Canoefor One Paddler and a 55 lb. Dog

I’m mainly a sea-kayaker but we’re going to be getting a dog this fall so I’m thinking next summer when I go down to the local river for exercise, instead of using one of my sea kayaks, it might be fun to get a canoe. I’m wondering what I’d want if I’m paddling solo with a 50-60lb dog. Do I want a smaller two person, paddle in the back seat, dog between the middle and then the front. Or smaller two personbackwards sit in the front seat and put the dog up by the back seat. Or a larger single and put the dog in front.

Thoughts and suggestions?

You don’t need a tandem canoe if it is just you and a 55 lb dog. A decent sized solo canoe will do just fine. But dogs are usually happier sitting in front of you. To have the canoe in trim may require you to either place some ballast at the stern of the canoe or reposition the seat if the seat in the solo canoe was mounted for neutral trim.

I have paddled tandem canoes solo for decades and always bring dogs, sometimes more than one. Solo canoes are specialized boats. I have one for the first time. After all of those years in big canoes it feels tender with a beam of 32 inches. I don’t really like it.

By all means try a canoe and bring your dog.

Or more… Two retrievers one 65 one 85#

I think the canoe works the best. But the row boat has good points. The inflatable the worst. The canoe is Mad River about 17ft long.

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I have taken my dogs on week long trips in canoes, drift boats and rafts. They like traveling on sail boats and power boats. Good boat dogs are made not born.

I would not go very far with a big dog standing on the deck of a kayak.

One early morning., I was kneeling in a canoe with two great boat dogs. It was a quiet morning and I drifted past a guy drinking coffee on shore. He said “Good morning. Those two look like they are on their honeymoon.”

You didn’t mention your own weight. That could be a factor.

In general if your maximum load is below 275-300 pounds then any solo canoe 15 feet or more will easily handle a dog. My last dog was 55 pounds and the one before was 70 and both dogs had plenty if room in my solo canoes and I’ve never had to add weight in back to offset the weight of a dog in front (most canoes are trimmed bow light for safety and in anticipation of a load). The boats below are 14 footers and work fine but a 15 is better.

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For me canoeing has always been a tenuous fine balance,
of multi-directional self-motivation upon some wobbly talents
where for all these many years that oft, oft sinking feeling
finally rose me up above to a bit of even-keeling.

But wouldn’t you know along might come some daft, daft inclination
that soon would have me gunnel-tripping down to old situation,
for I’d added all aboard crewmate fate had breed assigned
an Aqueous Achiever, my associate canine.

And so ensued new season where the critics found levity
as returned a basehart with his voyage to the bottom of the sea,
or river or lake, hell even at the shoreline,
Master and Commander and Worst Mate were all out-of-line.

So what must I do to patch my crew’s grand schism
that was tallying submersions like some great mass baptism
at Pentacostal convention in a Hotel 8 swimming pool?
Sometimes these paths for the righteous are stumbled onto by fool.

For fortuitously came to my fleet some new geometry,
and a hully-roller semi-arch was displaced with semi-vee
wherein a secondary moment’s notice of Worst Mate’s movements funny
gave Captain notice to right his ship and repose with the calm bunny.

Then since that day the fleet has grown, Worst Best Mates come and gone,
and as the Frank ones said here once we endeavor to “paddle on.”
So now some days should I feel so bold myself and landhound cur,
sardine ourselves into tight midships of Wenonah’s Voyager.

But, if the West Virginia Porch Hound (as my Duckhead associate McCrea defines his 68-pound mass) First Mate had his say, it’s a riparian voyage in a more commodius Mad River Explorer, wherein he can strike more poses than a Madonna vs. GaGa Vogue photo shoot. Why, we’ve even mastered, as I have a tendency to pole imprecise, the Tandem Aggressive Stepout. Okay, not “mastered,” but an 8 out of ten from the “bank” of judges.

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It’s not only going to depend on the boat but also the dog. I did a lot of canoeing with my two dogs shown in the photos below in a variety of solo canoes. Together they weighed right around 50 lbs.

My dogs were pretty good about staying close to my kneeling position. That resulted in much less alteration in trim than it otherwise might have. Some dogs want to be right at the front of the boat or even up on the deck plate.

Here we are in a 16 foot Wenonah WWC1:

This is a 15’ 4" Mad River ME:

In both of these canoes the dogs made the trim slightly bow-heavy but the boats remained pretty easily controllable.

Here I am getting ready to try out a friend’s Royalex Bell Yellowstone Solo, a 14 footer. Two dogs in front of me would have made this boat very hard to control so one had to go behind:


Although I don’t have any photos I also took these two down the Class II Hiwassee River in East Tennessee in an 11’ 3" Dagger Ocoee whitewater boat with both in front of me. That was a bit twitchy.

I would agree that in very general terms a solo canoe of 15 foot overall length or more should be OK for a dog of that size without too much alteration in trim. Some 14 foot boats no so much.

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Do you paddle the tandems from the back seat or turn them around and sit in the back seat backwards?

I paddle my Novacraft Bob Special backwards from the bow seat with my 45lb dog in front of me. It works great.

For a day paddle I turn canoes around and paddle from the bow seat. Sometimes there is a thwart in the way. I use my dog to trim the boat. I put a small dry bag and cooler in the bow.

Most of my paddling is overnight trips with dunnage. I use the equipment forward to trim the boat and paddle from the stern seat.

In the wind, it is often necessary to kneel near the center thwart.

I bought an inexpensive used 3 layer poly 14’7” tandem canoe and converted it to a solo. It is a nice size for a solo where you want to haul some gear or a child or a good size dog.

I stared by removing the seats and the center carry yoke. Then I figured out the right place for me to be seated for level trim with some weight (Dog, Kid or Gear) in front of me. I then added in some thwarts where they would not interfere with my seating position and define an area for said (Dog, Kid or Gear). What I found is you then have two storage areas one in front of you and one behind you and I have found dogs and kids are better in front where you can see them. Ideally with a dog they will have their own open area with something on the floor to give then some footing. With kids a drop in low seat is nice.

One advantage I found to a center seat in a solo made from a tandem is it is a very stable platform sitting where your weight is at the widest part of the canoe. The drawback to that is paddling with a single blade paddle. I switched to a 260cm double blade kayak paddle that is longer than most by about a foot. It made paddling much easier for me and controlled drips well as well. If you are used to kayaking it won’t require learning canoe strokes.

It is heavier than I would like on the land but fine in the water and paddling with your dog the slower pace won’t be an issue.

There are pack canoes sized and set up like this but they are pricey new and hard to find used and when you do they are still pretty pricey. The biggest difference is they are maybe 20-30 pounds lighter, but on the other hand my poly canoe is really tough and for the price I’m not worried about running over rocks or dragging it up a bank.

This option is a 15’ prospector. (75 lb dog) Adjust trim with water container in end behind the dog.


So the sit backwards in the front sit works well in that boat?

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Yea. No problem.

I have a Northstar Northwind Solo. The max optimal load is 340 lbs which is more than enough for an average paddler, a mid sized dog and capacity for camping gear etc… Northstar sells a trapezoid pad 1 inch thick non-slip bottom that is perfect for your dog to sit on. It also works great for kneeling.

Length: 15ft 6in
Length/Width Ratio: 6.9
Width: 26.5 gw / 30 mx / 26.5 wl
Sheer: 17.5 bw / 12.5 ms / 15 st
Rocker: 2.5 bw / 1.5 st
Weight: 27 SL / 29 BL / 41 IXP / 23 STLH
Optimal Load: 170–340 lbs

Watch Matthew Poza’s YouTube channel, he takes his rough coated collie “Monte” everywhere with him. He set u a space for Monte to ride in the canoe behind him, Monte even get a nice cushion to keep him comfy and relatively dry.
Hope to see you with your pup in a boat soon!

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Sometimes Ruger and Monty are both in the canoe.

If you go with a short tandem (like a Nova Craft Bob Special, Wennonah Heron or Esquif Huron or a 15 foot Prospector from Nova Craft - Prospecteur from Esquif), you can easily take the pup (sit on bow seat facing what was the stern). A small tandem also gives you the flexibility to take a friend, kid (or grandkid), etc. on those occasions when a nice paddle would be relaxing.