USE CODE "SUMMERPADDLE" at checkout to comp your free paddle with kayak purchase!

No Dogs Left Behind

How to kayak with dogs

By Samantha Brooke



It all began at Lake Moomaw, one of my favorite places to adventure in Virginia. I left Aspen, my 5-year-old golden retriever, on the beach with a few girlfriends while I set off in my Bay Oru Kayak to take sunset pictures. Not a minute later, I turned around to witness her struggling to reach my kayak.

Mama, you forgot meeee! Or at least that’s what I imagined she was saying in a Sponge Bob-like voice. (But really, don’t you wish your dog could talk to you?!)

Taking your dog kayaking

After returning to shore, I managed to stuff her inside the cockpit and set off.  She was in heaven, and so was I. I gained my first co-captain.  

Fast-forward a few years and another dog, Koa, later, and the question I most often asked is “how do you get the dog to stay in your kayak?” I’ve put together a quick “how-to” guide for starting to kayak with your dog:

How to train your dog to kayak

Know Your Dog

The most obvious but most important advice is to know your dog and whether he/she will be happy in a kayak with you.  Will he/she like being confined to a small space for a period of time?  Koa loves to be my shadow but he overheats easily whereas Aspen doesn’t overheat and never wants to leave my sight.  Guess which one likes to stand up and move around while the other lays down calmly and enjoys the scenery?  Koa is the former, Aspen the latter.

Training your dog to kayak

Practice on Dry Land

Practice getting in and staying in a kayak with your dog before hitting the water.  I practiced in my parents’ basement with Koa a dozen times before attempting a lake.  This allowed him to get comfortable in the kayak and “understand” what to do.  If your pup won’t get in the kayak initially, try luring him/her into it with a treat.

Beginner kayaking with dogs

Kayaking for beginners

Play Time Before Launching

When you’re ready to take your practice outside, allow your pup to play a bit or walk around before placing them in the kayak.  I find this helpful to not only get their “zoomies” out but also to encourage them to rest once in the kayak.       

Kayaking with dogs

Dogs in kayaks

Practice in Water and Stay Close to Shore

After feeling confident your dog understands getting in and lying down in the kayak, start practicing in the water but stay close to shore.  Don’t forget a few things:

  • Personal Floatation Device (PFD) - for both you and your dog.
  • Dry bag - for everything you’ll take in the kayak.  The last thing you want is your phone ending up at the bottom of a lake.
  • Water and dog bowl - your dog will definitely get thirsty and you generally don’t want them inhaling the (likely) dirty water in which you’re kayaking.
  • Treats - I bring bully sticks and other treats (see point #6).

Dogs in Oru Kayaks

Strong Sit and Stay Commands

Your dog responding to verbal (and/or non-verbal) cues to sit, lay down, and stay will be helpful for not capsizing!  Koa loves to jump up from the down position and rock the boat (causing me to have a heart attack).  If your dog suddenly stands up in the kayak, you’ll want him/her to listen to a “sit” or “down” command.  This is the only reason Koa hasn’t tipped the kayak yet; after a bit of panicked pleas, he goes back down (and I quickly return to shore!).

Kayak training for dogs

Bring Treats, Lots of Them

Maybe your dog enjoys people and animal watching as much as you do but more than likely, he/she will get bored at some point.  Keep them entertained by bringing rawhides, bones, or any toy that keeps them engaged.  These are also helpful for getting your dog to look at your camera during a picture.

Taking your dog kayaking

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t expect your dog to make co-captain status on day one.  It takes time and repetition for your pup to understand proper behavior in the kayak just like any trick takes time to learn.  Be patient, understand your dog’s limits and respect them, and most of all, have fun!

I hope your fur baby has been promoted to co-captain once you’ve tried these tips which helped me.  Nowadays, you can see me kayaking with either of my pups in our Beach Oru Kayak, which provides plenty of room for either dog (Koa being bigger at 90 pounds) and myself to explore the outdoors.  It also provides ample storage space behind the seat to make treats, toys, and camera equipment easily accessible.  Fur baby or not, I hope you have fun and adventure wherever your Oru takes you!