Tow-along raft for dogs?

We have a small dog, (cocker spaniel) who we’d love to take out with us. We thought about putting her in the cockpit with one of us but don’t think that’s too smart…anyone know of any small rafts that are good (and stable) for a dog that we could tow along behind one of us?

I thought about the dog transport problem when we had our 85-pound Lab, and even made scale models of a couple of raft ideas. The simplist solution for us turned out to be a canoe.

towing a dog in a raft
I saw this solution last year on Gross Reservoir in Colorado and shot a picture:

The dog seemed to enjoy the ride.

for the article and advice. Maybe we’ll try her out in the cockpit (it’s a supersized cockpit) first and see how that goes. Appreciate the help.

Towing not fun! Try brfore you buy!

Towing something across the water is not a fun thing to do unless you have lots of power and can get the item up on plane like a skier.

Think of you paddling while the towed item is being effected by water and wind wanting to go a different way. Think about your dog moving around, jumping out, you trying to hold on raft and dog, keeping your balance while trying to put dog back in. Much easier to just pull dog into your boat.

Try before you buy. Tow somethings first, before you invest any money in the idea. Be sure to use something of some size and a bit awkward as when you tow you will not always have ideal conditions. Oh yeah, load it down to at least the load you expect to tow later on.

If you do decide to tow your dog regularly a hard boat shaped item will tow easier and behave much better too.

Your dog probably will not like it anywhere as much as being with you. Fotos look easy and fun, but remember they ARE staged to sell the product, not show you how it really is.



otter or swifty
Inflatable rafts create a lot of drag. I would be more inclined to pull a small rec kayak like an otter as a dog trailer. However, I think that I would have to agree with the responder who suggested a canoe for a person with dogs.

Considered Several Things
I wanted to get my 55 pound dog out on the water and considered several options. I looked at a couple of rec kayaks with very large cockpits, a couple of tandoms, did not consider a tow behind raft. I elected to pick up a second hand canoe and it is working out pretty well so far.

There is a training period involved here for both you and your dog. I just made my first dry trip last week after about eight wet ones.

Happy Paddling,


Most of the dogs
I’ve seen on the water, including mine want to be in the boat with you. Stick them in a boat with someone else and they wine and wimper all the way down the river. I would guess they would do the same in a boat by themselves. My lab Mel, rides in a LOON 111 and my canoe. The canoe is way better unless you like a wet dog in your lap!

in the same boat
My buddy’s lab loves to be in a canoe. But, I’ve tried towing her in her in “her own” canoe just for a lark. She HATES it. She jumps out in about 5 seconds and swims up to my canoe.

If your pet liked doing their own thing,
like being in their own boat, while along with you the common name for their species would be “Cat”. ;^)



You really need to have control of
your dogs when paddling. When my wife and I take our dogs in our canoe which is just about every time we go paddling, we each have one between our legs. If you let them run around in the boat, you’re going to have problems every time it sees something in another boat or on the shore it wants to bark at. We take our dogs tripping and this year they will go to Quetico with us. For us, since we retired away from relatives who we can leave the dogs with, we have no choice but to paddle a canoe or board the dogs when we go paddling and tripping. We have had them on trips were we ran class II rapids. You should also use a PFD for the dogs since they have handles that help you lift the dog out of the water. I think the first time the wind kicks up on a lake and you start to get some rollers when towing a raft, you’ll quickly find out it isn’t the way to go.

The importance of routine
My little terrier usually rides with my husband, his favorite person, with no problem.

Husband stayed behind on our holiday trip, but on the second day, the terrier wanted to go anyway.

I let him ride with my sister, but he didn’t like it.

After whining and getting out on the bow, he finally jumped overboard and came swimming toward me.

I put him back with my Papillon and he still was not very comfortable for the rest of the trip. Still wanted to ride with Dad, I guess.

As for my Papillon and I, we have a very comfortable arrangement. He rides in back of my seat in a spot between my gear bag and my shoulders. He wraps himself in there and rides quite comfortably and calmly.

This episode with my terrier does point out how important a good routine is when doing anything with a dog, including paddling.

A change in routine can present an entirely different situation in a dog’s mind, which may require some adjustments as far as re-familiarization and training.

I would suggest that wherever or however you plan to take a dog, that you try to work out a routine that you can stick to.

This applies to how and when the dog gets on and off the boat, where it sits, scheduled breaks, etc.

The more and better you can put what you do into a routine, the better your dog can prepare himself to behave in a predictable way.

Use consistent words for various parts of your routine. Doesn’t matter what they are. Using the same words to mean the same things are most important.

Using them consistently will help your dog prepare for what’s next and helps prevent startling and emergency reactions.

By the way, most dogs can and do understand such concepts as “turn”, “right” and “left”.

Perhaps more importantly, don’t forget that dogs learn non-verbal and body language much faster than verbal. You can “tell” your dog a lot by using consistent movements and non-verbal cues.

Communicating with your dog can help him learn to move with you in a consistent way as you paddle.

The more you can show him what to expect via a routine and communication, the better able he will be to meet the expectations at hand.

My Bichon doesn’t care for wind/waves
but she doesn’t want to be left at home. She sometimes crawls down under the deck, but mostly she sits on the bottom with her paws and head on the front edge of the cockpit. If she sits on my lap, I sometimes bump her with my paddle. Generally speaking we’ve worked out where and what we both need to be more or less comfortable, and our preference is to go out together despite my less efficient paddle strokes from her being in the cockpit with me. She does wear her PDF, and accepts it as part of the experience, but she won’t go for parading around home with it. Both of us have to watch out for excessivie sun exposure since sun screen matts up her fur. Cockpit - 39 inches and comfortable for both of us.


Paddling with Pooches
article in Paddler Magazine on-line:

In the south we call that

– Last Updated: Jul-14-06 12:29 AM EST –

trolling for gators. For the most part I took my two female german shepherds in my canoe just about every place I've paddled. I wouldn't have taken ANY dog along, especially here in Florida, unless they were well-disciplined enough to stay put until they were told to move. Otherwise you're dealing with:
a. a dumper, moving ballast that could create a mishap (Both my shepherds were almost 100 pounds each. Imagine the chaos if they decided to get up and move around in a 16ft-9in canoe).
b. a barker or yapper, aka gator caller.
c. a jumper, a dog that jumps out when it wants, aka gator fodder.
My "Bitches", as I fondly called them, could be told where to be in the canoe and that's where they would go and stay until I told them otherwise. Their options were either sit or lie down but they would do nothing else unless my daughter or I told them different, even if we stopped against a bank. They only lived for 12 years (Liebchen died a month after Gretchen but that's the way it is whith litter sisters) but in those short years they got to see and do things in Florida that very few dogs (or humans, for that matter) ever will.
Take your dog out in your boat only after it's been taught to mind you well, then you can take it out paddling with you and you can both enjoy the wilderness experience. If you and your pup have just half the pleasures mine had with me then you two will be a happy team indeed!

Dog in the large cockpit
If you have a rec kayak with a large cockpit, a well behaved dog should be fine sitting between your legs. My dog’s better in the rec kayak than in the canoe, just because she’s in closer contact with me. I’ve gone on many trips with my husky, and she loves it (even the 3 day camping trips). Stay close enough to shore so that your dog can run along shore part of the time, and give you both a break. Start out on a shallow beach, so if the dog freaks out (as our boxer does–she hates water), you can quickly abandon the whole projec.

Everyone recommends a dog pfd, but I hate to say I’ve never bothered. I do often put a harness on her, so I can haul her back in the boat like a suitcase after she’s been for a swim.

we tried it…
…and thanks for all the advice. We took her out the other day for a “training session”. We originally intended to just let her feel out the boat on land and right next to the beach, but she did so well we decided to take her for a short paddle to see how she would react.

Since we have supersized cockpits, she fit in there fine, though she took up more room than we thought she would. She basically sat between our legs (depending on who she was with) with her head facing forward, sometimes her paws were on the front coaming. She did really well, though we discovered by accident that she prefers to sit with me for some reason. She was in my wife’s boat and we got separated by about 50 yards, next thing we know she’s in the water heading for my boat!!

We have ordered a doggie PFD for this because when I tried to pull her in the boat I got really “tippy”, so I had to hold her there outside the boat until my wife could paddle up on the opposite side and help stabilize my boat for me. I think the doggie PFD with handle will help if this happens again because I can grab the handle and lean the opposite way instead of trying to reach under her to drag her in (putting her weight and mine on one side).

That was the only time it happened though, she did great otherwise. We paddled past ducks, other dogs and other people and though she barked at them some she never tried to jump out again.

We let her expend a lot of enrgy by pulling up to shore every 20 minutes or so and letting her out to run around, pee, and swim some. After a couple hours she got tired and sort of laid down on the cocpit floor with her head resting on the coaming under my arm…was a little uncomfortable for me to paddle but no big deal.

I did notice though that she brought some water in with her and she didn’t care for sitting in that little puddle too much…and she slid around a little bit on the plastic floor. So we’ll have to look around for a small doormat or thick carpet to put on the floor like someone suggested.

Thanks for all the input!!!

Sounds like a great first outing!

Don’t forget to bring a big sponge. That along with a bilge pump for bigger puddles can help keep your space drier.

Funny how dogs have their own minds about things. Guess yours must feel a bit more secure or stable in your kayak.

The PFD does help in fishing a dog-gone-wild out of the drink. Aside from the obvious safety reasons, that’s the best reason to use them IMHO.

Our dogs are small, and they also come in handing for dunking the dogs if they start to get too hot.

Remember, dogs heat up faster than we humans. They can’t sweat! Look for rapid panting and a purple, curled tongue for signs that you dog definitely needs a dip.

If you have a sponge onboard, you can also mop your moppet down if you need to cool them down while underway.

For similar reason, be sure to plan to bring enough water for your dog when you pack the boat and try to keep some in reach. (A snack might be a good idea also.)

My dogs are agility show dogs and I’ve trained them to drink out of a squeeze bottle on command, which is very handy for any circumstance where: a) you need to encourage them to drink or b) you don’t want to deal with a tippy, messy dog bowl.

Pet supply stores have different varieties of bottle/drinker options which also don’t take up a lot of space.