What You Need to Know Before Kayaking with a Dog

It was finally time to invest in my own little boat after renting one last summer on the family camping trip to Mercer, Wisconsin.

I did months of research, then I found the Sea Ghost Kayaks by Vibe and the blue color alone sold me on it. It is my favorite shade of blue. And I had to buy it after seeing all the specs were near perfect for what I needed.

I loved every second of kayaking on my own, but it is so much more fun when you can take man’s best friend with you. Here is how I was able to go kayaking with a dog.

Pick the Right Style of Kayak

Last year I rented a kayak from a local outfitter on our trip to Mercer. I had a blast paddling around the lake and it is what prompted me to finally go out and buy my own.

My rental kayak

The one I rented was too small for me as a larger, giant-sized woman. I also didn’t like the fact that I had to sit inside the kayak. I feel like that is the whole reason I was drenched after every trip around the lake because I was essentially sitting in a fancy-shaped bucket.

Vibe Sea Ghost 130

When it came time for me to narrow down the style of the kayak that I decided on a fishing style so that I was sitting on top of the boat so I could stay dryer and have a little bit more stability on the water. And since I was planning on taking Vala with me on my kayaking trips, I needed the extra stability in case she was able to rock the boat a little bit too much.

Make sure your dog is the right size to fit on your kayak

I have two breeds of dogs. Havanese and Newfoundlands. I opted to take Vala the Havanese with me versus any of the Newfs. I’m sure with practice and time they might be able to make it work, but I don’t know where I would sit.

Vala the Havanese, a small toy breed that can fit on a pillow

If you do have a larger dog, like a Newfoundland, and want to kayak with them, consider a tandem kayak. That way there will be plenty of space for both you and your dog.

Boris (my sister’s dog) the Newfoundland, a large water rescue working breed.

Get your dog a life jacket or a PFD (personal floatation device)

Yes, they make life jackets for your dog!

Growing up with Newfoundlands, life jackets were never something we considered necessary when we took the dogs to the lake.

Almost all Newfs can swim. Havs can too for that matter, they actually really enjoy it.

Vala in her dog life jacket

I have two main reasons for saying dogs should wear a life jacket while in a kayak.

  1.  Even if your dog can swim really well, the life jacket will help to keep your dog afloat until you are able to get to him or her.
  2. PFDs for dogs have a nifty handle where their shoulder blades are. This makes it very easy for you to pull them up out of the water without having the get a grip under their chest and potentially fall in yourself

Get your dog familiar with the kayak

Before you even set your kayak in the water, let them try it out on land. Sit in the kayak with your dog and show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. I even rocked the boat back and forth a little bit on land.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Niki Gordon (@chasingdepartures)

I also put Vala in it as I drug it down the path to the water.

Start in calm water before moving on to the waves

This should go without saying. You do not want to be tackling the waves with your dog on the first time out in the kayak. Make sure your start off with smooth calm water and work your way up to the more challenging stuff. That way if your dog does fall out of the boat, they won’t be as traumatized on the first trip.

Be mindful of wildlife on the water

This wasn’t something I had considered until a flock of ducks swam right past me on the water. Fortunately, Vala has mellowed in her old age and isn’t as full of prey drive as she was when she was a youngster. She was content to watch them swim by with me.

But if your dog has a huge prey drive, you definitely want to be aware of where the birds are floating on the water. All I can imagine is a dog leaping out of the boat and swimming after them.

Have you ever gone kayaking with your dog?

Share this with your dog friends and don’t forget to pin it to your Adventure Board!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *