Photo Credit Cheryl Wood
Kayaking has increased in popularity in the past several years. More recently, kayaking with your dog has sparked interest in many individuals. Some dogs are well trained, while others misbehave, which is why, it is not all that cut and dry, as to whether it is safe to kayak with a dog. How well trained your dog is, and how experienced of a kayaker you are, may determine whether or not it is safe.
Needless to say, your dog must have a lot of training, before you take your furry friend with you, out on your kayak. To increase your safety, you’ll need to teach your dog, how to get in and out of your kayak, from the shore, and from in the water.
Before you take your dog out on your kayak, you must also feel comfortable that it will sit still and obey your commands, no matter how wound up it gets. If your dog doesn't already know what “sit” or “stay” means, it is probably not a good idea to take your dog kayaking with you. Nor do you want to head out for a lengthy paddle, until you see how settled your dog is on the water, while sitting in a kayak.
Steer away from kayaking at popular destinations, where there is an abundance of people, fishermen, and noisy watercraft, which could frighten your dog, or rile it up. If your dog does move unexpectedly, there's always the chance that he'll tip your kayak over. It is important to see whether you can maintain your balance, if your dog shifts its weight, which is harder to do during rough weather conditions.
You also need to maintain control of your kayak if you encounter gusty winds. Can you safely paddle with your dog in your lap, during windy conditions, and keep from capsizing? Your dog may slip off because there’s nothing for it to grip onto, especially if large waves are crashing onto the kayak’s slick surface.
Hold onto your kayak if you capsize, to keep it from blowing away. Buy a paddle leash and attach it to your kayak. That way, if your dog cannot swim any longer, you will at least have one hand free to rescue your dog.
Invest in a doggy life jacket that has a harness, with a handle you can grab onto. Most dogs cannot easily pull themselves out of the water, onto a slippery kayak. If you did capsize, are you able to get back on, and keep stable, while your dog tried to climb back on by its self, if it was too heavy for you to lift?
It’s not a good idea to take your dog kayaking, if it has never swam in the ocean, or in lakes before. Some dogs take to swimming naturally, while others are unsure how to swim, and have to learn how to swim, just like anything else. Do not put your dog in an open hatch compartment, in case you tip over, and your kayak fills up with water, and sinks.
How well does your dog obey your commands? Will your dog obey your command to “sit” or to “come”, or would it jump into the water after a bird, or take off after a bear feeding along the shoreline? If your did dog run off, would you chase after it, only to discover you’re lost, or someone made off with your kayak, while you were looking for your dog? How would you get back to the launch, if your dog was reluctant to get onto your kayak, and you were miles away?
Inquire about the rules for dogs, whether or not dogs are allowed on the water in a boat, and if they prohibit water body contact. At some destinations, you’ll receive a hefty fine, for water body contact. At the majority of lake destinations that allow dogs, they are required to be under the control of their owner, at all times, and to follow leash restraint policies. (Do not leash your dog to your kayak, (or to you), in the event you capsize, and sink.) In an effort to maintain the number of lakes that admit dogs, be sure to obey the rules.