Sept.  2004

After years of looking for a sport for Copper other than breaking leash laws, I found that he enjoys being a salty dog. Seems he loves kayaking!

He knows where his spot will be, he trots right to it:

But not before having a sip - dang dog likes to drink seawater. (Yes, I do bring drinking water for him)

Copper is a paraplegic, so the sheet is to make cleaning up any possible incontinence accidents easier. My life jacket is under it for padding. He doesn't like riding facing foward. Fine by me, especially if he's gonna have an accident. Hasn't happened yet, but it probably will eventually if we do this enough.

I've since learned about the middle seat in these Malibu 2 tandem boats, we don't ride with the bow this high any more.

I took Leilah once too, in a single seat Prizm. She's fully mobile and usually quite the water wuss. But she really surprised me and didn't try to jump out when we launched. I  thought she might hate it and it might be a very short ride, but she stayed fairly relaxed.  She's smaller than Copper, and she's a lap dog at home anyway. So she can fit  between my knees, facing forward on a life jacket for padding. I can clear the paddle over her rump easily this way. She's not quite as thrilled with it all as Copper is, so I don't plan on taking her as often.

More kayaking with Copper:

What I've learned about kayaking with your parapegic-or-not dogs, in a sit-on-top kayak, in no particular order. I'm no expert though, I'm still just learning myself. Most applies to any dog, not just disabled ones:

Get a good lifejacket for them even if they fully mobile and can swim well, it's well worth it. They are quite helpful beyond just being floatation devices!  Mine are from and they make an excellent product. The handles on top are sturdy enough to haul out a wet dog and there's a D ring to clip a leash. The handle makes it much easier to load a larger disabled dog into the boat too.

Keep a nylon or cotton leash clipped to the life jacket (preferable), or at least a harness, instead of to the collar, especially if your dog isn't going to sit still. It's a safety line and it is much safer for everyone if the dog goes overboard, either accidently or deliberately. Your dog can maneuver in the water much faster than you can and the last thing you need is to be playing keep away or fighting a current to catch your dog who may or may not end up in big trouble. So attaching a leash/life line to the life jacket is much safer for them.

When hauling out a wet dog of any size, it can often help if you put your foot over the side and under the dog to help support the dog's weight. You'd put your other foot over the other side and shift your weight to help counter balance the dog. With just a bit of practice in shallow water, it became very easy for me to get Copper both in and out of the water this way (with his huge coat, he was probably 60 lbs when wet). Some folks who train for dog water sports have excellent methods of hauling in their dogs into a boat where the dogs do most all the work, so if your dog is able bodied you may be able to get some info from them. 

Putting them in the water and letting them swim next to the kayak is good for swimming therapy only as long as the water is not too cold! Check with your vet about what water temperatures and times in the water are appropriate for your dog. You can usually find water temperatures online. 

Good dog (and people) manners is a must when taking any dog on rentals, when allowed to do so at all. We dog owners don't need to lose more places to take our dogs by having them cause trouble for anyone. It's not the place to begin teaching your friendly soaking wet golden to not randomly jump on people. It's also not the place for young pups who haven't gotten all their vaccinations yet.

Bring drinking water for them even for short trips. A folding nylon bowl works well. Always keep poop bags handy too, for either in the boat or ashore. 

If you have an incontinent dog, prepare for the possiblity of an accident. If you don't use a diaper, put something under the dog to make cleaning up easier. This is especially important if it's not your boat. I used a folded up old sheet or a cheap $3 baby blanket from the drug store, over my own life jacket for padding. Do your own cleaning up too! Hose out the boat, do whatever is necessary. Again, don't make it harder for the rentals to welcome dogs. I feel for a dog who can move their hind legs at all, the hind end bags I've seen are probably not safe if the dog goes overboard even if they're wearing a life jacket  - you don't want anything to interfere with their swimming ability. 

Larger dogs really need their own seat, don't expect to put your 50 lb aussie in your lap. Even if they'd stay there, they get in the way of your paddling. If you don't have what's normally a lap dog, use a tandem kayak. I especially like the ones with a middle seat.

A human adult in the back and much lighter dog in the front of a tandem kayak can make you feel like you're paddling a bathtub. Using a tandem with a center seat if possible, then putting the dog in the forward seat, really does help. If you have no access to a tandem with a center seat, be aware that if the bow rides too high, a laying down dog can slide forward a little. So be prepared for that and put a bit of extra padding under their front end, a spare lifejacket or towels maybe. And don't expect to win any speed contests. Personally, I'd be too paranoid to put a dog in the back seat where I couldn't keep an eye on them.

For dogs without incontinence problems, some rentals might let you take an extra life jacket or two to use for padding for your dog to lay on. Ask about it, and if it's ok, ask the which sizes they'll most likely have extra of, and use those. You don't need to use up their Mediums for a dog seat if they'll be needing more of them for humans.

Some dogs prefer facing backward, where they can keep an eye on you.  Some are fine checking out the view facing foward. Let them decide which way they want to face and accomidate them, it will keep them happier,  more interested, and hopefully quieter. A lap dog would have to face forward, so you don't hit them in the head with the paddle. 

A good down-stay/settle command can be real handy! Especially if the lifeguards or police are yelling at you about having dogs on the beach, have your dog do a stay IN the beached boat and they will usually stop. Having the life jacket on them usually tells them you're not going to just hang out on the beach either, which is what they're really most concerned about. 

If you've never kayaked before, don't take your dog on the first trip. You don't want to leave the dog in the car either, so just don't bring him at all your first time out! While I find it very easy to do in calm water, and the boats I've tried are very stable, you first really need to see what it's like before you complicate it at all with a canine passenger. 

Don't forget waterproof sunscreen, and a hat for yourself too.  You ARE going to get at least a little wet, if not soaked, from the waist down. So wear clothes that dry quickly.

Shorthaired pink-skinned dogs need sunscreen too, as well as light colored canine noses. 

Once in the boat, a disabled dog is actually an advantage. They're not as likely to try to jump out after a bird, or get so active as to cause you any trouble. You get to relax more.

If they get seawater on them, remember to rinse down the dog afterwards, and don't forget to rinse the cart, life jacket, and leash too if necessary

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Last updated 9/25/04