Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Kayak or canoe

Hi all. I’m looking to purchase a new kayak or canoe in the very new future. I was researching online and came across someone in this group in a very similar situation as myself. I want to learn to paddle with the end result being adding my dogs (80/45lbs) once I am comfortable. I am a solo backpacker/hiker currently, 120lbs, 5’2. I was originally interested in a tandem kayak but someone had mentioned the possibility of a canoe having more room for gear. I am concerned about the stability though however. I’m interested in recommendations of stable vessels that track well and any insight. I was actually looking at one of the inflatable tandem kayacks for ease of transportation and storage, although this isn’t a necessity. A little background on my dogs. One (the 80 pounder) is a trained water duck dog.. she is highly familiar with watercraft and commands. The second is a 45 pound mix breed who has also been around boats but doesn’t really like to swim. She’s a princess. They both love hiking and backpacking. They will NOT be joining me until I learn. Thank you in advance!


  • A few comments. You might want to go to some canoe and kayak "demo days" in the spring to test paddle some boats and get some feel for what you like. You might also consider starting with a used boat because if it turns out not to be your perfect boat you can typically sell them without losing money. That said, I'm biased towards canoes and paddle with a 55 pound dog. In general you will find that canoes are lighter than kayaks so a bit easier to put on the car and take to the water. I suggest you look at the Swift canoe site to get some ideas. You are light and in principle a smaller boat would fit you best without your dogs, but with the dogs your load is more "average". If you will always have the dogs with you once you have more experience then you need a boat that's a bit on the large side for you when you are alone. Swift offers sliding seats which can be very nice for making room for the dogs and also keeping the boat balanced. Something like the Keewaydin 15 should work well for you. They also offer their boats as "pack boats" where you sit on the floor and use a kayak paddle...so that's an option with the room of a canoe but the stability of a wide kayak. Some of the Wenonahs may work well for you given that you are looking for stability and tracking....so maybe a Prism. Do you plan to sit or kneel?

  • Life long canoeist here, I can't give the kayak perspective, but I can give input about canoes. Since all three of you will be learning, almost at the same time, I would go with a canoe. There are some very nice, easy to handle short (12') canoes out there that are very maneuverable. If you want to give your dogs more room, you could even (I'm going to take some heat here for this!) go with a 14" or longer canoe and set it up for rowing. It's a nice way to go when you're solo and on a lake.

    Some dogs don't take as well to boating as others and the freedom of movement in a canoe will make the dogs more comfortable. There is also room for them to comfortably lie down if they get tired, although most dogs like to see what's going on and they'll be up and alert the whole time.

    As far as your preference, try before you buy. Like Tom said, check out a demo days event or at least rent some canoes or kayaks and experience both for yourself.

  • See.. those are the kind of things I was looking for. Even if I went to a demo day I think I’d be overwhelmed with all choices not knowing really where to start. Hearing others points of views and suggestions really helps so thank you. I would prefer sitting. I donlike the option of setting it up for rowing idea. And I do know my dogs are going to want to check everything out. They are very interested dogs. That’s why my concern for stability. They’re not necessarily excitable but I can see them venturing from side to side.

  • I am a kayaker, but would limit the search to canoes, or John boats.
    I was briefly a canoe owner and an active dog can cause some excitement looking from side to side. I can't see putting 2 dogs the size of yours in a kayak.
    Trimming the boat( balancing the load) is going to be very interesting.

  • You could start your search on Facebook Marketplace and LetGo. Right now in my area, there's a pile of used canoes for sale at very reasonable prices. If you find one you like, and the seat isn't where you need it to be, you can always have a seat installed to your liking. Let us know what you get!

  • edited December 2018

    Canoe. The only way dogs work well in a kayak for most people is on a Sit on Top. But that won't have room for the gear you want to carry, from the sounds of it.

    FWIW, a fully loaded boat, canoe or kayak, tends to be quite stable. you will find that you can brace around most moving dog issues as you learn to paddle, I was able to brace a canoe so my 180 pound husband could climb back in, and I am your size plus 10 pounds plus an inch or so.

    But my biggest question mark is the fit of all of this. Like I said, you are about my size. In order for you to get a craft that will fit those dogs and gear, you will likely be in one that is oversized for you. Canoe or kayak, doesn't matter. You can work around with elevating the seat in a canoe to get a better grab of the paddle in the water.

    The idea of a john boat, or a traditional Adirondack Guide boat, may be on target.

  • I'd check out pack canoes
    You need at least 14 feet for you and dogs and 15 if you plan on carrying camping gear
    One of the main issues you will have is dog placement
    Some do poorly in back of you and you might need to see both of them in this new environment.
    That makes trim iffy
    And as you are small paddling alone with I presume less horsepower than a guy you want to have the smallest skin surface safely possible
    This puts 16 foot and over tandems into the barge category
    Pack canoes are paddled double blade just like a kayak and have low seating for stability
    Check out Hornbeck Boats and Placid Boatworks for sone examples
    I have camped in my Rapidfire with my 70 lb Golden but frankly on most trips I left her home as she chased wildlife and jumped in the water from the boat
    Getting people in is easy. Not so for dogs
    I figured I could enjoy wildlife mire if they did not feel threatened by a dog

  • Thank you all so much. So much great advice. I’m not sure John boat is the way for me to go as then I’d have to add a trailer and be limited to my sites I presume. I wouldnt completely take it off the table. It’s sounding like more and more I’m hearing canoe might be the better place to start though. I really appreciate everyone’s help!

  • This is Riker, a 75# Flat Coated Retriever, and SusyQruiser. Both are experienced paddlers. However Riker refuses to paddle. He enjoys paddling in the summer if he is allowed to swim first to stay cool in the sun. He's good for an hour or until he gets hot. If he's still cool he gets restless and stands up, turns around and then plops down. Sometimes he is in the center some times way off. Balance can be fleeting.

    this is Riker riding in his kayak...……..note he does not paddle and will tire of this nonsense and go swimming.

    This is a better solution to the dog paddling. He can get up turn and plop down. Balance recovery is faster with that big wide boat. The problem is simple with one dog cause he listens to commands and follows instruction...…...well, some of the time. With two dogs you have to call a name then the command. They have to be used to that kind of direction. Dogs that bark at things too can be a distraction especially if they get excited. We often leash him to the boat so if he did get overboard he wouldn't get separated. On the kayak he would swim you to shore.. We do not take him in moving water......white or surf. AND being in Florida we avoid waters with gators , which is most areas.

    That big 17 ft Mad River would likely be too much for a newbie smallish paddler to single hand with unruley dogs. However the boat can be easily propelled with a double bladed canoe paddle. But we're kayak people anyway. ;)

  • Not to be redundant, but there are canoes that can handle your pack, but handling the canoe will be a chore. Canoes can be outfitted with small outboard motors.

  • edited December 2018

    never leash a dog to a canoe
    They can swim unless they are a pug
    if they can breathe
    Wrap that leash around the dogs throat and it could suffocate
    If you are worried about separation get a PFD with a handle
    If it is too panicked to obey you it does not belong on the water
    Sometimes it is kinder to leave dog home

  • Reina ( 45 lb Std Poodle) did a header off my SOT in the middle of Hartwell. She didn't panic but I needed help to get her back on .She was wearing a PFD .

  • @kayamedic said:
    never leash a dog to a canoe

    Sometimes it is kinder to leave dog home

    A. Yes that is true. However Riker has a habit of swimming off into the sun, toward the marsh where the gators are, etc. He needs a "bumper" or duck to aim for. AND he usually only goes where and when things are likely uneventful.
    B. I prefer that option.

  • Love all the photo examples. Seems to be enjoying the time even if he’s not much paddle help. I will definitely have to take weight of the vessel into consideration. That’s one scenario I’m tossing around in my head.. if one of them does go overboard.. I plan to have them outfitted with pfd’s so I can help them back up, but the sides of a canoe seem daunting for that and my huge lab. She’s a great swimmer and loves the water.. but.. the what if’s.

  • The pressure a 70 lb dog that is trying to negotiate over a gunwale is quite a lot.. You need a boat with a lot of secondary stability. I think you are trying too much at once.. I paddled a long time before taking dogs ( say 20 years) and then learned that some dogs do not do predictable things in boats. My Golden would lie down only in calm water. Rapids or wind made her stand.

    Training from a young age does help but all my dogs were older rescues.. They liked to be with me sure but some were better off at home.

    That your dog loves the water could be a negative. My dog liked to swap canoes mid lake.. Both of us in solos.. She would leave one bound for the other or just for a swim. Sometimes we remained upright and sometimes not. We learned it was easier to go to shore to allow her to reboard and stayed close to shore.

    You will need sun protection and also something to keep them from slipping on the floor.. And if overnight camping if it rains in the boat they will need to have a way to keep warm as they aren't moving around unless you are in a warm climate.

    That leash thing.. perhaps a quick release tab in case of dog entanglement?

    Anyway I would bite off this new paddling endeavor in small bites. You go first.. Add dog later.! Here is Lucy in a calm moment in my 35 lb Aria.

  • What about a SUP? It completely depends on when and where you're paddling, but they are very stable and easy to re-board. They aren't for me, but maybe add it to your considerations.

  • with either a canoe or a kayak or a sup, to carry more than your own weight in things that move according to their own whim's, is going to be tough. {even for an experienced paddler}

  • edited December 2018

    It is my opinion that the idea of using a kayak, SUP, or pack canoe is unrealistic at best; unless you intend to leave your (125 pounds) of dogs at home.

    I don't believe dogs should be tethered to boats of any kind, but I do believe that dogs that are going boating need to have/wear a pfd. That would include "water dogs".

    I'd suggest you test paddle some solo canoes, of not less than 14 feet in length.
    If you find one that suits you, and you learn & practice the necessary skills; in time you should be able to bring both dogs, and some gear along. While a 14 footer will likely suffice; a 15 footer would likely be a better choice.

    The major concern as I see it, is whether or not you can learn the skills necessary to control a boat large enough to carry you, 125 lbs of dogs, and gear.
    I know very, very few paddlers who are that capable, and they've been paddling for decades.

    When you think you're ready; put yourself and your dogs in a boat; then capsize it on purpose.
    Have pfd on dogs and yourself. See what happens................... Have help readily available when you try that!

    Good luck,

  • Hey Jen, tell us more about how you envision using the boat. If you are just playing around on a quiet pond then a small tandem might be best. If you plan to travel and cover distance then a canoe like a Wenonah Prism might be best. If you plan to paddle on all types of water including rivers then a versatile boat like the Swift Prospector 14 might be best. We are all recommending solo canoes because your total load is small and a tandem (while stable) would be a handful to handle on anything but a calm pond. If you kneel in a canoe you gain a lot of stability and control because you establish a nice big triangular base with your knees and butt and you'll get more control when kneeling...but if you have your heart set on sitting that's ok and you just need to get a boat made for sitting like a Wenonah. They have really low seats which help with stability. One thing to remember is that with two dogs you almost certainly have to put the big one in front of you and the smaller one behind you to keep the canoe reasonably level (with your light weight plus big dog load the boat would be way too nose heavy and impossible to control with both dogs in font of you). In the pic below Zoey and I were in a nice big roomy/comfy Swift Shearwater solo canoe and one time I took a ten year old boy along and had to put him behind us.

    If you are anywhere near southwest Michigan you can stop by and try a canoe or two. There is even some open water around here.

  • If you can find a Swift Keewaydin 15 in a pack canoe seating arrangement or the new Swift Prospector in the cari height seat or a Rapid Fire pack canoe give them a whirl
    Pack canoes are not restricted to short lengths. Rapid is 15 feet long
    Hornbeck has a 16 foot pack canoe
    With dogs you need volume

  • edited December 2018

    Leave the dogs homes for a bit, and demo both canoes and kayaks, and take a paddling/rescue lesson in the kind of boat you choose. Although dogs are probably easier to handle in canoes while upright, your dogs outweigh you and in a capsize you will have to manage a swamped canoe and two dogs. I have taught canoeing classes, and I would not want to deal with a swamped canoe and two dogs in rough conditions. A good tandem SOT that you can paddle from the middle position is probably a much better solution, because you will be able to self rescue and get the dogs back on board. I had a dog that weighed 60 lbs and loved the water and was terrified of boats - both canoes and kayaks. We practiced rescues in both canoes and kayaks and she refused to get in a canoe again, but would paddle in a SOT tandem kayak if my wife went along to reassure her. So make certain both dogs are really into it, as posted elsewhere some dogs are much happier on shore or home .

  • edited January 1

    Read Jester42's post again and heed it. I have to completely agree. If you want to get on the water, eventually with your dog(s), then you need to learn the critical skills yourself. Get a solo Swift with a seat high enough to use and learn to be proficient with a single blade paddle. Be cautioned that if you try to put one dog in front of you and one behind, when you turn around to look at the dog behind (and you will), unless you are extremely careful and well balanced you will capsize (yes you will). Especially when the dog in front gets up to see what you are doing and shifts his weight.

    Again, recommend that you learn and become proficient with solo skills by yourself first. Then get a 14-15' tandem (you will need the length for weight trim and maneuverability) perhaps configured in fore/aft trim such that you can paddle sitting backwards from the bow seat (if that provides the best trim for your combined weight) and put both dogs in front of you where you can see their movements and be able to compensate for the shifting weight as you paddle comfortably and skillfully along.

  • @New2Paddling said:
    Love all the photo examples. Seems to be enjoying the time even if he’s not much paddle help. I will definitely have to take weight of the vessel into consideration. That’s one scenario I’m tossing around in my head.. if one of them does go overboard.. I plan to have them outfitted with pfd’s so I can help them back up, but the sides of a canoe seem daunting for that and my huge lab. She’s a great swimmer and loves the water.. but.. the what if’s.

    If one of your dogs goes overboard it does not matter if you are in a canoe or kayak. You need to stay close enough to shore that everyone can swim to shore or you are putting everyone's life in danger.

    A pack canoe like the Swift Keewaydin 15 makes sense for you based on your plans since you sit on the floor so it's stable plus it's roomy. You paddle pack canoes with kayak paddles so it's quicker and easier to develop basic skills. I think you can order a Keewaydin 15 with different seats so you could use it as a pack boat or as a regular canoe. Are you aware that a new lightweight canoe is over $3000?

    The comments around you trying to do too much too fast are perfectly fair. It would be best to develop your own skills for a year or two. But as far as boats being tippy with dogs I think that depends mostly on you. Dogs moving around make a canoe wiggle but a dog isn't likely to make a boat tip over since they just can't get their full weight far enough from the center plus in my experience dogs may actually help keep a boat upright since they also have a sense of balance. Of course you need to establish boundaries for the dogs just like on land...mine is not allowed to sit anywhere but right in front of me and she's not allowed to get too wild either but in my limited experience even young dogs seem pretty content to just go along for the ride.

    I wonder if a small tandem kayak with a big open cockpit might be best for you since your learning curve would be faster than a canoe plus both dogs could sit in front of you.

  • A point of clarity both Qruiser and I have been paddling boats since.....the 60s. Riker is highly trained. But he's often a pain and I wouldn't take two dogs out.

  • @Overstreet said:
    A point of clarity both Qruiser and I have been paddling boats since.....the 60s. Riker is highly trained. But he's often a pain and I wouldn't take two dogs out.

    Which century?

  • How about a tandem Poke Boat for Jen?


  • My advice. Get a nice, light, agile solo canoe to paddle when you're without the dogs and to learn the sport. Find some groups to paddle with and learn from more experienced paddlers. People are usually more than happy to have a new member in the group. Then get a tandem canoe to paddle with the dogs. I found it best to put a foam pad (like part of a foam sleeping mat) in the bow of the canoe and put my 75 lb Aussie in front of the bow seat to trim the canoe. Teach him to lie down in waves (took the Aussie less than 5 minutes to learn that one). Whenever he saw a big boat wave coming he would lie down and it made the canoe more stable than with most paddling partners. This also keeps the heavy dog in the "lateral center" of the canoe. Even the proboat was very stable in this configuration. My current Border Collie friend is more active but the concept is the same. To save some money on the 2 canoes, have a knowledgeable paddling friend help you find good used canoes on craigslist or even eBay. A good used Wenonah, Sawyer, Bell, Northstar, Clipper, Swift, Savage River, Souris River, etc. canoe is as good as a new one and will last for decades if taken care of and not left in the sun. As an example some of the old Sawyer designs are every bit as good as the latest canoe models. Have fun canoeing. It's one of the very best lifelong sports you can do.

  • Sorry I missed a few days. But I am back. To be quite fair to myself here I say this.. I do appreciate all of the true heartfelt advice and I WILL heed it.. that’s why I’m here. As far as me trying to do too much too fast, I don’t believe I specified a time frame for myself, and I did specifically say the dogs would be at home until I learned. I simply stated my current situation and the end goal to give insight of what I would like to eventually accomplish.

    Someone asked what I see myself doing. I don’t foresee myself whitewater rafting. I see myself on bigger lakes, small ponds and smaller rivers.

    I am not set in stone on sitting or kneeling. If one means more stability over the other or is a better option I would definitely take that into consideration.

    Someone suggested I read-read jesters post. Here’s what I have to say about it. I totally agree with the capsizing on purpose. I am a solo backpacking female hiker. I started camping alone at an early age. I taught myself how to build shelters and fire and made myself camp in the woods behind my house. If I didn’t have a fire (through wind, rain, snow).. I didn’t eat. So I get the being prepared for disaster/emergency. However. I don’t agree with it being unattainable or unrealistic. There are plenty of people who have spoken up showing that that’s just not the case. I am really looking for the best option... kayak vs canoe for my size that will get me to my end goal.

    I will not be tying the dogs to the watercraft. They will have PFDs (they already do).

    Someone asked if I was aware of the cost of a canoe.. yes, I have researched them, thank you.

    Now to look into all of these amazing suggestions.. I do appreciate everyone’s time.

  • Klepper Aerius 2 or Nautiraid Grand Raid. These are very stable kayaks with large cockpits. Not that uncommon to find used ones for around $500. Pricey but very hard to find used are Long Haul kayaks. Same design, tough as nails

  • edited January 9

    @TomL said:
    How about a tandem Poke Boat for Jen?


    I was thinking that a large decked canoe (which is what I consider the Poke boat to be) should be an option. I would have suggested a 15'-ish Prospector style canoe from Wenonah, Swift, Nova
    Craft, or others, because with the right technique it can be paddled solo and it would be very stable. But for one issue....

    I see myself on **bigger lakes**, small ponds and smaller rivers.

    Wind on bigger lakes would make the Prospector a no-fun handful, especially when solo - although adding ballast can help.

    A tandem decked canoe (aka recreational kayak) might be better for lakes and ponds, but will be a handful on smaller rivers with tight turns.

    I know a few people who bring dogs with them when paddling. Some with canoes, some with rec kayaks, and some with SUP. The only ones who bring more than one dog have small dogs (under 30 lbs). The ones with medium or large dogs all have one thing in common. Those dogs stay where they're told to stay.

    I bring the dog sometimes, but have only done so when tandem in a 16' canoe. If I we're to bring her when solo (medium size ~40 lbs), I would sit on the bow seat facing stern, position the dog just ahead of the yoke, and add some ballast ahead of her to trim the boat and increase stability.

    I wouldn't put my fairly obedient 40 lb dog in either of my 14.5' solo canoes with me, unless I was on the calmest of water and staying near shore. Even in the MR Guide, which is very stable by my standards. it would be very distracting, at best.

  • I paddle both. However, any big expedition I've done between 2-6 month trip I used a decked canoe...which to a novice you could say it's a large volume kayak with a big cockpit. A regular kayak will be like traveling across the country with your dog on a motorcycle. Yes, it can be done, but not ideal.
    I have one friend who did a 3200-mile kayak trip across the USA with a small 12 lb. dog which mainly sat on his deck the whole time. I have at least a dozen friends who have done 2-20 week trips in canoes with a dog or decked canoe. The EddyLine Shasta is a great boat, Can be paddled solo and plenty of room for a dog. Friend of mine paddles his with his 25 lb dog. You can paddle single or double blade too. There is also the Clipper Sea One which has a big cockpit for a dog, or the More expensive Kruger Sea WInds which can hold a 130 lb Newfoundland dog. The cheaper boats are the Old Town Loons which have a big cockpit or you could go with a tandem sit on top. Plenty of room for a dog. The EDDY Line Shasta would hold a 110 lb dog and plenty of stability. I know 5 people that have made 2400-3000 mile trips in their with 4 times the gear as your dog weighs.

Sign In or Register to comment.
Message Boards Close

Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!