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Preparing to Take Your Dog Kayaking

a dog standing next to a body of water

Preparing to Take Your Dog Kayaking

Taking to the waterways is one of life’s most relaxing and enjoyable ways to spend leisure time – and what could be better than sharing it with our best friends?

And if our best friends happen to be four-legged rather than two, it is still no problem – many people are enjoying the freedom of kayaking with their doggie furbabies.

The American Kennel Club has good advice to offer to people wanting to share their kayaking adventures with their pet dogs and it starts with taking the time to train your canine companion appropriately.

Your dog needs to become familiar with your kayak before ever even getting on the water, or it will probably not enjoy its first experience as a kayaker and be reluctant to join you on future trips.

So start on dry land where your kayak will be much steadier and less wobbly than when it is on the water – you have much greater control over the craft, which helps in familiarizing your pet with what is going to happen.

The kayak itself may well be a very unusual texture for your dog – plastic and hollow and slippery – so start by encouraging your dog to step onto it, and the best way to encourage that is with treats, rewards, and positive reinforcement. Even letting your pet see you rock the kayak from side-to-side is a good introduction.

Next, build up to encouraging them to step into the middle of the kayak – they naturally are likely to want to step on at one side which, of course, is going to make a much bigger rocking motion for them to cope with.

Continue using treats to praise and encourage your dog as it gets used to getting in and out the kayak, and to learn to settle when on board – when they are comfortable, they will most likely lie down along the kayak, but you will need to get used to them moving around and the impact on your control of the kayak.

Dogs come in quite a range of shapes, sizes, and temperaments, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution – you know your dog the best and where the most ideal resting spot on the kayak is will depend on both your type of craft and your type of dog. One top tip is to help make the hull less slippery for your dog which can be done by adding nonslip materials and padding – these can be as simple as an old yoga mat and tape picked up at any good hardware store.

Paddling is the next stage to get your dog familiar with, as you are now introducing movement and splashing into the mixture. As ever, rewards and praise are the best way to proceed.

Next is safety – just as you should not be on the water without a lifejacket, neither should your dog. While most dogs are good natural swimmers and enjoy water, it does not mean they are invincible against currents and temperatures, so ensure they have their own personal flotation device and that they are familiar and happy with wearing it. For smaller dogs especially, one with a handle so you can grab them if needed is a good idea, and let them get used to wearing it in the water before your first paddling session, as it will be a very different swimming experience for them.

Finally, know your dog – how does it react around other animals? You are heading off into the natural world with ducks, fish, birds, riverbank animals like otters, mice, shrews, and the like. Basically, there will be a lot of distractions for a dog. If they are not really disciplined enough to ignore other animals – and people – on, in, and around the water, it may be best to leave your pet at home.

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