Canoe dog training was going so well

We have Polly for 10 days so I wanted to aee how far I might get in turning her into a canoe dog. She was doing great the first 4 or 5 times where I’d just push off the shore and gently pet and reassure her while paddling with one hand.

It was going so well I took her to the river twice one day. I was hoping for our first “real” paddle of maybe 1/2 mile or so. But she may have been over-tired and refused to get in. She’s not very enthused about riding in cars either. She’s very cautious and skeptical as you can see as she approaches a sunken branch.

So the next morning I take her again and I’m patient waiting for her to jump in while offering her a dog cookie so she finally jumps in the boat, takes the treat, and immediately exits the boat vertically like a missile out of a submarine. D**n smart dog concluded that if a bribe is required it must be a trap of some kind. A little frustrating for me since my best case scenario was just a short paddle and then return her home so I can go back out.

So I think we’ll take a break from canoe dog training. Poor dog is really missing out.


From the photos I can tell her heart is broken.

Maybe feed her on land in the canoe. This way no water is involved, and she might not exit immediately. With one dog we had a kiddy pool and I would throw her ball or stick in it with the about and inch of water in the bottom. I would add water until she would jump in the full pool. Have you gone swimming with her watching from shore? Just throwing out some of the ideas.

Poodles are smart and like the water.
First you have to establish trust. She doesn’t trust you yet to get in a car, much less a boat.
Slow down. Put her in the boat on dry land. Take her for car rides. Take her to the store. Make it pleasant. One she likes the car then you can move on to the boat.

I have raised lots of good canoe dogs. One step at a time. They don’t need constant pets and reassurance or treats. They have to trust your judgement. You get that by spending time with your dog and showing your leadership.

Yep. Good advice and I appreciate the ideas. No doubt that poodles are smart and love the water…Polly charges into the water after sticks. I’ve been taking it pretty slow:

1st time - get in canoe at home
2nd time - get in canoe at shoreline
3rd time - get in at shoreline, push off, return to shore
4th time - go 10-15 yards then return
5th time - went maybe 50 yards then returned

Then came the time she wouldn’t jump in. So I pushed off without her and paddled a few yards offshore parallel to shore and she races into the water to be near me but doesn’t jump in when given a chance. Polly’s gotten comfy with car rides with me to the park but after half a dozen uneventful outings then one time she decided to get worried about jumping in. Then next time she was fine again. Her owner says her littermate “needs” to be lifted into cars.

We give her back tomorrow so I’ll just let a little time pass. And next time I’ll skip the dog treats since she doesn’t really care about dog treats and should not need a reward to go paddling; I still haven’t found a “high value treat” that she really cares about. I also want to take her on a small lake so I won’t worry as much about her jumping out of the canoe.

Castoff and I coached Honey into his canoe with treats and she took to it immediately.

She is part lab.


Mine is part lab too. Hates the water. But is fine in the canoe I think because he hates the water. He jumps in from land , out to land and heavens no has no interest in swimming.

Dogs are all so different. Mine sat in a canoe in the garage once before going into a floating canoe… The yoga mat seems to matter. He insists on it. He stays put in this solo Curtis Nomad. He fidgets like crazy in the smaller RapidFire… Tom L you need to take your dog canoe shopping


I rescued a Border Collie once that was traumatized by her previous upbringing. She was afraid of the water and lots of other things.

Once she was integrated into the family and we had trust we took this dog, Bonnie with two other dogs and went camping. We left Bonnie on shore and paddled away slowly with the rest of the family. She made the decision not to get left behind. She swam out to the boat and we lifted her aboard. Bonnie turned out to be one of my best swimmers. She really large feet and was very athletic.

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I have found it helps to have another dog along (even better if part of the family) that gets willingly into the boat. Pier Pressure :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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Piers can exert a lot of pressure if one falls on you.

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I know a few Peers I would hate to have fall my way!

That’s why I use a walking stick . To protect short people and keep me from face plants.

Yep. One reason I sold my Hemlock SRT was that the 15 inch depth didn’t let my black lab see out of the boat when lying down, and she couldn’t rest her chin on the gunwale. So she would roll over onto her back and bark at me to provoke me into play wrestling with her in the boat which she loved. People would hear barking and just see dog feet. She went with me every time everywhere. I’ve been using my Kee15 with Polly and yesterday gave her a chance to step into my Merlin II but she just does not want to. Next time I may take my tandem and have Polly’s owner in the boat but not paddling so Polly has a different motivation.

Polly isn’t ours but I do enjoy her unique traits. She has strong (and strange) ideas of her own, not unlike our coonhound mutt. She’s generally quite unafraid of new things…like gunfire. She looks like a cheetah when she runs with her flexible body. Training her reminds me of the coonhound where you can get her to obey just by acting surprised when she doesn’t…since she knows the commands (tone of voice is very important). Totally agree that dogs can be so different.

I was noticing that Polly occasionally wouldn’t see a stick in the water that was right next to her. I think the reason may be same as why she hesitates to jump into the car but only rarely. She just needs a haircut!

Honey refuses to jump in the car but I haven’t made much effort to teach her. It may go back to her early car sickness or she’s just being hardheaded.
I used to get my poodles buzzed during hot weather but I’ve read that it’s better to leave some hair.
As long as it doesn’t turn into dreadlocks.
I do keep her face cut short mostly to keep water from being dropped all over the house after she drinks.

Since you are not her owner, how well does she respond to your commands outside of canoeing? I’ve never tried training any dog for canoeing that first wasn’t already responsive to commands outside the canoe. I also have found like @kayamedic that a pad (a place) specifically for the dog seems to help.

I just went camping with my brother and his new adopted dog. Kaia is part Staffordshire terrier, and maybe Lab. She is very strong, athletic, and an affectionate dog. We became close friends in one hour.

But this dog had a tough start in life. She likes my brother but does not trust people completely yet. She will not get in a vehicle yet, although she is functional hiking, in camp, on a leash.

She needs more time to trust my brother. Then she will get in the car, then she can become a boat dog.

10 days is not very long at all. She is still learning and so much new. Give her a few months. She’ll want to make you happy. Dog training requires LOTS of patience. Don’t blame her!

Yes, I was so proud of her starting to respond to me after playing wildly in the farmer’s field that I just opened the car door to see if she’d jump in off leash, but that didn’t appeal to her.

She responds reasonably well if not perfectly and improves each time we’ve had her. I probably should have done some more formal training on a long lead leash while we had her but in general I’m happy with the progress given her poodly (selfish and let’s say impish) tendencies. I fully agree on the importance of secure footing and have always used 2 good kneeling pads butted up together for me and the pooch.

Her owner sent us a picture of Polly STANDING ON HER KITCHEN TABLE to show what an imp she is. My wife and I were horrified.