Follow these tips to make the process of bringing your canine companion a bit safer, simpler, and less stressful.
First off, get your dog a specifically made doggie life jacket—especially if you’ll be paddling whitewater. It will provide warmth in cold water, help with loading thanks to suitcase-like top handles, plus add high visibility that makes them easier to spot in the water. Like dogs themselves, these PFDs come in all shapes and sizes. Find one that fits your dog’s body type and that doesn’t restrict motion. Some come with clips and buckles for fastening, and others rely on Velcro. Hint: Introduce your dog to the PFD before you get on the water; familiarizing them with the fit by wearing it inside, on walks and even while eating. Also, have your dog practice swimming and trying retrievals in it to gain confidence before heading out.
Depending on their size, dogs can ride in or on all manner of paddlecraft, from SUPs and sit-on-top kayaks to canoes, inflatable kayaks and rafts. Let your dog’s size and demeanor dictate the appropriateness of your craft.
The best paddleboards for dogs should be wider and longer for stability; depending on your dog’s size, shoot for something at least 10 feet long and 32 inches wide. The larger the dog, the more unstable it will be. Also, make sure it has a full deck pad for traction. Start out on land, putting treats on the deck to encourage your dog to get on. Once you’re ready for the water, hold the board still in shallow water and allow your dog to climb aboard before you. Place your dog between or at your feet (small dogs can sit on the board’s nose).
Kayaks and Canoes
The size of your dog and boat type will determine the best placement. Sit-on-tops have more deck space fore and aft, often allowing your dog to lie down. The front hatches of touring kayaks can also work for smaller dogs. If canoeing, start with a stable, wide-bottomed recreational canoe (ideally non-aluminum) and let them sit just in front of the stern paddler; if paddling solo, put them in front. Lay a covering down for comfort and traction (i.e., yoga mat, towel, outdoor carpeting, Ensolite pad, etc.). No matter the craft, let your dog move around and shift positions until they find where they feel most comfortable (reward with treats once they do).