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!

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. :wink:

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.

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}

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.