kayaking with a dog

-- Last Updated: May-04-14 10:50 PM EST --

Hi everyone

I am a newcomer to this forum and a real novice in Kayaking . I appreciate any help and advice I can get.

I have done about 6 years of canoeing in Canada all on small to medium lakes and still I think I am a novice paddler.Possibly about 60 days of canoeing is what I have done so far averaging 15 to 20 miles of canoeing per day.

Have never done any Kayaking before. I am planning for kayaking the inside passage from Vancouver Island to Alaska in 2015 solo or with a group( if possible).

I have a 17 pounds 6 years old sheltie dog who has been with me in countless canoe and hiking trips before and I am considering taking him with me in my Kayak( I don't have a kayak yet) . He is extremely well trained and obedient and very understanding of various circumstances .

Here are the questions : has anybody here done kayaking with a small dog before? Is it doable at all ?

Is there any specific Kayak that may suit my need better than others ?

I need your help and advice to prepare for this trip and I have a full year for practice.

could you please help me about where to start and which thread to read for getting the basic information I need for this trip and kayaking in general?

I am a good DIYer and if I need to adjust anything in my future Kayak to make it Dog friendly I can do it .

Since he is just 17 pounds I think it is doable to carry him someway in my kayak without risking his precious life.

Please help me to be really prepared for this trip( or better call it adventure!!)

Thanks in advance

You will be wearing a spray skirt
Your dog will be in the dark and unable to see you or breathe.

That’s the first hurdle to overcome. The size of the dog is not an issue.

I am not thinking or planning to treat him like a gear and put him in the back or front gear space.That is not humane or practical.

I am thinking about a modification on the surface of my kayak to put him there, right in front of me or in the back of kayak but secure on the surface of the kayaks( a secure space in three sides but open on roof like a cage without roof) . something like a small area for him to lay down when I am paddling. That is why I mentioned his weight (17 ponds) because with a bigger or heavier dog this will end up tipping over the kayak easily and frequently.

I never said put him in a hatch
You will be wearing a spray skirt for the waves that kick up to five or six feet.

The dog has to be secure somewhere and that would be below decks between your feet.

Above deck he is apt to get washed away… A canine flotation device is a must. You might be able to train him to stay in a milk crate and secure that in front of you but the Inside Passage can be very windy and that crate will cost you speed.

You might look for advice on the West Coast Paddler board where there are kayakers who have done that trip.

I don’t think the Inside Passage is the place for a dog. It is also full of orcas, who would treat your dog if overboard as a snack.

expanding on prior post
For the inside passage, the standard kayak is some form of sea kayak with a spray skirt. These boats have the efficiency to cover ground, storage to carry gear, and the skirt makes it easier to deal with the likely constant less-than-perfect weather.

For people kayaking with a dog, the standard kayak is a sit on top kayak. These are wide, stable, but slow boats. They don’t have much storage.

There is a disconnect here in what is best for the dog and what is best for the trip, yet there isn’t an average or middle ground that would really work.

Nice days, you could keep the skirt open. But these days are not all that common.

You could teach the dog to stay on deck, but that reduces your stability. Given you have said you are a novice and presumably the dog is also a novice, not likely going to work.

You could use a tandem kayak and give the dog its own seat. But the dog would need to be trained to stay in its cockpit (along with training to keep from tipping you over by always checking out stuff to one side - training you would need to do no matter what kayak you use). these boats are more expensive than single kayaks, and become more expensive to transport (presumably your trip is one way, so you need some sort of transport).

You both gave me some great insight
Thank you for your very helpful and honest advice.

I am sure Inside passage is not a good place for a beginner let alone a beginner with a dog. That is a given but I have some things that works on my favor. My dog is quite obedient and does what I ask him to do as long as I ask him. When canoeing in windy days he stays motionless in middle of canoe and he is used to His flotation device. I think attaching a modified milk crate may work great in good weather conditions which is not common in inside passage.He needs to be secure to the crate by a leash( possibly six feet long??) for the time that things goes wrong and he is overboard then he will not go too far from the kayak in fast currents or high waves.

I am content sacrificing some mileage per day for the price of crate and my dog. I will be in no rush to finish the passage fast.

In high wave condition as you mentioned I think his best chance is sitting between my legs in the cockpit.

Orcas are potentially a danger but not that common encounter in the passage and we have to be extremely unlucky if we have a hungry orca right where my dogs goes overboard for a short time. That is a low risk I think I am ready to take.

there is a well written informative book about solo kayaking the inside passage that I need to study while advancing my Kayaking skills.

crossing the passage in any kayak less efficient than a sea kayak is not in my mind and as you mentioned the sit on top kayaks are too slow for that kind of adventure. I was thinking there maybe a middle ground for me but it seems there is no kayak suitable or designed for my needs and i need to modify and design something and sacrifice some speed and/or comfort.

A novice kayaker but not a novice dog
I have no concern about him moving around unnecessarily . He does not move when in Canoe to the extent you could say he acts like a 17 pounds load and nothing more.Thank you for your great response.

No dog on a trip like the inside passage
Ir any place with real waves. Period. Even if you don’t capsize you will be getting your wet, cold hypothermic dog back to safety all the time.

There is a guy who
has paddled the Inside Passage… Google Bob Van Hise. Get in touch with him for a reality check.

I have been kayaking many years… have paddled in Alaska and your plans terrify me… Especially your notion of tethering your dog to a leash… or anything via a leash.

You need some more years of real kayak experience and please stop trying to justify taking your dog along because its wonderful canoe dog. You need some more ocean experience on a smaller scale in a safer place.

No dog confirmed
I have decided not to take my dog after watching some videos of what I may encounter in inside passage. It seems it will be a huge risk for him and me and there is no way he can enjoy the trip.With a dog it is definitely more than what I can chew.( not that without a dog it is a walk in the park !!!).

I am not here to argue with experts. I am here to listen and learn from you folks.I am not a super human and I know my limitations .My dog’e safety is the most important thing and so he will stay with my friends.

I still need your expertise and help to prepare for the Inside passage. Thank you all for your comments. It was a wishful thinking that turned out to be a stupid plan.

so no dog in a trip like this is confirmed.


– Last Updated: May-05-14 1:41 PM EST –

I was going to chime in with the others against bringing your dog, for a slew of reasons. Glad you reconsidered doing it.

I paddled part of the IP (Ketchikan to Skagway) with 3 other people (no dogs) and yes, you have plenty to learn even without bringing any pets. Several books might help you study specifics of that area. These do not cover kayaking technique, which is a whole huge other category you need to work on, along with seamanship.

Two excellent travelogs come to mind immediately:

1. Tim Lydon's Passage to Alaska, in which he paddled from Port Hardy to Juneau. Lydon worked as a USFS Ranger and includes lots of sidebars describing practical aspects of the trip. Note that his friend/paddling partner and he parted ways before the planned end, which also happened in my group.

2. Robert Miller's Kayaking the Inside Passage, in which he and his wife paddled the very long route from Olympia, WA to the Muir Glacier. Like Lydon, he describes the trip in terms of natural environment and human history, in addition to "paddler" aspects. I have the first edition of this book (2005--unfortunately published AFTER my trip), but I know there has been at least one revision since then. Probably the most comprehensive, detailed route guide there is for kayaking the IP.

Not specific to solely the Inside Passage route(s) but also useful:

3. Jim Howard's Guide to Sea Kayaking in Southeast Alaska.

4. The Nature of Southeast Alaska, by Rita O'Clair, Robert Armstrong, and Richard Carstensen. This book contains many drawings and color photographs of flora and fauna.

Having recommended the above 4 books, the only ones I even looked at before my trip were #3 and #4. But if I were to do it again, I'd definitely study the Miller book thoroughly.

The more you can learn about sea kayaking (especially the "sea" part), the better. Areas of the IP have strong currents, and AK in general gets big tidal ranges. Although my group finished our trip without any disasters from our deficient seamanship, I urge you strongly to not gamble on this type of knowledge, including local weather patterns and navigation in fog. It might literally save your life, and it certainly makes the going easier if you take advantage of the sea's movements rather than work against it.

Best way to prepare
Not to sound flip, but the way to prepare for a trip anywhere on the coast, and especially an area as dynamic as the Inside Passage, is to simply concentrate on learning to kayak. Hook up with a good instructor, and spend your next year gaining skills in progressively more challenging environments with good instructional guidance.

Your profile says Ontario. You might check out http://www.ontarioseakayakcentre.com/

As your skills progress, you’re going to need to spend some time getting trained in a tidal environment, like Maine, or the West Coast US and BC.

Geneva Kayak Center www.genevakayak.com offers “Ocean Camps” which are a great way for great lakes kayakers to transfer their skills to tidal and ocean conditions.

Good luck!



I will listen to experts
thank you for your great guidance. I will obtain the books you mentioned and read them.

I might have an adventures side in me but I have no intention to go blindly to an endeavor like IP without suitable knowledge. It is like a suicide if not completely prepared for it and I love my life .

I have done some adventures(ish) on land and Canoe trips based on gaining experience and knowledge on “as you go” base but it was because in those adventures the worst case scenario was manageable and just mild to moderate physical sufferings.

Inside passage’s worst case scenario potentially is lethal so I have to prepare myself completely.

I live close by
The link you mentioned luckily is in less than 2 hours driving distance from where I am moving in less than a month. I will check them out,thank you

Friend 3000 miles with small dog
My friend kayaked 3000 miles with a small dog he found. Here is his blog if you want to read his experience with the dog over several months. SOme greats pics too.

You can email him via the site to get the ins and outs.

Anyway…here is the dog which is about the size of yours.


Controlled water and good landings
Great story. But not the inside passage.

The issue with the dog
is how to keep the dog warm and dry. It rains almost every day on the Inside Passage and temps are in the forties and fifties.

The human gets exercise to stay warm. The dog has no such option.

The video is cute…but the issues are different. You can cool a hot dog by literally dipping him in the water by the CFD handle and making a sort of reflectorized covering.

How to warm a cold dog… is entirely different

I am not anti dog on kayak paddling. Its done in Maine in some protected areas on daytrips with dog on the back deck on shower mat and of course well trained. But that is not a long voyage and not done in foul weather.

You are right
There is not much to do to warm up a cold wet dog that has no place to run. It won’t be fun. If he is suffering it is like I am suffering by taking him to a trip like that.