canoeing with a dog

Canoeing With Dogs: Ultimate Guide to Taking Your Dog Paddling

Why not add canoeing with dogs to your list of weekend adventures? Especially if your pup feels more at home in the water than he or she does on land.


With preparation, paddling is a safe and exciting way for you and your dog to enjoy some time together outdoors. Before you dive right in without a paddle though, here are a few tips and tricks to keep you afloat when you go paddling with your dog.


Table of Contents

How to Go Canoeing with Dogs

Rehash Basic Obedience

woman playing with dogOne of the first questions many first-time canoeists ask is will my dog sit in a canoe?


Perfecting basic obedience skills will help to keep you and your pet safe out on the water. While they may be an eager listener on land, things can quickly escalate in the water.  


To set both you and your pup up for success, practice your commands while the canoe is still on dry land. Be sure to take a few practice runs using these crucial commands before heading out onto the water. 


Commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ will be of great importance when attempting to launch the canoe with your dog inside. The last thing you need as you push off is for your pet to unbalance the canoe or attempt to jump out.  


‘Leave it’ is also a great command should your dog spot something enticing in the water or on the shore of the lake.  


Match Their Pace

Be wary of creating a negative association by forcing your dog inside of the canoe before they are ready. 

dog sitting on orange canoe


It’s best to introduce any new watercraft slowly and at your pet’s pace. Let them sniff around and hop inside in their own time. Complete the introduction on dry land, so there is no added pressure to sit still and no nerves of being out on the water.


Even if your pet loves the water, being confined inside of watercraft may be a very different story. It may take some time for your buddy to come around to sitting inside of the canoe rather than playing around in the lake itself – and that’s perfectly okay! Rome wasn’t built in a day.


Choosing a Dog-Friendly Canoe

Hang on, you’re thinking, I’m a complete novice. I don’t even have a canoe to introduce.


Don’t worry! Whether you’re an experienced canoer looking for a pet-friendly upgrade or a  complete novice hobby, there is an extensive range of suitable choices on the market. But what makes a canoe dog friendly?


What someone might consider a dog-friendly canoe varies between owners. Some need the capacity to bring multiple dogs on a trip. Others might hope to tackle more challenging runs with their pets. Let’s take a deeper dive. 


canoeing with dogs

Types of Canoes

Canoes are not all built the same. Selecting a model that is specifically designed for your type of paddling will make the overall experience much easier for everyone involved. 


There are two main types of a canoe that you will come across in your search: 


Recreational Canoes

The most common and widely available type of canoe. If you are hiring your canoe, this is likely the type that will be provided.


Recreational canoes are stable and durable, making them great for beginners who are simply heading out on the lake or down a gentle river. They are often spacious, so make great canoes for those hoping to head out with a dog! 


Whitewater Canoes

happy dog standing on a canoeThese canoes are made for use in frothy and choppy water. They are designed with high sides and greater curvature so that they can capably handle swiftly moving waterways like rapids. 


Whitewater canoeing is recommended for more experienced paddlers.


Tip: When deciding if a white water run is appropriate for your dog, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable taking a child along. If the answer is no, it may not be a suitable trip for your pet either. 


Consider Canoe Size and Weight

To keep everyone content, aim for more room than you think you will need. This allows you to bring extra water and treats for your dog, as well as space for gear like fishing rods or camping supplies. A nice little bonus is that the extra space might allow one of your two-legged friends to tag along, too. 


Regardless of the size of your canoe, you will need to be mindful of its weight limit. Operating within the designated weight limit is crucial, as overloading your canoe can result in it sitting too low in the water, bringing a higher risk of water overflowing.  


As a general rule, the average 16’ – 17’ canoe can hold up to 940 pounds. This can vary between manufacturers, so confirm with your seller upon purchase. Calculate the combined weight of you and your pet and consider any additional materials you will be bringing along.


It’s surprising how quickly these can add up, especially if you need to bring a large supply of water.  


Tip: Weigh your dog dry, wet, and while they are wearing their life jacket. It may seem like overkill, but being thorough can help you avoid some precarious situations. 


Choosing the Right Material

Plastic Canoes

Usually made from thermoplastic polyurethane, these canoes are usually for recreational use. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and a great starting point for beginners.


If you’re just starting canoeing for the first time, a plastic canoe is highly recommended.


Fiberglass Canoes

Canoes made of fiberglass tend to be reasonably priced, low maintenance, and durable.


They are usually not suitable for use in white water, so they make another great pick for beginners looking to enjoy some still water paddling.


Aluminum Canoes

Aluminum canoes are much more durable than your average plastic canoe. While they may also be heavier and slower, if you’re planning on braving rocky waters then aluminum will serve you well.


One strong downside is that canoes crafted from aluminum absorb heat, so they are not the best choice for unprotected feet or paws.


Tip: No matter which material you decide is right, consider adding a floor mat or other material with a grip to the base of your canoe. Even if your dog is trying their best to remain still and calm, a slippery floor can undo all of their good behavior. A sliding pup is a great way to throw off your balance and risk capsizing.


Canoeing with Multiple Dogs

Paddling with more than one pup is definitely possible so long as your canoe can accommodate the extra paws. Keep in mind the added weight of not just another dog, but also the extra supplies you will need to accommodate them.


Things can quickly become cramped in a canoe which can lead to some snappy behavior if your dogs are already feeling stressed. Before taking everybody out on the water, complete some small individual trips with each dog so they know what to expect.


Canoe Safety and Etiquette

Even if your pet loves the water, being confined inside of watercraft may be a very different story. It may take some time for your buddy to come around to sitting inside of the canoe rather than playing around in the lake itself – and that’s perfectly okay! Rome wasn’t built in a day. 


Sun Safety to Avoid a Hot Dog!

Nobody wants to come home from a fun day on the water with a painful memento. Despite their protective coats, all dogs are still quite sensitive to the sun. If you have a dog with white fur or a lightly pigmented nose then you will need to be extra cautious.


black dog wearing sunglassesLuckily, there are plenty of dog-friendly sunscreens at your local pet store which will help protect your pooch. The American Kennel Club recommends that pups have their sunscreen applied twenty minutes before any direct exposure to sunlight, with reapplication either every four to six hours or immediately after swimming.


Please remember to only use sunscreen that is approved for dogs. Chemicals found in normal sunscreens, such as zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid, can be toxic if ingested.


If you know your pet won’t be able to resist licking off their sun protection, try investing in a  hat and sunsuit for them. You may be surprised at what exactly your dog is willing to wear!


Basic Dog Water Safety

Regardless of how confident a swimmer your dog is, they should still be properly fitted with a life jacket.


Tipping a canoe can be incredibly disorientating. Your dog may not know whether to return to the canoe, head for the shore or continue through the water.


A life jacket will at least ensure that your dog is able to make it back to the surface safely. It also gives you something safe and solid to grab a hold of if they fall out or attempt to jump.


dog standing on a canoeThe use of a lead while canoeing is not recommended as it can so easily become tangled or wrapped around your dog’s neck.


If you do choose to leash your pet, do not secure the leash to the canoe or to yourself. If you flip, your dog may become trapped and is at a greatly increased risk of drowning. If your pet is loose, they have a much better chance of being able to save themselves.


Once you’ve gained some confidence on the water, there is no reason why you and your pup can’t be the next Nevin Harris.


Time to Go Canoeing with Your Dog!

Sharing a canoe with dogs does not have to drive you barking mad. In fact, dogs can be the best kind of canoeing partner! No matter what happens, remain calm – you’re there to enjoy yourselves! Sit back, relax, and enjoy these precious moments together.


Jenni C.
Jenni C.

Jenni and her dog Bailey take every opportunity to go adventuring together. Now their family of pups has grown to 7. Their favorite places to visit are freshwater lakes and mountains.