5 Pet Portaging Tips For Canoeing With Your Dog

Kevin Roberts
by Kevin Roberts

Here’s something I’ve always wanted to do – go on a canoeing trip with Oscar. For outdoor adventure Kevin Roberts, it’s just another day in the great outdoors. And that’s why I’ve asked him to share his top 5 things you should to do before you get in the canoe.

Is the open water calling you?

I have been lucky to share so many beautiful adventures with my dogs in the canoe. We have run into our share of obstacles, broken canoes, thunderstorms, bears… even a forest fire!

Last fall, I adopted a new puppy, Burger, who’s a bit of a handful. This has got me thinking about safety tips for people, and dogs new to canoeing. With well-trained dogs and some foresight, you and your dog will be pros in no time, ready to tackle any new paddling adventure.

Before you pack up your paddle and hit the water with your best friend, here are some tips to keep you both safe:

Obedience Training

An enthusiastic dog + a tippy canoe = bath time for you and your dog! A little training will go a long way to keep everyone dry and in the boat. Your dog should be able to sit and lie down on command, and come back when you call. When out on the open water, always expect the unexpected. The more communication you and your dog have together, the better off, and drier, you both will be. Sitting and laying down on command, lighting fast, can help stabilize the canoe. Unfortunately, you may still flip out of the canoe, and a rapid recall is essential. Your dog might be close enough to doggie paddle to shore, or you may want him to stick close to the canoe for a water rescue. Some dogs may just jump out for a swim, and coming back when called means you don’t have to go chase them in the canoe!

Swimming Lessons for Fido

Before you set off on an adventure, find out what kind of swimmer your pup is. Look for an indoor/outdoor swimming facility for dogs, or head to a dog friendly beach and wade in with a special toy. Having some gage of your dog’s swimming ability will give you the confidence you need to pick the right canoeing route and manage your risk. For open lake paddling trips, older dogs, or dogs with mobility issues, consider a doggie lifejacket to add some buoyancy for your best friend.

Make ‘em Tired

Before you step foot in the canoe, engage your dog in some physical exercise. You know your dog best and you know what makes him tired. A tired dog is an obedient dog, and this is especially true in the canoe! Turtles, ducks, water bugs, anything can be a tempting target for an excited pup. Your dog is more likely to ignore distractions and get into the Zen of the paddling experience if he’s had a chance to romp about before you leave shore. I love to play fetch with our pack. It makes them the maximum amount of tired, with the minimum amount of work for me! A win-win situation, in which I have tired dogs, but lots of energy to paddle.

Tell Someone Your Canoeing Plans

Things can and do go wrong, but if you are prepared, and someone knows where to look for you, you have one less thing to worry about! Check out the free app Trail Note, which sends out a message to an emergency contact if you don’t check in on time.

Brush Up on Your Paddling Skills

When you paddle with your pooch, you will be doing all the work! Look into taking a paddling course or get out without the dog a few times just to brush up on your strokes. You should be able to confidently turn your boat, control your speed and face wind, wake and waves before you add your dog. Practice your moves on both sides of the canoe so you can quickly get out of any jam you happen to encounter.

Have fun out there doggie paddling!

Kevin Roberts
Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: "Get outside and play with your dogs!

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