How to Kayak With Your Dog

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At some point last fall the water got cold enough that Fang wasn’t super psyched to spend huge amounts of time in it. He’d wade in for a drink, or to chase frogs or fish, but he definitely got to a point where swimming was ‘out’. It surprised me that his reaction was to try to climb onto the boat while I was battening down the spraydeck.

I love my dog, thus I’ll not force him to do anything he doesn’t really want to do. It occurred to me that we’d get where we were going faster if he was on the deck instead of swimming alongside. All through the fall that’s what ended up happening. If he wasn’t keen to swim or if the crossing was too long, I’d let him plop onto the deck and away we’d go. Now that the ice is (mostly) off the lakes we’ve been out paddling a bit. The water is at it’s coldest right now, thus once he got over his “WOOHOO–we’re BACK!” phase, he’s been climbing onto the deck a few times every outing.

It isn’t a big deal, but there are a few small steps that you’ll want to pay attention to, lest both of you end up in the drink.

Most important is to stabilize the boat. I typically bring one side up right against the shore, wedge my paddle into the muck on the opposite side, then use that paddle to lever the boat firmly against the shore. Once I’m stable I give him the okay and he steps up and plops down.

Easy enough.

The only other thing to pay attention to is how well balanced the boat is. Fang is 80 pounds and being atop the deck his center of gravity is pretty high. If he leans we both lean! So I make sure before setting out that he’s centered — usually a tug on his tail or a push on his rump gets him more or less in the middle. We learned the hard way that if he’s not comfortable and tries to shift mid-stream, we’re probably both going for a swim. No biggie in July, sub-optimal on 35 degrees and snaining days.

If the landing is anything other than beach sand It’s best to get him off stat–before wind or current can push me somewhere I don’t want to be. Kind of a bonus that as he hops off he shoves me back out.

For more from Mike Curiak, visit Lace Mine 29.

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{ 9 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Kim May

    Great video and it looks like Fang’s having a good time. As a veterinarian, though, I encourage you to get him a doggy PFD if you’re going to continue doing this. Dogs swim pretty well, but should have PFDs for the same reasons you should. Dogs can also become exhausted and hypothermic in cool/cold water, just like people who may capsize and have to tread water or swim, so the water temp should be safe. Have fun, but keep both of you safe!

  • Stefan

    What kind of kayak do you use? I have often wondered whether an open top or a closed top would be the better choice if you want to take your dog along, and also a 1 or 2 person style. Any thoughts on the best types?

  • Mark

    Hi – I agree with Kim that Fang should have a doggy PFD so he can swim longer and you can get him back in if he gets in trouble.
    Have a look at the ones on our website and if you would like to try one get back to me

  • Jennie

    Sweet. I have a Denali Llama U was going to sell since it’s too big for me. Now I have an OES puppy (8 months) who I can teach to go with me. Everything really does happen for a reason =)

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