Ultimate Guide: How to Take a Dog on a Kayak

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

For thousands of years, dogs have been a part of our lives while hunting and gathering. And today’s dogs and humans are no less different! Often your best fishing friend will be your longtime canine companion!

With ample room, a dog is more than capable of kayaking with you. One item you will want to have is a Canine Floatation Device for your pet’s safety in case they become excited and jump into the water. Periodic breaks for shade and with a few snacks, you and your dog will have a great time!

There are plenty of reasons you’d want to bring your dog along on a kayak fishing dog-friendly adventure! From companionship and getting your pet out for some fresh air and sunshine, to witnessing your trophy catches!

Let’s take a look at some of the things you should bring along, and what it takes to have your dog accompany you on a kayak!

Is Your Canine Dog-friendly for Kayaking?

Your dog may either be a house pet and never gets outside of their own backyard, or they may be a hunting/hiking dog and are outside quite a bit. For some dogs, a foray to a local dog park may be their only outside activity!

Introducing your dog to kayaking may be easy or difficult, depending upon which type of dog you have. All dogs have their distinctive personalities, likes, and dislikes. So let’s get them over to your fishing kayak!

Can Your Dog Swim and Comfortable Around Water?

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First of all, if you know your dog already swims and enjoys being around the water, you’re halfway there!

If you’ve never had your dog around water, now’s the time to find out how Fido will react. Not when you get your kayak and gear unloaded and down to the boat ramp or dock, and you can’t get your dog close to the edge of the water!

Many cities and towns have a local city lake or pond you can bring your dog to. Spend an afternoon or morning having fun and getting him into the water. A frisbee or favorite toy will get him in if he’s interested!

Make it an enjoyable and fun experience and they’ll be excited to be hitting the kayak with you soon!

Does Your Dog Follow Commands?

It is a must your dog follows commands! The main reason is you shouldn’t have a leash on your dog while in the kayak. If the dog happens to jump out, you don’t want him to get hung up on anything and panicking.

Your dog should know the basic commands of “Come”, “Sit”, “Stay”, and a good one for them to know is “Lay Down”. You should be able to control your dog on land before taking them kayaking.

Does Your Dog Become Easily Excited?

A laid back dog is far easier to kayak with than an excitable one. The last thing you want is a dog on board that will jump at any distraction or duck or goose swimming by!

Top 5 Dogs For Kayaking

In no particular order, we have the following five dogs which are known for being good on and around the water:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Labradoodle
  • Golden Retriever
  • Goldendoodle
  • Brittany Spaniel

The above five dogs generally make outstanding kayaking dogs since they are bred for the water. Other dogs are good around water as well, and you should know by this time whether yours is good to go!

Keeping in mind there are many breeds of dogs that will make great kayaking companions! And your particular Pit Bull or English Bulldog may be a fantastic swimmer and love the water too. But most Bulldogs will sink with those massive shoulders and small butts!

Simply by reading this article, you already have an inkling your dog will enjoy getting out on the water with you, so let’s bring in the kayak now!

The Easy Way To Introduce Your Dog To Your Kayak

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

While most people believe training a dog is complicated and takes quite a bit of skill, it’s instead an easy concept of the reward system. I’ve trained several hunting dogs with similar techniques to those we’ll review below.

Make Your Dog Want To Be Around Your Kayak

If you’ve had a kayak for quite some time already, your dog is probably used to it. If not, they may be a bit skittish around a new object, or the color and size of your kayak may spook them a little. It’s time to make this fun!

Whenever your dog exhibits a behavior you want to reinforce, reward them with a treat or adoration. You’ll soon have your dog wanting to please you!

Play with your dog and slowly work toward your kayak. If your dog likes to retrieve balls, toss the ball close to your kayak and get them accustomed to moving around it. You can even toss the ball into the kayak for them to retrieve!

Using treats, reward them for sitting inside the kayak, or have them search for treats within your kayak. Let them know being around the kayak is a fun activity for them.

Sit In The Kayak With Your Dog

After your dog has become accustomed to the kayak, or if they already were, sit in the kayak yourself. Clap your hands, make a fuss, and get them wanting to be in there with you! Don’t forget to give them a treat or a reward!

Have Fun!

Above all else – HAVE FUN! The worse thing you can do is to make your dog feel uncomfortable around the kayak by hollering or becoming upset. Dogs love to please others, and this is no different. Make it fun with your dog, and it may take several times before they fully understand what you want from them.

Get Your Dog Kayak Ready

You have your gear you bring along when you kayak, your dog also needs to have similar gear for their safety. Here are a couple of items that you should have to make your dog’s day on the water far more enjoyable and safer!

Dog CFD – Canine Flotation Device

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

A dog is man’s best friend, so let’s take care of our dog! According to the American Kennel Club, “if you and your pup plan to spend time in or on the water, a dog life jacket is a wise investment”!

What makes a great Canine Flotation Device?

  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Buoyancy in the water and doesn’t restrict movement on land
  • Front neck float to keep head above water
  • Belly buckles and chest straps keep the jacket secure on your dog
  • Available in Extra Small to Extra Large sizes
  • Grab handles to pull your dog out of an emergency

The American Kennel Club recommends the CFD’s below as one of their best options for your dog! So they come highly recommended!

The Outward Hound Granby Splash Dog Life Jacket on Amazon from XS to XL. You can review it in the video below!

Kayak Dog Pad

The tops and decks of a kayak are made from plastic materials and dogs tend to slip and slide around as the kayak moves along. Easily installing a non-slip traction mat with a trimmable peel and stick EVA is the best solution!

An inexpensive traction mat which can be placed onto the front or rear top deck in a sit-in kayak, or even onto your sit-on-top kayak will give your dog the hold it needs to stay in one place.

Amazon has a popular inexpensive traction mat that is installed quickly and recommended by many who kayak or surfboard or paddleboard!

What To Bring Along For Your Dog

You bring along food, water, and snacks, for yourself most of the time, right? Your dog is no different, although they may drink from the lake when you won’t! Take care of your furry buddy and bring along the following!


Unless your pup is going to eat the other half of your ham or PBJ sandwich, bring along a Nalgene bottle or Tupperware container of their dry dog food. Don’t change their diet up too much while out on the water because you may end up with a seasick dog in your lap!


Here’s the deal with water. Water is a commodity and something we need as well. The only difference is dogs are used to drinking untreated water when we’re not.

Water is heavy to carry, a liter of water weighs 2.2 lbs and carrying extra bottles in a kayak takes up a lot of room.

Some folks will bring along an extra bottle of water or two, and some will let their pet drink straight from the bottle top. The choice is yours to make. Either way, your dog will need to get a drink every now and then even on a cloudy, overcast day.


Treats are always good! Toss a Milk-Bone or chew to your pup when he’s being good, and if he’s getting antsy, toss one to him anyway!

When you’re getting off the water is another super time to let your dog know you appreciate his good behavior on the kayak!


A favorite tennis ball or chew toy will not take up too much room in your kayak. And it will come in handy when and if you take a shoreline break along the way. He will not only enjoy the exercise, but you may also burn a bit of extra energy from him!

How To Launch and Return From a Boat Ramp or Shore With Your Dog

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

If you’re going to have issues with your dog and a kayak, it will be in that small window when you go from land to water and back again! Here’s an excellent way to make the transition!

It’s always best to pick a nice calm day for your dog’s first adventure on the water too!

Drag Your Kayak To The Water

Once you arrive at your put-in spot, make sure to have your dog leashed if you’re in a public marina or area. Unload your gear and kayak and pull them to the water’s edge.

Have all of your gear, tackle, and rods loaded up into the kayak. And have it far enough into the water so that all you’ll need to do is give it a slight push to be free-floating.

Load Your Dog Into The Kayak

Walk your dog to the kayak, on the leash if he may begin to run around. I trained my dogs to hop into their spot with the simple command of “LOAD UP!”

This is where the non-slip traction mat mentioned above comes in handy! When your hound jumps into the kayak, they won’t slide up entirely to the front and bust their nose!

If this is your dog’s first attempt at kayaking, he might be a little skittish to get in at first. If he is, you can get into the kayak yourself, and then coax or pull him toward you until he’s in the kayak with you!

Once in he’s in the kayak, remove the leash! If he happens to exit on you without permission, you don’t want him to become hung up on anything!

Paddle Close To Shore At First

Stay close to shore at first. Paddle or pedal your kayak along the shoreline for a few hundred yards or so, until you feel your dog is becoming comfortable with the experience.

You don’t want to be in deeper water if he happens to hop out on you!

Remember, this is a trip to get your dog accustomed to being in the kayak. It’s like when you take a kid fishing, and you don’t get to fish! Same here, it’s the dog’s time to enjoy and get used to the kayak. Paddle and have fun with it!

Getting Out Of The Kayak From A Boat Ramp Or Shore

Once you arrive back at the boat ramp or shore, it’s time to place a leash back onto your dog if one is required or there are people walking about.

With a long enough leash, you can sit in the kayak and command your dog “Out!” as he jumps off. Doing this will let him know in the future it’s okay to get out when you say so. Dogs learn to associate commands and their actions in this manner.

The second option is for you to exit the kayak first and give your command “Out!” If needed, you will be able to assist him and retain your control of the situation.

How To Launch and Return From a Boat Dock

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

Launching from a boat dock with your dog is relatively simple as well once you do it a few times. Your primary requirement is to keep control of everything.

Getting Your Kayak Ready At The Dock

As stated above, you’ll want to unload all your gear and kayak while having your dog leashed if need be. Either pull your kayak alongside the boat dock, or paddle to the dock and securely fasten it.

Load Your Dog Into The Kayak

Once at dockside with your kayak, you or the dog can get into the kayak first. Have your kayak tight to the dock with no gaps for your dog to miss and fall into the water. If your dog is well-mannered and ready for it, give them the command to “Load Up!”

Once your dog is aboard and sitting, you can go ahead and climb in yourself.

If you want to board your kayak first, go ahead and claim in, then command your dog to “Load Up!” and gently coax your pup into the kayak. Once in the kayak, give your pup a treat! Remember, dogs like to make their owners happy!

Paddle Close to Dock

After you and your fishing buddy are in the kayak, take a few minutes and paddle or pedal close to the dock. If other boats are in the area, which is often the case, paddle your kayak close to shore.

You want to be far enough from the shore that your dog isn’t enticed to jump and swim to shore. And in somewhat shallow enough water in case he does jump out, you have an easier time wrangling him out of the water.

Getting Out Of Your Kayak At The Dock

It’s all about having control of your dog in certain situations. If there are no people around, you don’t have to use a leash. When you’re at a public marina or many people and children are close by, a leash is the best option.

Pull your kayak up tight and close to the boat dock so your dog has an easy jump or can walk onto the dock itself. Give the command “Out!” or whatever command you use. Then hop out yourself.

If you prefer, you can exit the kayak first and have the dog come to you when you’re ready with the same command, “Out!” Be sure to give the pup a treat after a good day on the water!

What To Do If Your Dog Jumps Out

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

Having your dog jump out of the kayak can be a tense situation at times. Be prepared for it because it inevitably happens to the best of us.

Remain Calm While Retrieving Your Dog

Dogs have a sixth sense! If you’re excited, nervous, and hollering at your dog, your dog is going to become excited and nervous as well. An excited dog will multiply the efforts you need to get him back into the kayak.

The best thing is to remain calm regardless of the situation. A calm person will equate to a more relaxed dog, and the task of getting him back into the kayak will be easier for you.

Paddle Toward Your Dog

If your dog is swimming away from you, you’ll need to paddle toward him. Call him by name and attempt to get him to turn around and swim back toward you.

This is where you remaining calm serves you the best. If your dog thinks you’re yelling at him, he may swim faster and further away. Or he may be scared and not want to return to you. Remain calm, and things will be fine!

Command Your Dog to “Come!”

Call your dog by name in a soothing, calm voice while giving the command, “Come!” Keep repeating this as you paddle toward him or as he swims closer to you.

As you get closer to him, he may become excited and thrash at the side of the kayak. Keep speaking in a calm and soothing voice to your dog. Let him know everything is alright.

Bring your kayak alongside him, close enough to where you don’t need to reach out too far for him. You don’t want the kayak to roll too far to one side and flip!

At this point, store your paddle out of the way along with any other gear or fishing rods. Have a clear path to get your dog back into the kayak.

Lifting Your Dog Out Of The Water

Having your dog wearing a Canine Flotation Device, like the Outward Hound Granby Splash Dog Life Jacket with grab handle, he can easily be supported with one hand and held next to your kayak! Lifting him back into the kayak is a lot easier as well!

If you’re on the water without a CFD, you’ll still want to get up close to him and cradle his head above the water. Slip your free arm beneath his belly, or just in front of his hips, and start him up into the kayak.

Once your pup gets his forepaws on top of the kayak, he will undoubtedly start clawing his way back in! Steer clear of his toenails as he works his way up the kayak and give him a slight tug as needed!

Treat Your Dog For Their Return

Once again, if you have one, toss Fido a dog treat! You’ve just accomplished a great task! Even though your adrenaline may be flowing, you still want to remain calm with your dog.

Reinforce the good behavior of returning and getting back into the kayak. Don’t punish or scold him for jumping out. Heck, he may have had a good reason!

What To Do If You Capsize

Now you are both out of the kayak and in the water together. Being able to stand up in shallow water, or swim to a close shore and call to your dog would be great! If you’re in the water and it’s too deep to stand or too far from shore to swim, read on!

Swim To Your Dog First

Your kayak can wait for the time being. Swim to your dog right away and get him under your control and calm him down. Much like a lifeguard, you can swim with him next to you.

Speak to him assuredly. Having a CFD is essential in instances such as this. If there is a current or he is panicking and attempting to climb onto you, the CFD will keep him safely afloat if you need to push him slightly away.

Your main concern is to get to your dog first, and make sure he is safe.

Swim To Your Kayak With Dog

Once you have your dog with you and under control, swim to your kayak. Push it toward shore if you can, as it will be easier to straighten everything out there.

If you were close enough to shore, hopefully your dog swam there on his own, and you can follow with the kayak.

Right Your Kayak

Get your kayak righted and ready to enter. If you have loose gear floating close by, you can toss it into the kayak. Make sure you have your paddle close by, you’re going to need it to get back if you don’t pedal!

Start Your Dog Into the Kayak

Position your dog’s front feet over the side of the kayak by lifting him up. The buoyancy in the water will make this slightly easier for you.

If you have a larger dog, lift him just high enough to get started. You don’t need to raise his entire body out of the water. You probably couldn’t even if you wanted to.

Once your dog has his feet up on and over the side of the kayak, his natural instincts will take over and he should climb on in!

Get Yourself Into Kayak

Now you can enter the kayak yourself! Grab the far side of the kayak and pull yourself in! It’s easier said than done if the dog is licking your face!

Remain Calm

Throughout this article is cannot be emphasized enough to remain as calm as you can. Even after capsizing, by staying calm, you will keep your dog more relaxed than they would have been otherwise.

Reassure the dog everything is alright so that he won’t become afraid of the kayak. You don’t want one lousy incident to spoil years of future adventures on the water with him!

Treats For Your Dog!

You did remember the treats, right? Reward and show him how much it meant for him to return and climb back into the kayak with you! Make it fun for him even though you may have been upset by the flip.

The importance of making the first few kayaking trips a good experience for your dog is what we’re striving for. Once a dog learns a specific behavior is a bad experience, it’s hard to convince him again otherwise.

Dog-Breaks Are Important

Some of us are capable of traveling for hours in a vehicle with a kayak strapped to the top or pulling a loaded kayak trailer. Then you have those folks who you believe need to stop every hour or so, or at every rest area along the way!

Getting out of your truck or car just to stretch your legs is a good feeling, right? Your dog is accustomed to having room to roam and stretch, and now he’s confined on your kayak! Dogs need a break now and then!

It’s Essential to Exercise Your Dog

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

Being cramped up on a kayak, even for some people, can be tiring. The same holds true for canines. Especially if you have a dog that is an active animal.

Some dogs are content to curl up and relax in a small area, and then some need to run around! Get your dog onto the shore for a quick break and stretch once an hour or two.

Pull your kayak up to the shore. Let them sniff around and discover new things! Remember earlier I mentioned bringing a tennis ball or a favorite toy? Give it a few tosses, maybe even into the water, and let him do some retrieving!

Dogs Need Potty Breaks

Bathroom breaks are certainly self-explanatory!

It will make Fido much more comfortable while riding along and fishing with you if his bladder isn’t full! And perhaps, maybe you could use a little potty break yourself?

Dogs Need Food & Water

Stopping at a secluded shoreline with your dog alongside you and taking a break can be a rewarding and fun experience! After a long morning or afternoon in a new environment, perhaps both of you could use a snack, sandwich, and something cool to drink.

Dogs and their owners, always feel better after a little bite to eat and drink! Hopefully, you remembered to bring along the Nalgene bottle with his dog food with you? Pour a handful of kibble out on a flat rock or dry area and let him eat.

Don’t overfeed your dog as you want him to be in good shape for the rest of the trip! There’s a good chance he’ll take a nap for a while after a good run, potty break, and some food and drink!


The conclusion is, you can certainly take your dog with you on the kayak and have a great time!

Being prepared for possible mishaps, leashing your dog when needed, bringing along some food, treats, and a toy to play with all lead to a pleasant experience for you, as well as your pup!

If you want to have a good time with your dog on the water kayaking, make sure your dog has a good time on the water with you! Make it fun for him, and you’ll both look forward to being out there together again real soon!

Thanks for stopping by and be safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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