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A guide to hitting the water and paddling with your dog

Just be careful they don’t tip it over sending you both for an unwanted swim!

This doesn’t apply to just kayaks and canoes, with the right training you’ll even be able to take one of our SUP’s for a ‘doggy paddle’.

Dog behaviour

Your dog must respond to “sit”, “stay” and “down”, but you can also teach them new commands that apply to life on the water that comes from the commands used for sledge dogs, such as “whoa” to stop, and “on-by” to move your pooch past any distractions. If your dog is extremely obedient you could even teach them to go left and right!

Training

 Lack of training with your dog will affect the safety of your trip for all those involved, so if your dog can’t grasp the previously mentioned commands then they are not ready for jumping in the canoe or kayak…yet.

Allow plenty of time for your dog to acclimatise to life on the open water. Patience and consistent training will benefit you greatly in the long run, with those hours of training disappearing into a blur when you hit the water with your four-legged friend for the first time.

Equipment

 Nowadays there is an unlimited selection of equipment for the outdoors-dog with a dog floatation vest always a good idea for the first few sessions. Alternativrely , if they are not the strongest swimmer make sure they are always wearing it around water.

A dry bag is a great addition for any trip as you can put your dog’s essentials, such as dog food, treats, water bowl and leash in there… after all, they need to eat too!

A recent tip we learnt was to have a small foam pad that can be positioned at the front of the canoe or kayak as a comfy place for the dog to sit and rest. These can be picked up online or in homeware stores. Also, you can use this in the house as well, giving your dog chance to become accustomed to it so when they see it placed in the canoe they will know this a safe place to sit and relax.

Cleanliness

 As you were reading this you probably wondered, “what happens when the dog wants to go toilet mid-paddle?” Well, this is when your dog commands come back into play. Training your dog to go to the toilet on command is no different from training them to sit and lie down.

Always remember that when out in nature you should leave no trace that you were there. This means when it comes to waste you should either carry and bury it, or bag it. If you are burying it, walk a minimum of 200+ feet from water, trails and camp, and bury it six to eight inches deep. If you’re doing the latter, we suggest having a container solely dedicated to dog waste and your own that you can store it in. Trust us, there is nothing worse than a bag puncturing in your backpack only to be discovered at the end of the paddle!

As mentioned earlier the leave no trace philosophy applies to your dog which is your responsibility, this means your dog should not chase local wildlife, dig up flora and not excessively bark for long periods of time and always make sure that your pet is allowed on the land in the first place.

To show you what’s possible with your dog on the open water we thought we’d share with you the story of Sergi Basoli who decided to ditch his job and kayak from his hometown of Barcelona along the Mediterranean which is still doing some four years later. He’s travelled over 5000km so far. Whilst he was in Sardinia his trip and life changed forever; he stumbled upon a dog. Alone and confused, she jumped on his kayak and has never left! Nirvana the sailor dog, as she is affectionately known, has well and truly got her sea legs.

Check her out in the video below:

Dog wearing lifejacket image courtesy of Alan Levine

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