5 Ways to Paddle With Your Pooch

Kevin Roberts
by Kevin Roberts
The water is calling your name, and there’s no reason why your dog can’t join you in your paddling adventures. Just hop into these paddle-powered watercraft that are perfect for pooches.

You should be paddling. And if I had my way, it would be a canoe! Maybe it’s because I am Canadian, but that’s my bias. Let’s take a few minutes to review your options for getting out on the water with the pups. Because a day on the water is a day well spent, especially with your four-legged best friend!


My current fleet only includes just one kayak, but I have owned many models over the years. Why just one? Well, I have three dogs, and they don’t fit so well in a single kayak. When I had a small poodle, you could find me kayaking every day after school. She fit well in the cockpit and was the type of dog to just cuddle and chill out. Easy peasy. My Doberman was a disaster in the kayak. Sitting, she was as tall as me, and impossible to see around. She was constantly in the way of my strokes, and was not the type of dog to just relax and lay down.

Some dogs are ideally suited to kayaks. These are dogs small enough to fit in the kayak, and not tall enough to interfere with the paddle stroke. Nothing is as unpleasant as being repeatedly bonked on the head by the paddle! Besides the potential headache, a dog who is in the sitting position is blocking the paddler from stroking properly, posing a major safety concern. During a gust of wind or a strong current, you’ll need to be able to paddle properly to remain safe.

Sit On Top

There is a large market of sit on top fishing kayaks. These are large, stable kayaks with lots of room to have a dog or two hang out without being in the way of the paddle – awesome! Some are so stable that people can stand up and fish in them. Sit on tops allow for even large breed dogs to hang out. Toss in an old yoga mat and your dog has an ideal place to rest while you do the work. The only major downside to a sit on top is that they are heavy to haul from home to water.

Soft Sided Kayaks

Another popular option is the inflatable kayak, especially because it is much lighter to haul around. If the word inflatable conjures up images of a flimsy air mattress, rest assured these things are tough and stable. One downside is they aren’t known for tracking well, and there is a danger that when you bail, the boat is going to blow away on you. This problem is amplified with doggy passengers. But despite the fact they are filled with air, these things are tough and most models will hold up against your dog’s nails. If an inflatable sounds like a good fit for you, ensure there’s enough room in the cockpit for the dog to fit or opt for an open design in a tandem boat.

Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)

Stand Up Paddle boards are making waves with tons of people, and their dogs are totally onboad! Billed as a total body workout, SUPs offer room for a dog to hang out… or jump off. It depends on your dog’s idea of fun. As there are no sides, these are best suited for warm weather. Some owners like the fact the dog can swim easily off the side, and then climb back on (with some assistance). A SUP is great for a day paddle or playing around on a beach, but are limited in how much they can carry. Unless you and your dog are true minimalists, you’ll have trouble packing the essentials for a multi-day outing onboard.


Looking to carry a couple dogs and a friend, too? Then a canoe is right for you. Paddling alone? Canoes can do that! Just kneel down in the center and away you go – it’s a great workout and offers you amazing control. The most versatile option on this list, canoes are easy to transport and remain stable with loads of weight.

The higher sides of a canoe offer a sense of security for your dogs, and keep waves from splashing them, perfect for pooches who may not be as calm, or don’t appreciate getting wet.

Regardless of which boat you choose, start small and slow. A well trained dog is a pleasure on any craft, and an untrained dog is a danger to themselves, you, and other boaters. Invest in the time to teach your dog to be calm and cool – it will pay dividends while out on the water.

Skip the leash and instead opt for a well-fitted canine flotation vest. Not only is the handle useful for added control of your dog, it can also help lift them in or out of the boat. Please feel free to share pictures of your paddling pup in the comments below!

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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