What I Did This Summer: Canine Canoe Adventure in Nova Scotia Part 1
Sometimes while scrolling through your Facebook news feed, you get an idea in your head… and sometimes that idea takes root, and begins to grow. It occupies a small piece of your mind, always present while you are at work, at the gym or shopping for groceries. You speak the idea aloud, and it begins to form into reality.
That is how my husband and I ended up driving across the country to paddling the back country of Nova Scotia with our three dogs. And it all started with a little idea.
We’re no strangers to canoeing with dogs, but bringing three dogs on a multi-day canoe trip certainly has its challenges, especially when it comes to weight. A canoe is limited in its capacity. All together my dogs weight close to 200 pounds. Their food and gear need to be taken into consideration as well. Here’s the canoe equation: The longer the trip, the more food, and hence the greater the weight.
Due to irresponsible owners ignoring leash laws and stoop and scoop laws, park administrations across North America have been imposing limits on canine visitors. Some parks do not allow dogs anywhere other than the parking lots, some places have banned dogs from the back country! Thankfully, Nova Scotia welcomes canines and their humans.
Prepping for Paddling
It takes more time to plan a canoe trip (complete with canines) than it does to actually do it!
Pouring over maps, reading literally everything I can about the area, and dehydrating meals all are done in the months leading up to the trip. Taking dogs on such a journey adds an extra layer of preparation.
While meal planning for the dogs, I find it easiest to pre-pack their food in sandwich baggies. Each dog gets a premeasured amount, and any supplements or vitamins that they need are added to their own baggie.
Now, as any dog owner knows, what goes in, must come out. So once I feed the dogs a meal from the baggie, I just use the same baggie to scoop up their poop. Remember, this is back country, which means leave no trace camping. And yes, we carry the poop out when we depart! Let me tell you, those handy locking seal sandwich bags are excellent for keeping poop from stinking like poop. Here’s something I learned along the way: remember to let a little bit of air out of the bags before you seal them, and ALWAYS store the smaller poop bags in a larger bag.
Our dogs need to be prepped physically and mentally before the trip. When we arrive at a portage, everyone is asked to carry their own weight. For the dogs, that means carrying their own food and waste. Well-conditioned, healthy dogs can carry about 30% of their weight in a proper fitting pack. Always ensure your dog is well conditioned to wearing the pack, and gradually working up to the expected weight. We start pack prepping four weeks ahead of any big trips, gradually getting the dogs used to carrying the extra weight on their walks.
To get the dogs mentally prepared means brushing up on the skills to keep us safe in the canoe. In big wind or big waves, our dogs need to respond as fast as possible to what we ask. We keep training sessions short and fun, and focus on the behaviors we want in the boat. Lay down is the big one, but so is STAY, as in don’t jump out yet, stay in the boat!
We also encourage the dogs to relax. For us, we work on this simply by rewarding them when they offer us a relaxed body position. A dog laying down and rolling over on its hip indicated they are relaxing, so we like to encourage this state of mind. Hyper dogs in a boat – this mix never ends well.
Once we are all prepped, mentally and physical, it’s time to hit the water!
Up Next: We’re Nova Scotia bound!
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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