Starting kayaking

I am new to kayaking, and I’m trying to get myself and my girlfriend out of the house more, so I thought kayaking could be fun. We both have kayaked before at camps and rentals. We also want to bring our dogs (labs). I was looking into the AquaGlide Chinook 120. I was thinking with its open top it would be easy for the dogs to get in and out and the inflatable part would be good for traveling. We intended to be mostly in lakes and calm rivers. Also I have no idea how to shop for paddles any advice there would be appreciated as well.

Two labs and their toenails in an inflatable? I looked for a capacity limit. Unless you are on the small side, that is a serious load.
I would be thinking canoe.


I also have dogs and have taken them along on several paddle trips but have come to a conclusion that a canoe is a better craft if you have 2 people or any dogs.
Not that I’d advise against getting kayaks, Far from it. I recommend them highly. And I’d recommend you “get your 2nd or3rd kayaks first”. Because kayaking is an addiction to me I have gone through a lot of them in a little while and kept the ones I loved most.

But for dogs…canoe.


i’ve seen several kayakers in pungo 140’s with large dogs. Being large heavy kayaks transportation may be a problem.
Make sure tour dogs are willing kayakers or canoe riders. I saw a women carry a canoe and quite a bit if gear to a launch site for an overnight camping trip. The dog refused to get in the canoe ,so she unloaded the gear (several trips) and canoe and went home.

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If you paddle where you say, and the lake paddling does not include crossing larger lakes with a lot of wind/fetch, there are options to handle you guys plus dogs. Assuming the dogs are good with the plan. With labs you could have a dog that is hesitant about getting into the boat, or staying in the boat once away from shore.

Labs tend to be willing swimmers. You could find that the dog(s) prefer jumping into the water from the boat to staying in it. Best to sort that out before you spend money on boats to include them.

I have hard shells so defer to others about dog claws and inflatables. But the bottom line is that anything that is best suited to dogs plus people is likely to be longer, or heavier or altogether larger. For example a SOT which would be more amenable to dogs hopping out than a sit inside kayak. Or a canoe which, sized for a person and a dog, might be on the longer side.

Car topping the craft needed for people plus dog becomes a more significant effort than just for people, however you solve the problem.

I certainly agree kayaking is fun. But I strongly suggest that you spend some time testing out the dogs’ behaviors before getting a craft intended to include them. They may do just as well with going out to chase sticks into the water as being a paddling companion.


I have an Aquaglide Chelan 140. The large side tubes and drop stitched floor are perfect for dogs who want to get in and out of the boat. It makes a good swim platform for kids too. But the 140 is too small for two adults + two labs. And the Chinook 120 is too small for two adults with no dogs. Maybe the 155 would work.

I’m not sure a canoe is a good idea with large dogs who want to get in and out of the water, because they are easier to capsize and harder to recover if you do.

It’s a matter of training or personality. Honey was great on her first ever canoe trip with Castoff . She is a long legged 55 lbs .

A Chinook is more a canoe than a kayak to begin with. It’s not big enough for two people and two large dogs. It might work out if you are talking about getting two boats. Many people consider tandem boats “divorce ships” to begin with.

As others have said a lot depends on the personality of the dogs. I’ve seen fishermen and hunters taking large dogs in canoes and larger SOT fishing kayaks. Things to consider, as others have mentioned are the possibility of the dog’s nails damaging the inflatable and whether or not you can get the dog back in the boat once out on open water without capsizing. Dogs cannot generally get back in themselves. Consider canine floatation devices (CFDs) if out on larger bodies of water.

As far as paddles, that will depend on many factors such as paddling style, the boat, your dimensions, etc. Aside from that a general rule of thumb is to get the lightest paddle you can comfortably afford. Once you settle on a boat you can come back for more advice. Most people now paddle low angle, straight shaft, and unfeathered. For traveling you will want a paddle that can be broken down into at least two pieces.

Our original Standard Poodle , Reina , was always up for anything. I had her out in my Tarpon 160, a very stable SOT. She was standing in the tank well doing fine until she decided to look over the side. A wavelet came by and she did a header.
She had on her PFD and didn’t panic but it took help from another paddler to get her back on board. Dogs aren’t big on chinups.

My in-laws have chocolate labs and they’re easy to get back on board an inflatable, and their claws are no match for the PVC.

I agree that an inflatable (or any kayak) as short as the Chinook 120 is NOT sufficient volume for two people and two dogs. In fact it is marginal for one person and one dog. Remember, you can’t paddle if a dog is sitting directly in front of you in a short boat,

And inflatables can be really slow when overloaded since even the harder floored drop stitch ones will sag a bit with a lot of load. You might want to look into the folding and inflatable boats from Advanced Elements (like their 15’ long Advanced Frame AE3030 tandem that has a 550 pound capacity) , and some of the other, more expensive brands that have reinforced multilevel inflatable components or replaceable bladders inside of fabric sleeves. Most of the Advanced Element tandems can be converted to solo boats. Honestly, for two people and two large dogs, you will be better off with two separate boats than trying to manage all four of you in a single craft.

I recently picked up a used Feathercraft Java which is a hybrid inflatable sit on top that is 16’ long and has a full length multi-component metal skeleton (that is shock-corded for assembly, like tent poles). This gives it structural rigidity to handle heavier loads. Unfortunately, Feathercraft closed their business over a decade ago but you can still occasionally find well cared for used boats. They cost from $3500 to $5000 new and were the highest end folding kayaks of their era so owners did tend to care for them well, as was the case with the one I bought (for $650). This boat can be converted from a solo to a tandem and the 4 inflation tubes are vinyl that is encased in cordura nylon sleeves, so dog claws would never contact the bladders. In fact one reason I added this boat to my fleet is so that friends with dogs could more easily paddle with me.

Another option you may want to consider would be the Mad River Adventure 16, which is a 16’ plastic tandem canoe that has some characteristics between a canoe and a sit on top kayak. Very sturdy, reasonably priced and lot of room for two people and two dogs. The tumblehome (the side curving in along the top of the sides) and formed lip make it easier to get a dog (or kid) over the side without capsizing and it has a huge cargo capacity at 950 lbs. Even if you never come anywhere near loading it that much, a higher volume means it will ride higher in the water with a moderate load and stay stable. At 84 pounds it isn’t light but two adults can easily load it on a roof rack. I owned one for several years (bought used on Craigslist for $400) and, though I am mainly a kayak paddler, I did enjoy a lot of flatwater and even mild white water tandem trips with that boat.

If you can rent canoes or kayaks and see how they work with the dogs BEFORE investing in something that may not work would be the smartest choice.

Agree with Canoe. You can get an Old Town they are not expensive but they are heavy. It will fit everything and everyone though.

Canoe is the perfect solution. I have a cocker who loves the canoe. I had him in my Pungo 125 before I sold it. The floor was V shaped but I compensated with a thick kneeling pad for him to sit on. Even though the Pungo is one of the largest cockpits and my dog is under 30 pounds it still was cramped and he was getting doused with water on every paddle stroke and I was holding the paddle high to keep from hitting him. Kayaks and dogs are a big comprise. I decided if the dog was with me, I was bringing my Northwind Solo Canoe. I wouldn’t combine dogs and anything inflatable. That’s how we sunk my daughter’s raft.