Are you a thrill-seeking kayaker who dreams of venturing into the serene wilderness with your furry best friend? Well, you’re in luck! Kayaking with dogs can be an exciting and joyous experience for both you and your canine companion. With proper training and preparation, your dog can become a confident and safe passenger on your kayak adventures.
Building Your Dog’s Confidence: Training on Land
The first step in introducing your dog to the world of kayaking is to build their confidence. Sarah Mairs, an experienced dog trainer and kayaker, suggests starting with land training. This approach allows you to have better control over the kayak’s movement while helping your dog adapt to the unstable surface.
Begin by rewarding your dog for simply observing you rocking the kayak. This positive reinforcement helps them associate movement with good things. Gradually progress to having your dog touch and eventually get into the kayak, rewarding them at each stage. Teach them cues for getting on and off the kayak, ensuring they understand that they should wait for an invitation and only jump off with permission.
Finding Your Dog’s Spot on the Kayak
Once your dog is comfortable being on the kayak, the next step is to designate a spot for them to stay on board. The ideal location depends on the size of your dog and the type of kayak you have. If you have a sit-on kayak, your dog will have more space, and most dogs naturally lie down when they relax. During training, remember to reward your dog when they are in the chosen position to reinforce their understanding of where to stay.
While it would be wonderful if your dog remained still throughout your paddling session, that is not always the case. Your dog may move around or change positions. To ensure their comfort and safety, add padding and nonslip material to provide secure footing. For areas where your dogs tend to be drawn to, use yoga mats, and consider using marine traction tape along the edges for safer entries and exits.
Introducing Your Dog to Paddling
The final step in on-land training is getting your dog accustomed to the motion of paddling behind them. Sarah Mairs suggests introducing the paddle first and associating it with rewards. Gradually, have your dog join you on the kayak and introduce the paddling motion. Focus on keeping the experience positive, so your dog develops a genuine enjoyment of being on the water.
Ensuring the Safety of Your Dog with a Life Jacket
While on the water, your dog must wear a personal flotation device (PFD) to ensure their safety. It’s essential to train your dog to be comfortable wearing their life jacket even before hitting the water. Find a PFD that fits your dog’s body type and allows for easy movement. Look for one with a sturdy handle and secure clips rather than relying solely on Velcro attachments.
To familiarize your dog with the life jacket, let them wear it at home, take them for walks, and feed them while wearing it. It’s also crucial to teach them how to swim while wearing the PFD. Take them swimming and engage in activities that build their confidence, such as retrieving objects or simply swimming around.
Taking the Adventure to the Water
Once your dog is comfortable with the training and the life jacket, it’s time to take your kayaking adventures to the water. However, it’s essential to ensure that your dog can exhibit self-control and remain calm around distractions before embarking on a kayak trip together. If your dog is still easily overwhelmed, more training is needed.
Find a shallow entry point and beach the kayak. If possible, have a friend assist in holding the kayak steady while you get on. To begin, secure your seat first to keep it dry, and then invite your dog to hop in, facing the right direction as you have practiced on land. When you feel organized and settled, ask your friend to push you both out onto the water, putting all your training into practice.
Kayaking with your four-legged companion can be a remarkable experience – a unique bond forged between nature, adventure, and the love you share with your dog. So, equip yourself with the necessary skills, grab your paddle, and create unforgettable memories as you explore the wonders of the water with your loyal companion by your side.
Start your kayaking journey with your dog today by visiting UpStreamPaddle.