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Kayaking with Canines: A Beginner’s Guide

People enjoy taking dogs on vacation, camping trips, walks, and even down to the local pub. Britain has millions of dog owners. The number of pooches kept as companions was about 12.5 million in 2022. This means that 59% of households had at least one dog.

Dogs provide security, make great playmates for children, and of course, they provide love and companionship. Many people have close relationships with their dogs. It is this reason why so many wish to take their dog with them when they enjoy their activities such as hiking, or even kayaking.

How practical is kayaking with a dog?

Kayaking with a dog is becoming ever more common and popular now. Kayaks can be used for fishing, open-water expeditions, or camping trips. Taking a dog along is just one further way to combine kayaking with another activity.

There are many suitable kayaks for dogs, and it is wise to spend time weighing up the benefits of different models before selecting one. You will need a kayak for dogs that suits the size of your pet and is stable enough for its build.

And as long as you follow certain guidelines and steps, kayaking with a dog should be perfectly safe.

How do you start kayaking with your pooch?

Many people want to take their pooch with them on trips and activities, and fortunately, there is a website sharing dog friendly travel choices across the UK.

Playing and travelling together helps to create a bond between humans and dogs, and activities help to keep dogs fit and active. Any plan for a kayak trip with a dog should be built up gradually so that your pet is comfortable.

Is it dangerous to kayak with a dog onboard?

Kayaking with a dog is safe. But, remember you needed training when you first got into a kayak, and your dog will need some help too.

There is a belief that all dogs instinctively know how to swim, but this isn’t true, and they certainly won’t know what a kayak is. Preparation will ensure your dog is safe in your kayak.

How do you prepare your dog for kayaking?

You must check how strong a swimmer your dog is. Are they comfortable in the water and not on land? Unfortunately, if your dog doesn’t like water then it may not be suitable for kayaking.

The Kennel Club advises never to force a dog in the water. Dogs can become distressed in water if not comfortable. Therefore, you must provide a comfortable environment where they can get used to the water.

If your dog is a strong swimmer and seems happy, then you can test the water so to speak by taking them in the kayak in very shallow waters. Alternatively, practice spending time in the kayak with your dog on solid ground. You can practise telling your pup to get in and out of the kayak and to lay down in a particular spot.

Be prepared for the open water

The UK in general isn’t known for scorching hot weather but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get burned, and your dog can too. Bringing dog friendly sunscreen is a good idea when you are going out in a kayak with your canine buddy.

You will need to bring certain other equipment and items for you and your dog including:

  • Life jacket (for you and ideally your dog too)
  • Snacks and water (again, for both of you)
  • First aid kit
  • Spare paddle
  • Sun protection including a hat, sunglasses, and lotion
  • GPS device if planning a trip
  • Towel for your dog

A simple towel makes a good spot for your pup to lay on in the kayak and helps them to establish their own area. Snacks and water should always be taken, and life preservers are a must. Even if your dog can swim, a life jacket provides extra safety and will help you to pull them into the kayak if they should go overboard.

Ensure you are a competent kayaker

If you’re new to kayaking, don’t get too carried away, and start planning trips with your dog before you are ready. There are plenty of places to practise, and although it is said that only 4% of English waterways are open to kayakers, there are numerous options.

The Lake District welcomes kayakers and is one of many ideal spots for beginners to practise and advance their skill levels. Once you are competent and confident you can take your dog out.

Make sure your kayak is big enough and stable for a dog

For bigger dogs, many people opt for a tandem kayak to ensure there is enough room. But, most people agree that a sit-on-top kayak is the best option for a dog.

Sit-on-top kayaks provide stability and room for the dog to move. And if your pooch is adventurous and confident then they will find it easier to hop off the kayak from time to time for a swim.

Train your dog

Dogs can get distracted easily and the last thing you want is your pooch getting excited about a raft of ducks on Windermere.

Teaching your dog commands such as lay down, stay, and leave it, will be extremely helpful when you are out on the water and your pooch has decided it’s time to get restless.

Practice launching

Launching a kayak can be the moment a dog gets startled as you both set off for the first time. You can set your kayak half in the water and practice calling your dog in and then set off with both of you in the kayak.

Paddle about a bit in the shallows and return to the shore. This will get your dog used to getting in and disembarking from the kayak as well as launching.

Plan a trip carefully

You might be itching to go for an adventure with your dog but some planning will help the trip to go smoothly. Check your route for rapids and dangers. Ideally, your trip should involve calm waters and smooth sailing as it were.

If you want to camp overnight then look for dog friendly sites beforehand. There are many tips for happy camping with a dog, and when planned properly you should have a great time.


It is perfectly safe to take your dog kayaking. If your dog does jump out, don’t panic, they may just want to take a swim. When you want your dog back in the kayak just call them alongside and lift it back in using their life jacket.

To ensure you and your dog have the best time, compare kayaks to find the most suitable vessel, and ask for advice too. The more you prepare for kayaking with your dog, the more you will both enjoy it.


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