Black German shepherd dog riding a kayak in Colorado

Kayaking with Your Dog: A Guide

For several years, I have wanted to get into kayaking with my pups. We have a great dog-owner relationship and love to get out and hike, but kayaking  with your dog allows you to see places you wouldn’t see otherwise. It also gets you out of the summer heat to enjoy the tranquility of being on the water alone. But before you hit the water, there are a few things you need to do to make sure it’s a safe and enjoyable experience for both of you. I have German Shepherds weighing between 65 and 85 pounds. That is a lot of weight to add to a kayak but also a lot to make you unstable if they move suddenly. Thus, began my research into the most stable kayak to use with a large dog.

Choosing the Best Kayak for a Dog

The first step is to choose the right kayak for your needs. There are also countless kayaks for whatever you like to do from short, fast, whitewater kayaks, to larger touring options, sea kayaks, lake kayaks and even fishing kayaks.  If you’re planning on doing a lot of kayaking with your dog, you’ll need a kayak that’s big enough to accommodate both of you comfortably. You’ll also want to make sure the kayak is stable and easy to paddle. 

There are two main types of kayaks: sit on top models and sit in models. Obviously, the sit in models offer much less space for a dog, so unless your pup is quite small, the sit on top variety has more space for a larger dog to lie down comfortably. Canoes can also be considerably less stable and are not a good choice for most dogs.

Next, different types of kayaks are made of different materials. Some are inflatable and not durable enough to handle dog toenails clambering about. Others are made from heavy duty plastic and better suited for pets. 

Making the Decision

After much research and checking out many different models in person, I opted for a 10 foot long, sit on top, fishing type kayak. A fishing model is the best kayak for a dog because very stable and even designed that a fisherman could stand on them to cast a fishing pole. I found this very stable for a dog who might move around. It’s made from hard, molded plastic and the ten-foot model left plenty of room for my dog to sit or lie down in front of me but was small enough to load in the back of our pick up and lightweight enough for me to handle alone with the help of a small set of kayak wheels. 

I think it’s important to take your dog with you when kayak shopping to ensure your dog can safely get on the kayak you are considering and that there is enough room for you both.

Safety Tips for Kayaking with Your Dog

Once you’ve chosen your kayak, there are a few safety tips you need to keep in mind:

  1. Always wear a life jacket, even if you’re a strong swimmer. Water in Colorado mountain lakes can be very cold, causing muscles to cramp even after just a few minutes.

  2. Make sure your dog is wearing a life jacket as well. Their life jacket should fit snugly and have a handle on top in case you need to pull them out of the water.

  3. Be aware of the weather conditions and don’t go kayaking in bad weather or if wind is expected. During the summer, the later in the day you go out, the more likely you are to experience wind which can make the water choppy and dangerous.

  4. Keep a leash on your dog with a carabiner attached to the kayak. This makes it much easier to reel them in safely if they fall out of the boat.

  5. Always be sure to tell someone where you are going and ideally paddle with a friend.

  6. Pack fresh water for both you and your dog and a small bowl to offer them water them from.

Good Places to Kayak with Your Dog

There are many great places to kayak with your dog in Colorado. Some of the best places include:

  • Gross Reservoir
  • Union Reservoir
  • Cherry Creek Reservoir
  • Chatfield Reservoir
  • Lake Dillon

You might also consider joining the Colorado Facebook Group for kayakers for lots of ideas of where to paddle. 

Tips for Kayaking with Your Dog

Here are a few tips for kayaking with your dog:

  • Make sure your dog is comfortable with the kayak before going out.
  • Practice with your dog getting on your kayak on land first. 
  • Next move to shallow water where you can stand next to the boat. Use treats to entice your dog to get onto the kayak. Pet and praise when they will calmly sit or lie down on the boat.
  • Start with calm waters and gradually work your way up to more challenging conditions.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions and don’t go kayaking in bad weather.
  • If the wind picks up, head to shore immediately.
  • Always wear a life jacket, even if you’re a strong swimmer.
  • Make sure your dog is wearing a life jacket as well.
  • Be prepared for your dog to jump into the water.
  • Have fun!

Kayaking with your dog is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors together. Just be sure to follow these safety tips and choose the right kayak for your needs. It is also important for you dog to have a certain level of training before heading onto the water. This will help them stay calm and respond to your commands.

If your dream dog is an avid kayaker, our expert Denver & Boulder dog trainers can help make it a reality.

Shopping Cart