Paddling with my puppy

I have a 20 week old border collie puppy that I want to intoduce to canoe paddling. We’ve been in the canoe in the front yard and I’m ready to take him out for his first canoe ride.

I’ve never trained a puppy to ride in a canoe. Any advice.


Some tips
Put a pfd on him.

Always wear your own pfd.

Expect to end up in the water and be prepared for it.

Paddle in warm water.

Assess his temperament. Some dogs never learn to be calm and obedient enough for a canoe or kayak. Others take to it naturally.


– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 2:31 PM EST –

Put something nonskid inside for traction. A cheap bathroom rug works well.

Associate the boat with fun. We put our canoe on the lawn and fed our pup in it for a few days. We also did some "paddling" on the lawn and some fun "sit" and "stay" training before we went on the water.

Tire him/her out first....

On flat water, we attach a length of floating rope to the back of our dog's PFD or harness. It makes them easier to control and is safer than a leash on the collar.

Sitting in the bottom of a canoe can be HOT in the summer. Just watch for overheating.

Be prepared to get wet and laugh a lot.

Rubber mat
Many dogs don’t like the slick surface of the canoe, they slip and slide too much. One my canoe buddies has lined his canoe with interlocking rubber floor mats and another used a couple of yoga mats. Both of their dogs love to go paddling. My dog doesn’t like the canoe, she thinks swimming is the way to go.


was introduced to the kayak at 2 years as that was her age on adoption. The bath mat worked great. The PFD was worn around the house & yard and river so she got comfortable with it. It helped that she learned the “wait” ( as in don’t move) command quickly. Lots of treats!

Hopefully no big deal
I’ve never had a dog that wasn’t good at riding in the canoe from the get-go(almost).

First dog was a Springer Spaniel, about 50lbs, who was probably 5 or 6 before he went out in the solo with me. He was real wobbly when he first jumped in it but soon got his sea legs and settled down fine.

My current dog was a year old when I got her (25 pounds) and I took her out in the canoe the day after I got her. Again, no problem at all. She settled right in and wasn’t antsy at all.

The dog always go in from of me. I want to be able to see what’s going on with them and it also gives me the ability to reach them with my hand or paddle without turning around.

I believe some people place the dog between themselves and the forward thwart but I don’t like them around my feet, so my dog has to stay ahead of the thwart. I never let her cross the thwart to get to me because the last thing I want in a touchy situation is for her to get nervous and jump over the thwart to try and get to me. She used to try when she was first in the canoe because she’d get a little freaked out if we started paddling through reeds or tree branches and she’d try and come to me for safety. When she’d try I’d just fend her off with the paddle and calmly tell her “forward” (which she now knows). Now when she gets a little nervous(usually only in small rapids) she just backs up to the thwart and never tries to cross it.

For similar reasons I rarely ever pet her in the boat. I tell her she’s a good dog all the time and might give her a little pat on the head but I don’t want her leaning/climbing over the thwart thinking she’s going to get attention all the time. She stays plenty entertained with the ducks, jumping fish, and just watching the shoreline.

When I had my 50lb dog it was important for him to know “sit” and to respond immediately to the command. It could get a little tippy when he’d stand up and he’d always do it at the most inopportune times. The paddle came in handy and after a couple sharp slaps on the butt he got the idea that he better sit when he heard the command. With the 25 pound dog it doesn’t really matter if he’s sitting or standing.

As others said, give them something to stand/lay on for traction. Dogs also like to be able to see what’s going on so if you, your dog, and boat are stable enough try adding enough so the dog can see over the gunwales when it lays down (with it’s head up of course), otherwise it probably never will. With my Springer all that meant was 3/4" thick interlocking foam pads. For my current dog she’s too short for that anyway so she just gets a portion of a cheap 1/4" foam sleeping pad I’d bought a few years ago to cut up for when I needed random pieces of padding.

Paddling with a dog is great, it can make it more enjoyable having them to watch and talk to. I also find myself paddling more since my dog goes virtually everywhere with me and I hate having to leave her at home. So now I can paddle all I want and she loves it.

Have fun and good luck!


Why bother
Dogs aren’t fish, leave them on land.

dogs in canoes
If possible confine it to one end of the canoe. The ends are narrow so Fido cant get far off center. If he is roaming all over the boat, dont bother yelling and lunging for him. Just watch him and lean a little the other way. He doesnt weigh much.

Work with him swimming around and after the canoe. A nice long swim has a calming affect.

By that logic
We shouldn’t be out there either.


Paddling with your Pup
Our dog had never seen a boat in his life until this year, and he is an odd breed to be on the water. My son has a Pit Bull that loves to play at waters edge and we figured buying new boats this year to include him. We purchased a pfd for him and a tandem Kayak for my son to use when the dog comes out. The tips above about the bath mat are great, ty. As for adjustment to the boat it went very easy for us, I had my son paddle out about 20 feet from sure on a lake while i held the pup, who was all upset his daddy was floating away, once my son floated back in the dog literally jumped in the boat and hasn’t looked back since. His only issue is when other boaters are on the water he wants to go visit them and remember this if nothing else ,NOT ALL BOATERS ARE AS ACCEPTING OF DOGS AS OTHERS…

There are some who will consider your pet a nuisance. Make sure your pet stays out of the line of other boats while in the water.

Overall though, most people are understanding if not supportive of any water enthusiast regardless of race/species.

You and your pup enjoy

I have 2 now and both LOVE it!
They should be pups when introduced but can be older… PFD’s and I tether mine to my PFD and they are on a coupler…he should knwo basic commands…sit/stay/come…bring treats and let him romp out of the canoe on land… this is a reward for them…play fetch if he likes that…then get back in the canoe and head for home… he will relate the canoe with fetching/walking…and love it!

Why tethered?
Seems like possible trouble. If I dump no way do I want to be attached to my dog, for both our sakes. And even if there’s a quick release one of us will still be towing a rope, which again, isn’t really a good thing.


…and some dogs have webbed feet. Most of us don’t.

does your dog like the water?
In my very limited experience that is they key.

Each one a little different
Over the years I’ve had six dogs that became regular paddling partners. There was one mutt, two German Shepherds, two Lhasa/toy poodle mixes, and an older Australian Shepard. All but one I broke in to paddling early, as you are.

Expect them to be rambunctious on the first few trips. Your border collie may remain so for quite a while, though I’ve never owned one. They seem to be pretty high energy dogs, though.

A few observations: The temptation to chase ducks can be irresistible to pups in the front of a canoe. Dogs have to learn that water can be deeper than they are. One of the German Shepherds got sea sick as a pup. I used to get a little concerned about the way eagles and owls seemed to be looking at the Lhasas when they ran around on the sandbars we often camped on. Even a mellow old fellow like the Australian Shepard was can cause a little concern in fast water… they’ll snooze ever so peacefully until you hit some haystacks or get into a narrow chute, then they’ll have to stand up and start moving around to see what all the noise is about. Be ready for that.

Once a dog gets used to the routine of paddling its fun to watch their enthusiasm mount as you load up the boat and camping stuff. They can hardly contain themselves. They know when there’s an adventure in the offing. Then they settle right into it. They’re a joy.

Here’s wishing you and your new paddling bud many years of adventures both great and small.

Let them know they can swim 1st
I also have a Border collie. My friend came with her canoe and took her for her first ride. I do have a life jacket for her. Last week I took her to the lake to let her swim without her life jacket. Since she has found out that she can swim, she is much more comfortable around the water. I do not plan on having her tied, just seems like an accident waiting to happen. I do know now, that she can swim way faster than me, but comes to me when I call.

dogs are pack animals
…they go where the alpha goes, or they get stressed. My lab was the best fishin’ buddy a guy could want…