Solo Canoe for an Energetic 65lb Dog

I know there have been threads on this in the past, but they all appear to be pretty old, as far as I can tell.

Backstory: we have a 65 lb German Shepherd/ Australian Shepherd mix, who is, well, energetic and willful. We love her to pieces, but kayaking has not gone as well as it did with our previous dog, and she’s a little too big for the cockpit of my husband’s kayak (Eddyline Sandpiper 130, so a big opening.). She was fine when she was little, and would disappear underneath for naps between his feet. That’s no longer possible, and she ends up half in his lap, when she isn’t shifting around too much. I took her in that boat once, and it is pretty unsettling. She has dumped them out more than once. All our other kayaks have smaller cockpits. So she hasn’t had nearly as much practice as we had intended, due to the inherent issues.

I’ve read here that canoes are better for dogs. I spent months trying to research online, but wonder if there is more up to date info, or more people on here with experience. I know someone with a beautiful Northstar Trillium that I nearly drooled on when I saw it - beautiful, and super lightweight (I expect to use the boat with and without the dog, and want something I can hoist onto the car by myself). I suspect a Trillium would be too small for the purpose, since we’d be pushing the upper end of the ideal load. I do need to shed some pounds, but I’m also thinking the Northwind Solo would be better. I’m hoping to test paddle some boats in a month or two, but there really isn’t anything local. I seem to have my heart set on a Trillium or Northwind, in Blacklite, but know I should test others as well. We will have to travel. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good, lightweight (30 lb?) solo canoe for us? I don’t think kneeling will work, because my 57 year old knees don’t like that sort of thing, and I don’t want a pak setup, because Ellie would immediately be on my head (I can’t even sit on the floor with her). She’s a lovable handful. I also don’t want a tandem, because I know Hubby doesn’t appreciate me “hupping” him from the stern :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

We decided new would be the way to go right now, as I haven’t seen anything comparable used for many months that wasn’t nearly the price of brand new. Such is the world right now.

While I have paddled canoes before (1 year racing with a partner when I lived in northern Wisconsin long ago, as well as one trip to the Boundary Waters), it was all a long time ago. My family does have a cabin on the Au Sable River, so it would be for that plus local small lakes and rivers.

I’m excited and antsy. Still skiing right now, so paddling is a ways off yet.

You might also consider the Northstar Phoenix. It’s 14’6" like the Trillium, but has a little greater max width, has more capacity, and is noticeably less tender. That might be just the ticket given Ellie’s size and “enthusiasm”. Also the Phoenix has slightly more rocker in the bow and stern, so responsiveness on moving water is better. As usual, it’s a trade-off. What rocker giveth in maneuverability, it taketh in flatwater tracking. Paddle them first if at all possible.


Something in the large solo family would work or a small tandem. Hemlock Canoe Works makes an Eaglet I . 36-42 lbs

Swift has a Keewaydin 15… You will want a 15 foot boat for the dog…

The Northwind Solo is a better fit for you and your dog. In this situation the dog always has to be the primary influence. A comfortable dog means a comfortable paddle. The aim is to prevent the dog from wanting to climb on your head! A yoga mat is almost a must… A dog needs good traction to be comfortable.

I had a Swift Raven… a river boat. The boat itself was a dog on the flats but by golly the dogs all loved the boat.


As you mention the AuSable you might have a Michigan connection. If so touch base with Ron Sell:

Unadilla Boatworks • 734-433-1651 • []

He is on the Huron upstream from Dexter & is a Northstar dealer and has both knowledge & canoes to demo by appointment.

My dog boat is a Novacraft Bob Special which is a small tandem. It works great paddling “backwards” from the bow seat with a 45lb, active Boykin Spaniel.

Thanks! I will check that out. It’s possible my acquaintance with the Trillium got hers there - I’m not sure. She has the next cabin upstream from ours.

While I am in Michigan, it’s the UP, and toward the west end (Keweenaw Peninsula), so Wisconsin dealers are actually closer. I’ll be down at the cabin in late May/early June, but was thinking of a Wisconsin or possibly Minnesota search before then.

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I’ve had 2 canoe dogs that size and weight. NW Solo, Swift Keewaydin 15, Hemlock Peregrine are all perfect with plenty of room and stability. You might also consider the Magic if you insist on sitting since it’s made for sitting. If the dog is in front of you but behind the front thwart (where my dogs always were) then all of the boats above will still be in good trim and perform well. I have to mention that kneeling opens up the perfect spot for the dog where they can sit or lay down (and maybe rest their chin on the gunwale) or lean in any direction but when you sit your legs and feet are in that space too so my last dog was more relaxed when I was kneeling and she had her space. I’m 66 and had knee surgery in 1980 and kneeling comfort has a lot to do with a good kneeling pad and the right seat height so there is little weight on your knees except when you want it and lean forward. If you do plan to sit you might consider kayak foot braces like Hemlock offers on the Peregrine since they don’t intrude on dog space nearly as much as a regular foot brace. Carl’s Paddlin in Lone Rock, WI has a big Northstar inventory and offers test paddles.

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Never having knelt in a canoe, I’ve wondered about a) my knees, b) ankle stiffness, and c) if kneeling in a canoe increases stability and control (especially if the pup gets rowdy). I don’t seem to be able to kneel, squat, or anything that involves having my ankles extended forward or back for any amount of time, so that’s a concern. At best, I’m not sure I could walk for a while after having my feet in that position for very long.

Maybe what I need is a kneeling canoe and a whole lotta yoga :upside_down_face:

Hopefully I’ll be able to test out both. And if I choose wrong, I could change the seat hangers?

There are Northstar dealers in northern WI in Minocqua and in Rhinelander. They don’t carry the full line but usually have a few. Also, neither is on water so test paddling requires some planning.There’s a larger dealer another 3 hrs south in Madison. You can test paddle on site there, and they will sometimes - but not always - have a larger selection. Call first.
It’s not hard to remove Northstar’s hanging seat and replace it with a pack seat. On the other hand, it you want to keep the hanging seat and just change the length of drop, you may need to do a bit of wood working and find some new hardware, but nothing serious.
You can get foot braces on all Northstar solo canoes, I believe.

Kneeling absolutely increases stability because your center of gravity is much lower. Kneeling can be comfortable… You start with five minute intervals on a good kneeling (NOT YOGA) pad… something with some foam thickness. Flexible sole shoes are a must ( or barefoot)
Kneeling is something you have to work into gradually … eventually you will get up to two hours … The walking is always interesting after a kneeling session… You hobble for about six steps then all is fine.

In canoes you can always lengthen or shorten the seat hangers.


Thanks everyone! You’ve been very helpful, and have given me some things to think about. Can’t wait to go shopping and test paddling! Just hope I can find the right boat before summer, and they aren’t all snapped up before I can test. The shops that show inventory online don’t seem to have a lot of inventory/selection, and I don’t know if that’s because there is still a shortage of all things outdoors, or if it’s just too early in the season yet. I could buy one today, and go get it, if I didn’t know that I really need to check them out first.

I am concerned about the knee & ankle thing - it’s hard for me to get up off the floor (or snow, if I crash on the trails) because of the cranky knees, and on car trips it takes me a bit to get the ankles loosened up to walk. And if I squat down, I have trouble keeping from falling backwards if I get off balance, because my ankles just won’t cooperate. I realize that part wouldn’t be an issue in a kneeling canoe, but it might be an indication of how I’d adapt. Too many years of abuse - skiing, running, biking, some backpacking, and the dreaded, knee-killing 2 years of roller derby. And a mountain biking related broken ankle, which is better since the hardware had to be removed, but isn’t as flexible anymore.

I may have a lot more questions at some point…

So torn right now - it’s my favorite time of year for skiing (rocket-fast trails for skate skiing in the morning, gorgeous sunshine for toodling around on the nearby dogsled trail with Ellie in the afternoon). But I want to go canoe hunting! Patience is a virtue, as I’m always telling the pup.

Maggie’s weight was about 40 pounds. I paddled with her in the front of an old 15’ 8" Curtis Kevlar Solo Tripper. I also took her out in a tandem Mad River Canoe Kevlar Explorer 16. at my age the lighter the boat the better. A tandem may prove to be the more versatile canoe for you. When I paddle alone in the tandem solo, I often kneel behind the thwart/yoke. These photos bring back fond memories.

The tandem with my wife and daughter with maggie in the solo with me.

I would often put a cooler and anything else I carried as counterbalance in the back of the solo to help with trim. She would jump into the boat ready to go as soon as I set it down.

Here she is in the tandem.

Here she is with my friend and I paddling down a twisty little river with her when we stopped for a lunch break.


I should say that all my boats have been purchased used, at a considerable savings. You may want to check on the classified page here, Facebook marketplace, and craigslist.


I actually have been, since the middle of last summer. That was my original plan. The prices for used (sometimes fairly old) canoes with both the tougher build and the light weight I want are close enough to the price of a brand new one (sometimes the same), as well as being like hen’s teeth, that it doesn’t seem like it makes sense until prices settle down. We discussed it, and decided new would be the way to go. Ellie will be 2 by the time paddling season comes around, and we don’t want to wait another year, or however long it takes for used prices to calm down. And anything that comes up for sale is far away, and there is the problem of basically having to grab something without thoroughly checking it out, in order to lock it down. This is more of a kayak/surf ski area than a canoe area (Lake Superior). I don’t see many. Probably why we don’t have any canoe dealers locally.

I continue to watch the classifieds and stuff, and hopefully I’ll get really lucky, but so far nothing. If I have to order a boat and wait several more months, I may have to reassess. :woman_shrugging: It seems like used prices have to come down sometime, with all the Covid era converts to outdoor recreation realizing they dropped a ton of money on something they will never use, and the huge buying frenzy should also wind down. But the question is when.

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I do understand. To paraphrase…A boat in hand is worth at least two somewhere else! However, you might get lucky.

I gave up kayaks because there is no place for a dog or two.
Train your dog to respond to verbal commands. They need to sit in a canoe and lie down when you tell them to. Put your dog in the boat in shallow water by herself. Let her thrash around and realize there are consequences to her movement. She will figure it out fast.

My Border Collie went on her first week long canoe trip at age 6 months. I can trim my boat by asking her to move and lie down. She is a great boat dog and travels in canoes, drift boats, rafts and power boats. She always wears a life jacket and is a great swimmer.


The pandemic-driven supply chain problems taught boat manufacturers and retailers that a lot buyers were willing put a sizeable deposit down and take delivery later, often quite awhile later. That kept inventory costs way down and staff could spend less time on customer service work that didn’t directly put $ in the till. It’s a strategy that likely helped many survive the pandemic, so not all bad.
Though supply chains have now opened up, manufacturers and retailers are keen to preserve the financial advantages of pre-orders and sight unseen sales. As long as a shortage mentality among potential buyers persists (perhaps reinforced by a sparse retail floor inventory), change will be slow.
And that shortage mentality bleeds into the good used boat market driving up prices there, just as we’ve seen with bikes and cars. A return to more inventory and better service will happen, but it may be more gradual than we’d like.

Be cautious with dogs bred to chase water fowl. Some of them seem ready to jump out of the boat at any time. My BC can point fish.

I see photos of dogs in boats standing most of the time. Their weight is often off center. I make my dogs sit which lowers their center of gravity quite a bit. for rough water I make them lie down.

My experience is limited to one Old English Sheepdog and one German Shepard, but it seems to me that herding dogs aren’t genetically wired to dive into every puddle they see. Of course, there are exceptions to every generalization.

Ppine’s training advice is good. However, my hound mutt (65lb) seems incapable of sitting still once a fresh scent hits the nostrils. He sits and lies on command, but a puff of wind and his butt is in the air and nose following the scent before he knows it. Where the nose goes, the weight follows. He doesn’t jump out, and he’s gotten better about leaning, but he does still lean. I’ve compensated for this by relegating him to the narrowest part of a very stable tandem, which I paddle solo. The difference is huge between him leaning in the widest part of the boat and him leaning when he’s in back of me (in the bow, with me paddling solo sitting in the bow seat facing backwards).

I finally took the plunge for a solo, a Phoenix, last year, but a delayed arrival meant I didn’t get the dog in the boat before winter came.

As far as kneeling, I cannot comfortably kneel on the ground. But I found kneeling in a canoe with my butt on the seat, a nice pad, and the right shoes is way better. I still need to sit for a few min of each hour, which is why I canoe instead of kayak these days - ability to switch (and even stand and stretch).

Kneeling really does up the stability with a leaning dog, but I found sitting in a factory hung Wenonah seat is low enough to deal with a leaning pooch too.

This article lines out tips for new kneelers.