Canoes and Dogs...

I want to teach my 10 month old half Golden/half Natural Disaster to ride nicely in a canoe. When he was significantly smaller I took him out in my kayak and he seemed to enjoy it when he wasn’t chewing on the coaming. Now at 70 plus pounds, that is no longer possible. How can I teach him to ride nicely in a canoe? He loves the water and will wear his PFD when he go out.

Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

A sit is a sit is a sit, whether at home

– Last Updated: Mar-21-06 9:02 PM EST –

or in a canoe. I taught my dog the sit command, and he knows what it means wherever he is. I've had 3 different dogs in a canoe many times, and never had a problem with them, because they all knew to obey the sit command. Giving them a water swim break at shore for awhile helps, and they should enjoy it. Recommend a dog life jacket be worn for them, as they can have accidents, like people can. Have fun, and happy paddling!

A piece of carpeting helps to insulate them and they learn to recognize it as "their place".

A tired puppy
A tired puppy is a good puppy. Lots of exercise before he gets in the boat and often while underway. At that age no matter how well he minds he will still have teenager moments. Mine keeps centered but it’s mostly out of fear, he’s not fond of deep water.

basic training on land…
If he’ll follow your commands on land (come, sit, down, stay) then you can transfer them into the boat. Of those, down and stay are I think most important (for canoeing).

Some things I’ve done to make canoeing with my dog easier:

  1. I have her (65lb shepherd mix) ride in the bow so I can keep an eye on her and even if I’m not “looking” at her, she’s in my field of vision so that I can naturally compensate when she moves/shifts weight.

  2. I made a cushioned pad shaped to fit in the bow area so that she has a more flat surface, and one that is soft/grippy instead of the slick surface of the canoe. I made my mat by contact cementing together a layer of cheap blue minicell (Walmart camp pad) in between two layers of the slightly rubbery/grippy material you can line your shelfs or tool boxes with. Also keeps her out of pooling water.

  3. Because she tended to like to go too far up in the bow, in order to keep her in a better space/keep my trim balanced, I installed an extra thwart at the front of the bow. Now there’s just the right space between the thwart in front of my seating area, and new forward thwart that I installed.

  4. “Wait” is also a useful command I found in the canoe, mostly as we approach a sandy beach or gravel bar, I need to remind her to “wait” to get out until I say it’s okay.

  5. Our command for getting in the car works for getting in the canoe, which is “up, up.” I get in the canoe first, then let her know “up up” for when it’s time for her to hop in on her mat.

    My dog started canoeing with me a little under 2 years ago at the ripe old age of 10 years old. So she already knew all her basic commands, and we just switched all that to riding in the canoe. A well trained and well mannered dog you’ll be able to adapt easily to the canoe.

    Good luck with your training!


will work wonders with your natural disaster. Ten months is young. Goldens mature and settle down after about a year and a half.

Agree with all the former points. Dogs need a secure footing in the canoe. If you are nervous, they are nervous. My dog stands up in whitewater and lies down in flat, exactly the reverse of what I want. Its not a dog problem though, she is sensing what I am feeling.

My golden is however stupid. After attending countless symposia, she still does not know how to paddle bow. She just sits there like a queen.

Glue thumbtacks all along the
inside of the gunwales, and your puppy will quickly learn to stay quietly in the middle of the boat.

And YOU will quickly learn how to portage hands free!

The challenge I had was getting my dog into the boat the first few times. Now she springs in there at will. She does like to lean over the side to drink the lake water, or inspect something floating on the surface. But she doesn’t rock the boat too much at 45lbs. A bigger dog may be more challenging.

I also have Spring Creek canoe floats that I usually use when my dog is on board. Good insurance from a flip in cold water, and from losing any other gear (ie fishing tackle) in case of a capsize.

Goldens are a handful
They have so much energy. My MIL has them, and she doesn’t discipline them. My hats off to you if you can get something with golden blood to be calm for any length of time.

I got my 30 lb 7 mo standard daschshund to go paddling with me the first time this weekend. He sat between my legs on my SOT. At first he was really nervous, but then seemed to enjoy it, sniffing the salt air and watching the cormorants fly overhead. Of course, I just paddled him in my canal and the little cove all my subdivision’s canals empty into, for about 15 minutes, just to get him used to it.

If your dog likes the water, you are a…
lucky paddler. My Siberian hates the water so much it is a chore for her to drink from a water dish. Have to force her to go out in the rain to relieve herself. Now snow is another matter, can’t get her to come inside. Had a Lab for 15 yrs and I couldn’t paddle with her, she wanted to be IN the water not on it.

HeHeHe: Siberians
Hd to laugh at your post! My Siberian would stand in shallow water, but would not swim. The snow comment was right on! She loved it!

Never took her canoeing though. Oh yeah, she had a deathly fear of bridges.


Steady command, etc.

A handy command for paddling is STEADY.

Teach this on dry land by having the dog on the lead. Just stand there.

When the dog starts getting distracted and goes off after something, turn on your heel and move sharply in the opposite direction. At the same time, say, “STEADY.”

Your movement and pull on the leash should bring him moving back into you. As he comes in and meets your eye, praise him and give him a treat.

This gives you a command that if something distracts him in the water or on shore, you can steady him and bring his attention back to you.

Most dogs can’t hold two thoughts in their head at the same time, so if his eyes are on you, you have the opportunity keep his attention and give additional direction if necessary.

This is also a great command for out on walks, greeting visitors, etc.

The other thing you can do is present the idea of riding in a canoe in stages to “condition” him to it, as they say in animal training.

First have him sit in the canoe while it is on dry land and in a familiar location, such as your yard.

Have him sit quietly for a few minutes, and when he is successful, praise him and give him a treat.

Use a release word for exiting the canoe, possibly one you use ONLY for this.

This will teach him to exit only when you give him THE WORD.

Goldens catch on to this kind of thing very quickly, as long as you are consistent, i.e. don’t let him randomly jump out sometimes (without the command) and other times insist on that he wait for permission.

That’s just a set up for mind games between you and your dog.

Extend the time he stays in the boat, and finish your training session by doing something he enjoys such as throwing a ball.

Once he’s comfortable and confident, try it at your launch site.

If that works well, try it out on calm water for a short period only. Once he’s comfortable, extend your time and other variables, such as weather, greater distractions, more difficult water, etc.

Remember you are working with a young, active animal. Stay within the zone he can tolerate, energy-wise and things will work better for the long run.

If you have a longer trip in mind, try to break things up as much as you can with time riding in the boat, and time onshore throwing a ball or swimming.

As someone wisely said…a tired dog is a GOOD dog. No truer words could be spoken. :slight_smile:

And that’s the plan, Stan…good luck!

Thanks to everyone who has responded. I’ve got some good ideas to work with now. Boomer (the dog) is actually pretty good for a 10 month old puppy. We’ll see how this works…

the whole thumbtack thing? Ain’t gonna happen…

Just had my second outing

– Last Updated: Mar-23-06 1:04 PM EST –

with my newly adopted dog in a 12' solo canoe. Ditto all first outing was short on a calm evening. She sat(with some urging) between my knees and fairly quicky relaxed.
Second outing on Caddo lake was longer and went well....especially after a lot of exercise on Goat Island. Soon she was taking a short nap! The PFD also made her easier to spot in the woods, and less able to shake water on me! Good luck. I'd like to hear how it goes!

I’m curious

– Last Updated: Mar-23-06 5:07 PM EST –

About the life jacket. Where did you find it and what is the material? It almost looks like terry cloth.

I've been wanting to replace Arlo's but I haven't been thrilled with what I've seen. That one looks comfortable.

Just bought a new one for my dog
from - They are a great outfit and have a good price on it. Advantage of this type of pfd is that it has full padding completely around the chest. Not sure of the material, although it is comfortable and strong.

ruffwear Float Coat

When I did my shopping considering sales tax and shipping (to P.O.Box needed for me) I ended up ordering it from

REI and a few others sell it as well. I’ve just had it a little over a week but am very happy so far. The reflective piping really does show up nicely in the dark. This particlualr link even has a short video you can watch about the product…

I have seen that one and it looks like the best I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen neoprene vests that look comfortable but they don’t have enough floatation, Arlo don’t float very good on his own.

paddling buddy
My lab has his own canoe and Kayak(a valley double) that he rides in but when he was a puppy I use to have him sit between my legs. That way I could stabilize him by pining him with my legs. Now he rides nicely and is quite a celebrity in his Kayak when we paddle out in the fiord.

do you have any pictures
that we could see?