It is not as easy as to just get a kayak, hop on it and expect your dog to come after, and all dogs need help learning what is expected of them when kayaking. Some dogs might need minimal training before willingly going out on the water with you, while others could possibly require days or even weeks of preparation.
Here are a few good tips for how to train your dog to go kayaking with you; ideas for where to start and for how to make the process as easy as possible, and a general overview of the things you need to think about before getting started.
Three commands that are great to teach your dog already before you introduce them to the kayak are ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stay’. These are very basic commands that are easy to train and that many dogs will already know, and it will give you an advantage when trying to show your pooch what you want him or her to do.
Dogs want to please you, so help them understand how to behave by teaching these three commands first. You may also benefit by teaching the command ‘leave it’ to your four-legged buddy, as this could save you if your dog would spot something of interest while out on the water.
Leave the Kayak in the House or Yard
When you crate train a dog you will leave the crate out for your dog to familiarize itself with it without feeling pressured, and the same works remarkably well for kayaking. Bring the kayak home and leave it inside the house or in the yard where your dog plays, and let your dog check it out on their own terms. If you can, leave it there for a day or two and don’t make a big deal out of it – let your dog do the sniffing and the exploring.
Use Dog Treats
After leaving the kayak out for your dog to investigate on its own, it is time to take the familiarization to the next level. Sit in the kayak yourself, just as you will when it is time to go out and encourage your dog to get inside too by using treats. Pick a treat your dog will have a hard time resisting and practice this a few times over the course of a couple of days.
No one gains when trying to rush this process, so take your time and set your dog up for success as a kayaker. Use plenty of verbal praise when your dog acts the way you want him to act when you eventually start kayaking, and soon enough the dog will get the idea of riding with you in a slim boat.
Familiarize the Dog with Water
Any dog going on a kayak should be comfortable around water. If they love to swim – great, but it is not necessary. The focus should be on making sure they are not afraid of water, as this could cause stress that could lead to a potentially unpleasant or even dangerous situation.
Take your dogs to the lake a few times and encourage them to dip their paws in the water! Try throwing a ball and see if they will fetch it, or just play on the lakeside to help them associate a water location with something fun. Dogs have not complicated creatures, and your attitude will guide them through the process.
When the time comes to take the kayak and get out on the water (which should only happen once both you and your dog is ready), start with short outings until you are sure it is going to work. Go out for only a few minutes the first time, and then slowly increase the time out on the water by adding additional minutes on your next outing.
This will make the transition easier for your dog, and it will help them work on patience while being in the kayak. Experienced kayakers need to take breaks too, as no dog wants to be cooped up in a small space for too long, but this is even more important when you are starting out.
Kayaking with dogs can be the most enriching experience, so make sure you do it right in the beginning so that your pooch can enjoy the ride just as much as you (or more!).