Skills: Canine Canoeing | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
Skills: Canine Canoeing Photo: Matthew Reid

How to turn your best friend into a certified doggy paddler

Venturing off into the wild unknown with furry best friend in tow is a dream for many paddlers. Often, the reality falls somewhat short. Untrained, a canine canoe tripper is likely to disrupt your tranquil experience by barking during wildlife observations, dashing after chipmunks along portage trails and anxiously awaiting the return to shore.

Dogs aren’t born to act like stalwart Lassie, but you can train this behavior. A patient, controllable and confident dog will complement any on-water adventure. All that’s necessary to prepare a dog for canoeing is a bit of specialized training and a proper introduction to the activity. 


To ensure your dog is ready to board a canoe, ask yourself whether your student can sit patiently and quietly for more than 10 minutes while you sit beside the dog. Often sitting down beside your dog results in a happy and playful response, which will be unwelcome afloat.

With both you and your dog sitting on the ground, provide distractions. Toss balls, have children run about, move a paddle side to side and then pass it over the dog’s head. Distractions will appear while paddling and your dog must ignore them. This stillness without restraint will take practice.

If your dog is easily excited by simple distractions, spend more time working on foundational obedience skills before paddling together. If your dog is able to remain quiet and calm, you’re ready to introduce the canoe.


Start by introducing the craft on land. Stabilize the canoe and teach the dog to confidently enter and exit on command. Many dogs won’t want to lie down in the craft and limit their field of vision until they feel more comfortable, and that’s okay.

Next, sit down in your boat with the dog and mimic paddle strokes. Tilt the canoe side to side to simulate movement. Exit the canoe and walk away...


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