How to Kayak with Your Large Dog? A Simple Guide Anyone Can Follow


Going on a kayaking trip with a large dog can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. however, with some patience and proper training, you and your dog can learn to be safe and have an exciting trip out on the water in no time.

So, how to kayak with a large dog? To kayak with a large dog, you need to teach your dog the necessary skills to ensure its safety and yours.  Your dog to get used to being inside a kayak and wearing a lifejacket You also need to choose the right kind of kayak that will fit both you and your large dog comfortably.

Keep reading to learn how to train your do to kayak safely and how to choose the best kayak for a large dog.

How to Train Your Dog to Kayak?

a dog on a kayak to show how to kayak with a large dog

I like Kayaking, I really do, but it’s quite an expensive hobby and it’s not easy with large dogs like my goldens, even though they are excellent swimmers on their own. This is why before taking your dog to do any water-related activity, it’s very important to make sure your dog has the necessary skills and proper training to be safe out on the water even if they are the best swimmers in the world.

By the way, if they don’t know how to swim yet, you can learn how to teach your golden retriever to swim easily here. You also don’t need to spend thousands of $$$ on a famous-brand kayak anymore, I’ve gotten a cheap kayak that is more than enough for my needs. I’ve used this simple guide to cheap kayaks that I think you will find useful as well.

Let’s break down what you need to do to train your dog to kayak:

Determine if your dog is ready to go on a kayaking trip with you

You need to make sure your dog has a good understanding of basic commands like stay and sit and if it has enough discipline to be around exciting distractions like other kayaks or ducks without jumping into the water.

You also need to make sure your dog can swim or that it’s at least calm when it’s on or around water. Some dogs might get too scared or anxious if they’ve never been near large bodies of water before, so it can be very risky.

Help your dog get used to the kayak

If your dog can sit calmly in a car, then it can learn to sit in a kayak.

You can start by placing your kayak in your yard or in a park so that your dog can check out and play around it.

Whenever your dog goes over to the kayak, try to praise it and/or give it treats. You can also sit in the and pet your dog when it comes over. This will help acclimate the dog to the kayak as it will start to associate kayaks with having fun.

Help your dog get used to wearing a life jacket

Both you and your dog must always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when you’re out on the water.

You need to find a PFD that will fit your dog’s body type and allows it to move easily. It’s recommended to go for PFDs with strong handles and solid clips instead of Velcro straps as they can come undone easily.

To help your dog get comfortable with the PFD, you can have your dog wear it when you’re in the house and when you take it on walks. You can also try getting your dog to swim in the PFD to build confidence.

Practice some new useful commands

Basic commands like sit or stay will definitely be helpful, but you can also teach your dog some new commands such as “get in your spot” or “lay down” to make sure they will remain safe on the deck of the kayak.

Take your dog out on the water for a test run

Before heading out on a real trip, you can take your dog down to the water’s edge for a test run.

You can practice all the new skills your dog learned to make sure the dog fully mastered them.

Tips to Kayak Safely with Your Dog

Here are some tips you can follow to make sure you remain safe on the water on kayaking with your dog:

  • Never tie your dog’s leash to the kayak. This can be a safety hazard for you and the dog if the kayak capsizes as the leash might get stuck under the kayak or wrapped around you or your dog’s neck.
  • Trim down your dog’s toenails before getting it on the kayak. This will help your dog keep traction on deck and prevent any scratches.
  • When paddling, try to keep your strokes long and smooth to prevent the kayak from rocking too much as this can make your dog sick or anxious.
  • Stick to paddling in calm, open waters as it can be too dangerous to kayak with your fog in whitewater rapids.

What to Do if your Dog Jumps out of the Kayak?

Dogs can get too excited when they’re out on the water, so they might jump out of the kayak to chase a duck or stick that they see in the water.

In this situation, you need to be prepared by making sure your dog is wearing a lifejacket and remaining calm so you can help your dog get back into the kayak safely.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Paddle towards your dog and tell them in a calm (but firm) voice to remain still or to get into the kayak. The last thing you want to do is get your dog to panic.
  • Once you get close to where your dog is, lift your paddle out of the water so it doesn’t hit the dog or scare it faster.
  • Lean over and grab your dog by its lifejacket handle then pull it carefully on board.
  • If your dog isn’t wearing a lifejacket, lay down your paddle in the kayak and make it won’t fall in the water, then reach down with both hands and try to pull your dog parallel alongside the kayak.
  • Keep one arm across your dog’s back and hook the other around under its front legs so you can get a good grip then scoop the dog back onboard
  • Once your dog is safely back on board, make sure to speak to them in a soothing manner and give them a treat to calm them and to remove any associations of danger wit kayaking.

How to Choose the Right Kayak for A Large Dog?

Kayaks come in a wide range of designs and sizes, so it’s important to choose the right one that will work for a large-sized dog.

You need a kayak that’s made from strong durable materials with a high weight capacity that can handle your weight and the dog’s as well as the weight of any gear you might bring aboard You also need a kayak with a cockpit that’s large enough for you and the dog to sit comfortably. 

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed with open cockpits, so there will be enough space for a large dog to lie down. They have wider beams which adds more stability in case your dog starts to move around. They can also be easy to re-enter from the water in case of capsizing.

Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, are usually not ideal for large dogs as they’re designed with closed cockpits. However, you can go for a tandem model which will have an extra seat that will be big enough for a large dog to sit comfortably.

Inflatable kayaks are also a good choice as they’re made from durable material that can withstand the dog’s claws and some of them are designed with high walls that can act as a barrier to prevent the dogs from jumping into the water.

Related Questions

What Gear Do You Need to Bring When Kayaking with a Dog?

When kayaking with a dog, you need to be prepared with some essential gear. Make sure to bring a lifejacket and a basic first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to bring water-friendly toys for the dog to play with as well as treats in a watertight container and fresh drinking water for the dog.

What to Do if Your Kayak Tipped Over with Your Dog Abroad?

If your kayak is tipped over with your dog abroad, the most important thing is to remain calm and to remain close to your dog. Try to swim back to the kayak with your dog, then place your dog’s paws up on the kayak to push them back on deck. Next, you need to pull yourself up into the kayak.

Helpful Resources

Why doesn’t my golden retriever like water?

How to kayak with your dog

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

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