This is a question that gets asked often. If you love to kayak and you have a dog, it is natural to want to bring your dog kayaking with you.
Can an inflatable kayak handle the claws of a dog?
The answer is YES. Most inflatable kayaks are built tough… really tough. They can handle dogs paws and claws with no worries.
I have had dogs of all sizes in my inflatable kayaks and it’s never an issue. In fact they are ideal for dogs because they are so stable, comfortable and safe.
Not every dog is going to want to go kayaking. Some dogs are much better with water and boats than others. However, if you feel that this is something your dog will enjoy then please follow the safety precautions below.
Important Safety Precautions To Keep Your Dog safe
1. PFD – The number one most important safety precaution is to always make sure your dog is wearing a PFD.
I know lots of people do not want to spend the money on a lifejacket for their dog. I have several friends who fall into this category and we’ve had many discussions on whether or not it is important for a dog to wear a PFD.
For me it’s a no-brainer. My dog relies on me to keep him safe. Kayaking requires a PFD. If your kayak should capsize, it’s possible that your dog could hit his head, get swept away in a current, get a cramp from cold water or simply get exhausted from swimming.
All of these emergencies could result in drastic consequences if your dog is not wearing a PFD. Plus if the PFD has a grab handle this can make it much easier to help your dog back into the kayak if needed.
In my experience a good dog lifejacket will last a very long time so it is typically a one time purchase. A day on the water with your dog can be so much fun, but please keep him safe.
2. Practice – Although there are a few exceptions, the majority of dogs will be a little unsure the first time they ride in a kayak.
The best way to help prepare your dog is to practice first before you ever launch in the water. This may take a little extra time and patience but it’s worth it to have a calm, confident and relaxed dog while you are busy paddling.
I practiced at home a few times first. I inflated my kayak first in my house then eventually on my back patio outside. Place a treat or your dogs favorite toy in the kayak and if possible let him find his way in himself. You may want to hold the kayak still when he enters it at first.
Once your dog gets comfortable getting in and out of the kayak then ask him to sit inside.
It’s important for your dog to learn that he is not to leave the kayak until you say so. The last thing you want is your dog trying to walk inside the kayak or jump out while you are paddling in the water. This can cause some real stability issues and not to mention a little panic.
Once your dog is seated, try walking away from the kayak and require your dog to sit in the kayak by himself. Do this until your dog is comfortable with the process.
Next you will want to practice sitting in the kayak with your dog. I even brought my paddles out the first few times I did this at home so my dog would get used to the paddles moving around him.
Once your dog has mastered this process at home, it is time to head to the water. Practice the same routine while the kayak is on the beach or dock. Once you feel your dog is comfortable and relaxed, you can launch your kayak.
This process will be different for every dog. Some will take much longer than others to get comfortable. For me it was a fairly quick process but lots of training treats were involved.
3. Distractions – There will be many distractions for your dog while you are kayaking. Other people and dogs running and making noise on shore, birds, ducks, fish, and other boaters around you.
I would recommend only going a short distance with your dog the first time out. Get a feel how he reacts to the experience and to the distractions around him.
After all my practicing, the first time I took my dog kayaking, he jumped overboard when he saw some dogs running and barking at us excited on shore. The shock when he hit the water was more than enough to cause him never to do that again.
Luckily he had his PFD on and I was able to just pluck him back into the kayak.
You may need to practice with distractions for awhile to make sure your dog will listen to your commands.
4. Comfort – It can sometimes be a good idea to bring a familiar comfort item in the kayak with your dog such as a favorite blanket or toy.
A waterproof sleeping pad is a great idea for kayaks. Many kayaking stores or pet shops will sell them.
However inflatable kayaks in general are fairly comfortable and a pad is not always necessary.
5. Leash – It may seem like common sense to keep your dog leashed while in the kayak so you can hold the leash and control your dog.
However in truth it can be very dangerous. If the kayak should overturn, the leash could get caught and your dog could drown.
Important Stuff To Bring With You
There are a few important items to have on hand when kayaking with your dog.
- A leash – not for in the kayak but for when you are docked on shore
- A PFD
- Dog treats and water – Warm weather can quickly dehydrate you and your dog when kayaking
- A bowl for the water
- Dog water toys – can be fun if your dog likes to swim
- A mat for your dog to sit on in the kayak
- Sunscreen – your dog can get sunburned too, especially if they are fare with short fur
- First aid kit
- Poop bags