your dog; you need to make sure it’s the right size and can handle your dog’s weight.

When you put the floatation device on your dog for the first time, chances are it’s going to freak out a little bit. Get them used to the lifejacket early on, so they don’t freak while you’re on the water.

To do this, let your dog wear in the lifejacket in the house, take them for walks in it, and even feed them in it.  

Remember, it’s not just your dog you should be thinking about; you should be wearing a PFD too.

Assess If Your Dog Is Ok With The Kayak

Dog wearing a PFD while on a kayak

Before you think about taking your dog out in the kayak, you need to make sure your dog will be able to handle it. 

Make sure your dog has the necessary skills by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is your dog okay with water?
  • Is your dog ok wearing a PFD?
  • Is your dog comfortable swimming with a lifejacket?
  • Does your dog follow simple commands?
  • Can your dog ignore distractions like people and wildlife without jumping in the water?

Asking yourself these questions will give you the all-important answer to whether your pooch can go on the kayak with you. 

In other words, if you can answer yes to these questions, you should be just fine.

Take A Friend With You

The first time you go kayaking with your dog, you should take someone else with you. 

Even after all the training, you still don’t know how your dog will react while you’re in the ‘yak.

If you go with someone else, you have a little bit of backup if your dog does decide to go for a swim. You see, some dogs will get nervous as soon as they get out on the water, and unfortunately, their first line of defense is to leap out of the kayak and swim for dry land.

Try using a tandem kayak with your buddy or a family member; this way, one person can paddle the kayak while the other tries to grab the pup.

Learn The Craft On Flat Water

Dog swimming in flat water

Taking your dog straight onto the sea isn’t a good idea; you need to get them comfortable with your paddling and being on the water.

When starting, try lakes or ponds so your pooch can get used to the feeling of your paddling on calm water. 

If your dog jumps out of the kayak, at least it will be able to efficiently swim back to shore without dealing with currents or waves. 

Not only will it be easier for your dog, but you’ll find it easier to paddle and won’t be as stressed if something goes wrong.

Stick Together 

If both owners don’t go in different kayaks, you should stick together. Chances are, your dog will want to leap from one ‘yak to the other. They’ll want to go and sit with the other person, which just adds to the anxiety of taking your dog.

Helpful Training Tips For Kayaking With Your Dog

Young man with a dog in a boat

Although I’ve given you tips for getting your dog ready for the kayak life, there are a few things you need to get nailed down before letting your dog on the water.

In this section, I want to discuss with you some essential coaching techniques that will ensure your time kayaking is as easy as possible: 

Practice Helpful Commands

Practicing some of these simple commands will help you while you’re out on the water. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but it will help if you have them nailed down before you get out there:

Leave It

Teaching your dog to leave things will help if you encounter wildlife that your dog becomes fixated on. You need to make sure you can break their attention with the simple command “leave it.” 

If you’ve played with your dog in the park, there’s a good chance you’ve already taught them to leave it. Just make sure you keep up with the training so they don’t jump in the water after something they shouldn’t.

Get In Your Spot

When things get a little bit sketchy, i.e., rapids, you don’t want your pet to be all over you. For this reason, you need to train your dog to get on its spot. 

You can practice this in a similar way to teaching them to get on their bed. Use an old blanket and place it on the kayak where you want them to stay (preferably a flat spot). 

You’ll probably have to guide your dog to the spot a few times, but the important thing is, you reinforce where they should be sitting.

Lay Down

If you’re paddling rapids, you need your dog to lay down (how to train your dog to lay down) somewhere safe on the deck. Dogs have terrible balance when they’re not in control of their movements. 

If your dog is lying down, it will reduce the risk of them falling out of the kayaking. 

You could also get them to lay down if you come across wildlife you want them to ignore; it shows them they can’t move anymore.

Jump In and Come Back

If the weather is hot, or you want your dogs to go for an occasional swim, you need to teach them how to jump off the ‘yak and get back in. 

Teaching them when they can dive in and when they can’t will help reduce any fear of them jumping in after wildlife.

Some dogs won’t be able to get back into the kayak by themselves, especially if they are small or tired from the dip. 

Medium dogs usually have enough strength to pull themselves back up on the kayak, but you’ll have to show them the way the first few times.

Train Entry & Exit 

Dog jumping in water

So, your dog(s) know the basics of being on a boat. But learning how to get in the kayak from a dock or the beach is an important skill (just like when you first learned how to get in a kayak).

The main tip here is to make sure you get in the kayak first to reassure your pet that everything is fine. 

The first few times you push away, don’t be surprised if your dog jumps straight out. The feeling of floating will be strange to your pups, so it might take you a few tries to get them in.

If it looks like your pet is panicking, it’s a good idea to give lots and praise and make them like everything is going to be okay.

Now we’ve got that part out the way, let’s talk about the steps you need to take to get your dog in the kayak from a dock or the beach:

Entry & Exit From The Dock

This should be one of the easier of the two techniques… depending on how high the dock is compared to the kayak, but here’s the basic principle:

  1. Ensure your dog is next to you as you get into the kayak from the dock; this should give them some encouragement.
  2. When you’re in the kayak, hold on to the side of the dock, so there is no gap between them.
  3. Once you’re ready, tell your dog to get in its spot (this is where the previous training helps). You might have to give your pup a hand if the dock is too high for them.
  4. When your dog is in its spot on the deck, tell them to lie down and push away from the dock.
  5. Don’t go too far away from the dock right now; just go for a bit of paddle and return to where you started.
  6. Hold on to the dock and let your dog know it’s time to get out the kayak and onto dry land. Train these drills a few times until your dog knows what’s up.

Entry & Exit From The Beach

Sea kayaking with your dog is a beautiful experience; the challenge is getting them on to the kayak.

So let’s take a look at how it works:

  1. Get your kayak in position, half out and half in the water. Once you’re ready, get your dog to take their spot. 
  2. Before you start moving, make sure your pup is lying down and you’re sat in your seat. If your dog is lying down, it will make it easy for them to handle any waves coming your way.
  3. Take the kayak out for a quick spin and then come back to the shore.
  4. Once you’re back, let your dog know it’s alright to jump out of the kayak. If you want them to stay dry, you can lift them out of the boat.

Extra Tips for Canoeing or Kayaking with Your Dog

Before I leave you, I just wanted to run through a thing to keep in mind that will ensure you and your pet have a great time on the water:

  • Never tie your dog to the boat; your dog may drown if the boat overturns
  • Trim your dog’s nails; it helps them keep their balance
  • Bring a bowl of freshwater
  • Make sure your dog is wearing its lifejacket even if your dog loves swimming

Final Thoughts on How To Kayak With Your Dog

rafting on river with dog

Going out in the ‘yak with your dogs is a beautiful experience. There’s nothing like paddling down the river having fun with your best friend.

That said, the trick is to make sure you have all the training in place before you go. Having your dog jump out or attack wildlife all the time will put a damper on things.

But if you follow this guide, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What To Do If The Kayak Tips Over While I’m With My Dog?


Even the most experienced kayaker can tip the boat, so be prepared for what to do with your dog if it tips is vital.

Here’s a quick guide on what you should do:

  1. Get your dog before you do anything; they will be panicking
  2. Swim back to the boat with your dog, make sure you remain calm to ease their nerves
  3. Flip the boat over if you need to and put the paddle in the kayak
  4. Help your dog up onto the kayak
  5. Get in the kayak yourself. If your dog is nervous about you being in the water, you could try getting in first and lifting them in afterward.

How Do I Get My Dog To Sit On A Kayak?


Getting your dog to sit down on your kayak might seem like a challenging task, but it doesn’t have to be with proper training. It’s all about getting your dog comfortable with being on the water and with the kayak. 

Once the dog is comfortable, it’s all comes down to correct “sit” training with your dog, which is probably already established.

How To Get Your Dog Back In A Kayak?


If your dog decides to go for a swim, you’re probably wondering, “how the hell can I get him back in the boat?” 

Luckily, it’s not that hard. Most life jackets have a handle at the top to help you control your dog when they are in the water. Use this handle to help pull them up onto the kayak. 

The trick here is not to put too much weight on one side, so you don’t flip the kayak.

Is It Better To Use A Sit-On-Top Or Sit Inside Kayak When With A Dog?


If you’re going to take your dog kayaking, your best option is with a sit-on-top. Sit-in kayaks are limited on room, which makes it tricky, to say the least. Sit-on-top kayaks have an open hull, which usually results in more room for your dog.

Jason
Jason
Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.

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