Paddling with a Pooch
Most dog owners will agree, there is no better way to get a well mannered happy dog than to spend time with them. Dogs that are part of the family and are taken places regularly with their owners are calmer, well behaved and just plain fun to be around.
Lots of paddlers are dog owners (or potential dog owners) and many have reservations about taking their best friend with them when they go out on the water. We think that's a real shame!
So to help our dog-loving, paddling friends out there get their pooch paddling we've put together a few helpful hints to make the experience a safe and happy one.
1.The Right Boat for the Right Dog.
It may seem obvious but the size of your dog and to a certain extent its temperament are the first considerations for paddling with your pooch. There is no point trying to carry a huge dog on the back of a sea kayak, or a highly excitable dog in any boat. This mix is always going to end up with both of you getting wet.
If you are already watching your balance in a boat, adding extra unstable ballast is not going to be a good idea. If your dog is able to sit calmly for extended periods (or can learn to) and isn't so big as to put you in at the first ripple on the water, then you are on a winner.
Canoe paddlers can always put an outrigger on their boat to increase stability and give confidence to nervous passengers.
2. Whoa! What is that thing you're putting me in??
Some dogs are always going to take to your canoe or kayak like a duck-dog to water. Others are going to need some coaxing to be convinced this is a good idea. First off try on dry land having them enter the boat and sit in a designated spot (note this for later). Then try again with the boat sitting safely against a pontoon or floating in shallow water.
Make sure you give the dog clear instructions when they can enter and even more importantly exit. Once you are convinced you best friend will enter the boat, sit calmly and exit only when instructed (or at least fairly close to this) then you are ready to try some short paddling trips together.
3. Where do I sit?
It's really important that your dog knows exactly where you want them to sit / stand. There is nothing worse than having a somewhat nervous hound tangled around your legs or hanging half out the side of your canoe or kayak. This is going to be followed by a large splash.
In a canoe a great place for your dog is between the front and back seats, with some adjustment fore or aft to keep good trim if its a big dog. On a kayak dogs can be encouraged to sit in hatches on flat water (with covers off) or smaller dogs can even ride on the flat deck behind the cockpit. Sit on top kayaks offer good flexibility with deck wells fore and aft to suit different dog sizes.
It's also important to make that spot comfortable for your dog. Make sure it has a dry place to lay out of bilge water, or if riding on the deck of a kayak, a soft non-slip surface to grip with its claws. It will save an untimely slip into the water and also the gelcoat of your precious kayak!
We have used bath mats with the suckers, or low density rubber mats placed under deck bungies with some success. If in the bottom of a canoe you can always just throw in the mattress from their doggy bed!
4. Lifejacket, but NO leash!
Even dogs that are great swimmers should where a lifejacket. Let's face facts, we're talking about a dog here. There are not known for great attention spans.
Most good quality life jackets have a handle on top to make retrieval of a dog overboard easier. They also make make a secure attachment point for a rescue leash / line. However, never fix this leash / line to the boat.
If you have a dog with a particularly low attention span, put the end of the leash under your foot. But under no circumstance tie or clip it to your craft. This is a sure fire way to drown a dog in the event of a capsize.
Most people find that a leash is unnecessary with a well trained dog and that they will swim obediently back to the side of the canoe or kayak and await rescue. On that note, it is really important to practice recovery and rescue after a capsize with your dog so they don't panic (or you either) when you fall in!
5. Food and Water and...
Last but not least, make sure you have snacks and a drink for your mate. Particularly when paddling in salt water as dogs will always try and drink from the over the side - usually followed by a nice salty heave into the bottom of your boat :( Have a drink on hand and some snacks and you'll have one happy pooch.
All you need to consider is when its coming back out again...
Some other considerations to give thought on your paddling trips..
Dogs are not allowed in most national parks in Australia and quite a few water reservoirs in Queensland, so be careful where you put in or land.
When their owners are paddling on 2 different boats, some dogs may get anxious if they are forced to paddle on one boat while one of their owners paddle on another. It is a good idea to check if your dog is going to constantly try to swap from boat to boat whilst you're paddling and develop a strategy to manage this.
We hope these points have been helpful and look forward to hearing your pet paddling stories soon.
We are currently putting a list together of people looking to do a paddle with pets trip. If you're interested please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this article.