Canoe for two people and a big dog?

I’ve spent the last couple of days reading and reading and reading some more. I’ve found some helpful threads, but what I’ve really learned is that everyone’s needs are individual and I’d probably be better off just asking for advice …

So, a couple of newbies are in the market for a recreational boat that is appropriate for:

-1 or 2 people

-A 75 lb Labrador who is going to get in and out of the boat.

-Fairly calm inland lakes in Michigan.


We really do not relish the idea of capsizing in the middle of a lake, so maybe we’re on the wrong track … but we’re leaning towards a canoe with outriggers. This may be sacrilege, but the Coleman Scanoe has some appeal because of the ability to mount a small motor on the back … I kind of like the idea of that versatility, but it’s not a must. Open to and grateful for suggestions whether it’s for a canoe or for some other sort of boat.

other options

– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 11:14 PM EST –

The Scanoe at 14' is kind of short for two people and a dog. I think you would be better off looking at 16' canoes instead. If you want to stay under $1,000, the Old Town Guide 160 is a good choice, also the Mad RIver Journey 156. Both have better space for the dog in the middle. The Scanoe has the center seat that will be a bit in the way for a big dog.

If you want to retain the option of adding a trolling motor, the Mad River Adventure 16 has the squared stern to mount one. It does have a middle seat but it is small and low and probably would not affect the dog. It also has lower sides than the guide and journey and some tumblehome (possibly easier for a dog to climb in and out on the water, though i would not relish having a soaked dog re-enter my boat in any situation.)

I've owned both a Guide and an Adventure and both are nice canoes for day tripping on rivers and streams. We used to paddle the Adventure 16 using double-bladed kayak paddles, used canoe paddles on the slightly higher sided Guide.

That middle seat/cooler is the biggest
Waste of space in a boat that is short to start with. You will not be able to lay fishing poles in the bottom of the boat. There are no thwarts to tie gear to. I have a similar model without the square back. I think it’s horrible for fishing out of with two people.It does OK paddling solo by kneeling against the middle seat.

I think two people and a large dog would really fill that boat up.

it’s asking a lot of a canoe that can handle two adults and a large dog AND be a good solo boat.

Dog experience

– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 3:15 AM EST –

My wife & I have carried 1 or 2 75-pound dogs in a Bell Morningstar(15.5') on local lakes and quiet rivers. Never capsized, although there have been some exciting moments. I've also had it out solo in conditions up to starting to whitecap.

A 16' tandem can be soloed without much trouble in calm conditions, but does become a big sail if the wind picks up. I found that a kneeling thwart gives me more options for different loads and conditions. The tradeoff is that a wider, more stable-feeling canoe is harder to solo than a narrower one.

I have taken a dog that size in a solo canoe many times.

If your Lab decides to leap out, there is no good way to pull a dog that size back into a canoe in open water. The best thing is to have him follow you back to shore.

Fishing: Our Lab made fishing much more exciting. Casting looked a lot like using a "Chuckit" tennis ball thrower, so the first few times he saw the lure splash down he jumped out to try to retrieve it. We worked through that, but bringing a fish alongside was always very interesting for him, and he wanted to come over and help, with predictable results.

So if you're serious about fishing, you'll have to do some dog training to keep peace in the boat. Otherwise you'll get a lot of entertainment but not many fish.

Another traditional option might be a rowing skiff/dory/dinghy -- more stable than a canoe, and well suited to inland lakes. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good inexpensive options unless you find one used or build one yourself from a kit or plans. A few examples:

The Wenonah Spirit II is quite stable
and tracks nicely. Best long term version is their Tufweave layup, light, tough, easily repaired. It is 17 feet long, so if the solo issue bothers you, look at their similar 16 foot Aurora.

canoes and dogs
I always paddle with dogs. They figure it out pretty fast. I took an 8 month old Border Collie on a week long river trip this summer. Once she could swim, and was not afraid of the boat, she was ready for a trip. All they need is many miles to really settle down and enjoy canoe trips.

If I were you I would forget about outriggers, and any canoe with the name Coleman on it. Get yourself a large canoe, say 17 feet or more with some beam to it, in the 36 inch range. Never look back.

I was paddling solo years ago with my two dogs one quiet morning on an alpine lake. A guy on shore was drinking coffee watching us. He said, “they look like they are on their honeymoon” as we glided past.

maybe a boat instead of a kayak?

– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 4:51 PM EST –

At some point, you have to realize that you might be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The kayak is not always the most ideal craft for everyone's needs. Unless your dog is trained to be in a boat and is very calm and obedient, two people and a dog in a kayak could be a recipe for disaster.

maybe you should consider a rowboat or some other wide beamed boat. Maybe even the sailboat?

if you feel you really need a paddle craft, you might consider the Golden Hawk canoe. He has a wide beam and is probably the most stable of all canoes. You can get them with a transom on the back for a motor if you so desire.

I often canoe with two people and a big dog in a canoe. Our favorite is the golden hawk. We have several others, but if the craft is narrow and the least bit unstable, especially in high seas, then it can be a nervous experience.

In any case, I recommend that you get a life preserver for your dog, which I'm sure you do. Also, spend some time training your dog on on land getting in and out of the boat before you attempt this on the water. Have a pocket full of treats and teach him how to get into the boat and where to sit in the boat and teach him to be still in the boat.

Canoes and dogs
go together. They learn quickly not to thrash around. Gear in the bottom of the boat lowers the center of gravity. I have had boats capsized by high energy kids, but never by a dog.

A smaller dog would be okay in a tandem kayak with a cockpit. I have taken 3 dogs in a driftboat in rough water and a powerboat.

More on Canoes and Dogs
I agree with ppine. There is nothing “unstable” about normal, general-purpose tandem canoes, and I’d recommend any of several models over anything made by Golden Hawk. Those Golden Hawk canoes are terribly short and exceptionally wide. Though they fill a niche (they’d be okay on small ponds, or okay with a motor), I’d consider them a poor choice for two people with gear and/or a dog, especially if they need to paddle very much or very far. They probably feel safe and stable to newbies, since each paddler is confined within a narrow part of the boat while the center section sticks out much farther to each side (just like sponsons), but good primary stability can also come from “moderate” width that is spread out over a considerably longer length, with the added benefit of more room for paddlers and their stuff, plus the dog. Performance-wise, under paddle power, there’s no comparison between traditional canoes and the boats that Golden Hawk makes.

Yellowdog - I have had an outboard motor mount for my canoes for several years and never have used it. My canoes are far easier to paddle than anything Coleman makes though. If you really want to have a motor, any of the longer square-back canoes will work for you and your dog. But if you want to enjoy paddling, a finer performing canoe will make a huge difference.

IMO, you can gain a lot by ensuring that your dog is well-trained enough to not jump out of the canoe when you don’t want him to. I know what people say about labs not being able to control themselves - but I have been a lab owner and I will tell you otherwise. It’s all in the training. And a dog should be obedience trained anyway for its own good if you’re going to take it out in the world.

My wife and I total about 290 lbs and our current dog is right at 40 lbs. We paddle with the dog and gear in a Mad River Malecite, which isn’t known for carrying a high payload. We haven’t had any problems with the dog, although she does like to look into the water over the gun’l and inspect the fish I have hooked. I don’t know how big the two of you are, but the Spirit II that has already been mentioned is a higher capacity boat than ours, and it is a very good place for you to start looking. See if you can find one of those or something like it to try.

Dog training
I agree totally. When I was a kid, my dad hunted ducks, and always had at least one lab. It was considered necessary for them to behave when in a boat, so they were trained accordingly (there’s just no reason to tolerate the alternative). I don’t remember them ever jumping out of the boat on a whim, except for during the initial boat-familiarization runs when they were pups.