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How to Take Your Dog Canoeing & Kayaking: 10 Safety Tips

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

Dog sitting on lap of person canoeing in aqua blue water

How to Take Your Dog Canoeing & Kayaking: 10 Safety Tips

Taking your dog kayaking or canoeing can be great fun, but there are several things to consider before you go out onto the water. Dogs can be intimidated by a kayak or canoe, and they’re not as easy to use as a standard boat. Keep reading as we provide several tips and tricks that you can use to help your pet feel comfortable and enjoy the experience so you can do the same.

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The 10 Tips to Take Your Dog Canoeing & Kayaking

1. Choose the Right Boat

A red canoe rests on a rocky shore of a calm blue lake
Image Credit: Dan Thornberg, Shutterstock

Choosing the right boat is an essential first step. You want to pick one large enough to comfortably hold you and your pet. It should also be stable in the water and not tip too easily, as your dog will likely move around as you travel. A kayak is perfect for a small pet, and since canoes are a bit larger, those are ideal for big dogs. A canoe is also better if you plan to take other humans with you on your adventure.

2. Get Your Dog Familiar With the Boat

Before you can go out onto the water, you must let the dog get familiar with your new boat. The best way to do that is to leave the boat on dry land where your dog can access it. Give your dog plenty of time to sniff around and explore the vehicle so they can get used to it. Wait until they seem comfortable sitting in it before putting it in the water.

3. Use a Pet Lifejacket

duchshund dog wearing life jacket
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

We highly recommend purchasing a pet lifejacket for your dog before going out on the water with a canoe or kayak. Get one that fits your dog correctly, and choose a color that’s easy to see from a distance. These jackets will help keep your dog safe and make it easier to pull them closer to you when you need to.

4. Bring Plenty of Supplies

You will likely want to spend as much time as possible on the water, so pack all the necessary supplies. You will need food, water, and treats to ensure that your pet has all the energy that they need. First aid kits for you and for your pet are also good things to bring on a boating trip.

5. Consider the Weather

Orange color outrigger canoe on turquoise tropical water view
Image By: Photos BrianScantlebury, Shutterstock

Check the weather before taking a canoe or kayak into the water with your dog. Don’t go out on extremely hot days—the boat has no shade, and your pet will easily dehydrate or overheat. Windy days can make the water choppy and hard to navigate, and it’s not always easy to get out of the water quickly. You also don’t want to get stuck in the rain, especially during a thunderstorm, which can not only scare your pet but can also be dangerous.

6. Train Your Dog

Before taking your dog out onto the water, it’s important to teach them several commands to help them stay safe. First, train them with “sit” and “stay” to help them be more comfortable inside the boat, and use “wait” to make it easier to get out of the boat. You may also find other commands and tricks helpful as you go on more adventures.

7. Start With Short Trips

Dog in the canoe
Image By: Patri Sierra, Shutterstock

Only take short trips around a pond or lake the first few times that you take your pet in the canoe or kayak to help your dog get used to staying relatively still and following your commands and the motion of the water. Starting with a long trip can overwhelm your dog, but you can gradually increase the length of your adventures if your dog appears to be having an enjoyable time.

8. Stay Hydrated

The lack of shade and wind from a moving canoe or kayak can quickly dry you out, so keeping you and your dog hydrated during your boating adventures is critical. Bring plenty of water with you on your trips, and take frequent breaks to consume it.

9. Watch Out for Danger

senior male is paddling canoe with a pit bull dog in a life jacket
Image By: marekuliasz, Shutterstock

When maneuvering your canoe or kayak through the water, avoid any rocks or trees that could bump into the boat, scare your dog, and send them into the water. We also recommend watching out for other boats that might distract your dog.

10. Have Fun

The most important part of taking your pet on a canoe or kayak is to have a good time. If your dog looks frightened and is not relaxing after a few trips around the lake, you might need to look for a different activity. However, many dogs love the water and will have a great time with you.

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How Do I Know If My Dog Will Like the Kayak or Canoe?

  • If your dog likes to play in the water at the beach or in puddles as you walk, there is a good chance that your dog will enjoy canoeing or kayaking.
  • If your dog doesn’t like wearing clothing like a life jacket, getting them onto a kayak or canoe can be difficult.
  • It’s better to take dogs that are good swimmers onto a canoe or kayak.
  • If your dog is easy to train and is good at following orders, you will likely have a good time on your canoe or kayak.



As long as your dog can swim, you can try taking them out on a canoe or kayak if you have one. Teaching them to stay in the vessel and not be afraid can be a slow process, but if you remain patient and follow this guide’s steps, you will be boating with your pet in no time. Remember to let your pet get used to the vessel before you put it into the water, and start with short trips. Ensure that your dog wears a life jacket and responds to all the important commands before you leave on a long ride. Bring plenty of water, food, treats, and first aid kits, so both of you can stay energetic and avoid any problems.

Featured Image Credit: Noah Koehoorn, Shutterstock

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