Fur babies, in general, make some of the best companions on any adventure. If you own a dog, though, and you both love to kayak? Heaven on earth!
Just you and your pooch, riding the waves and absorbing the joy of being in Nature makes everything ok.
If you haven’t yet taken your dog along in the ‘yak yet, read on for key tips designed to make the experience fun and rewarding for everyone.
1. Evaluate your dog’s health and physical condition for the new sport you are introducing. Can she swim well? While we hope you don’t capsize out there, it’s always wise to plan for accidents. Will she wear a dog life jacket and not be bothered by it? Can she remain relatively calm and focused while riding with you? Will she obey simple commands such as, “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come here”, “Lay down”? The key will be to have good control over your dog at all times, especially if the going gets rough, or if he becomes overly excited or distracted while in your boat.
2. Is your kayak large enough for your both to travel safely and comfortably? If you yourself are not 100% certain of your ability to right your kayak after capsizing, then think twice about going out with a pet. A sit-on-top kayak may make the most sense if you’re a beginner looking to bring your dog along. They tend to be easier to re-board if necessary.
3. Before you take your “maiden voyage” together, help your canine fur baby get used to your kayak. Spend some time in your yard, sitting in/on your boat with your dog in your lap, or on a leash. Be sure she is wearing her PFD at this time so she can begin to get used to it. (A PFD with a sturdy handle attached is an excellent idea for your dog.) If she has a favorite chew toy or pillow, place that into the boat and just relax together. Keep you own mood mellow and easy going. Give your dog a treat or two as you sit together. The goal will be to help you dog become acclimated to these surroundings with you.
4. Practice basic commands as listed above, and again, offer a treat and warm praise to your pet when he does well and obeys in the kayak. Try placing a towel on the bow of your boat and training your dog to sit on it. A soft dog bed works well, too.
5. The first time you prepare to launch on an adventure, approach your kayak with your dog on a leash, while he is wearing his PFD. Enter the boat ahead of your dog, and then help him inside to get settled. Gently push off and float slowly while paddling lightly. Remain alert for any signs your pet is anxious or about to jump ship. Have those treats, praise and snuggles handy to keep him on track. Try to keep your own state of mind super calm; your dog will pick up on that cue and follow suit, hopefully. With practice, you’ll both get the hang of kayaking together and enjoy every moment on the water!
6. What if your dog jumps out while you’re paddling? Remain calm, for starters. If you’re close to shore, slowly paddle in while your dog swims next to the boat. Re-board and start over. Further out? Use your re-entry skills and get yourself back into the kayak first. Then, secure your paddle under the deck lines, and pull your dog aboard using the handle on the top of her PFD. Help her to safely climb back in and off a yummy treat. Summon for help if needed. This is not time to take chances. Also – Don’t leash your dog while she’s in your kayak. This is dangerous if you do capsize.
Those are the basics to getting started kayaking with your pooch. Above all, as always, it’s safety first for you both. Whatever you need on the water – water, snacks, sun shield, a comfortable place to sit – is what most dogs will enjoy as well. A plastic baggie or two stashed in your day pack is also a good idea…just in case Nature calls. A water bowl may come in handy, too.
Take it slow at first and before you know it, you’ll have a life-long ‘yakking pal to keep you company as you soak in the unending beauty Mother Nature has created.
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When it comes to being outdoors and enjoying life, the mid-Atlantic region has it all! Centered between the more tropical southeastern states and the cooler, more varied seasons of the north, this area offers dozens of excellent paddling sites for all skill levels.
OK, so you’ve got your kayak, your sleeping bag, a tent and some bug spray. And you’re looking to go camping along a river for a couple of days. The key? Pack light and take only what you truly need. Remember that every ounce you pack is weight you’ll be moving as you paddle. Plan to conserve energy where and how you can.