The ABCs of Dog Paddling!

 Lessons learned by the Vermont Paddle Pups!

A   Attitude: Important to have a positive attitude with an emphasis on fun for all involved!

B   Ballast: a well-trained dog can add stability to your boat. Dogs don’t do well holding a paddle, but they can be helpful especially on windy days!

C   CanoeDog:  aka PaddlePup, Kayaking K9, or SupPup…whatever you call your dog, be sure you have a great time on the water!

D   Dogs: Pups of all shapes and sizes can enjoy paddling with you; some folks even have cats that are trained to ride along in the canoe!

E   Exercise: If your dog is a high energy pup, let it run around, play fetch, or go for a walk before heading out in the canoe

F   First Aid kit:  Be sure to carry a first aid kit with vet wrap, tick removal tool, peroxide (for poisoning), and bandages. We also carry fleece or cordura mushers booties, which can help keep a bandaged paw from being chewed by the dog

G   Gunwales:  A convenient place to rest a heavy dog head while checking out the scenery

H   Have a plan B: If your planned paddling area is too busy, or the weather is not cooperative, go somewhere else, or take your dog for a hike instead. We are responsible for our dogs’ safety, so we need to keep that as a priority.

I   In and Out of the boat: You should decide when it is safe for your dog to enter or exit the boat. Have a set command that you use each time, and the dog will learn to wait for that command (remember, most capsizings happen within 10 feet of shore)

J  Journal:  It is fun to keep track of the locations and trips you take with your dog…you can look back some day and realize how many spots your dog has explored, recall your wildlife sightings, and document favorite campsites.

K  Kids’ size sleeping bag: These are often available at thrift shops, can make a great sleeping bag for your dog on camping trips. For smaller dogs, they can be cut down to size.

L  Life jacket: Wearing a well-fitted dog life jacket is a really good idea for your dog; a dog life jacket provides thermal protection, visibility, a handle to assist him in and out of the canoe, and a swimming assist…even experienced swimmer dogs can get tired out in a long, cold, or panicked swim. Be sure that YOU are wearing your PFD, for your safety and to better be able to assist your dog in an emergency.

M  Mat: A non-slip pad should be on the floor of the canoe or kayak; a dog who is slipping around will be unsettled, uncomfortable, and cannot really enjoy the ride

N  No Leashes in the canoe or kayak:  Leashes can safely be used while getting in and out of the boat in a busy area or at launch sites, but not while underway. To keep your dog safely in your boat, see O, for Obedience!

O  Obedience:  Before taking your dog in the canoe or kayak, be sure it is well versed in sit/stay/down/come/no barking. Practice in your boat on dry land, and then in shallow water before heading out for longer paddles.

P   Portaging: Carrying a canoe with a dog accompanying you can be tricky. You don’t want the dog tripping you up, nor do you want it off chasing wildlife or getting lost. Follow local rules re: leashes or be sure that your dog has 100% accurate recall skill. A trekking line attached to your belt is one option, if you can safely carry/cart your canoe with the dog attached to you.

Q  Quiet! Your dog should be trained and rewarded for not barking at wildlife, other paddlers, dogs, or other distractions.

R  Rules: Rules and regulations are meant to be followed for the benefit of all paddlers! If dogs are supposed to be on a leash (i.e. at access areas and on trails), keep them on a leash…just never use a leash on your dog in the canoe or kayak, as it presents a dangerous entanglement hazard

S  Swimming: if your dog is not an experienced or enthusiastic swimmer, let them practice swimming in their life jacket a few times a year; it builds confidence, and may help them not freak out in event of capsizing

T  Thwarts: Otherwise known as doggy pillows (or as a change of pace from using the gunwales)

U  Use Poop Bags: If you use poop bags, carry them out!  You may opt to use cat holes, though your dog may be insulted by that term. Just be sure that your dog never leaves any souvenirs behind for other paddlers or dogs to encounter.

V  Video: If you can, take video and lots of photos of your expeditions; you can share with others, and you can see how far your dog has progressed from his first tentative canoe outings.

W  Water:  Bring fresh drinking water for your dog, and keep them hydrated, especially on long hot days in the canoe. If paddling in swampy areas, or areas where beavers or cyanobacteria may be present, you certainly do not want your dog drinking that water!

X  Xylitol: A sweetener often used in low sugar candies, gums, peanut butter, and other foods. It is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs and can kill a dog within hours. Be sure that when you pack your camping foods, you avoid any foods dangerous to dogs.

Y  Yoke:  A portage yoke maybe present, in your canoe. Be sure that your dog has enough room in its compartment to sit/lie down/turn around…it can be tough when fully packed, but you want to keep the canoe stable and the dog comfortable. With larger dogs, you can speak to your canoe shop and see about moving a thwart to provide a bit more room for your dog.

Z   Zero Day: We all need an occasional day to just chill out, hang around the campsite, or hike and explore the neighboring areas. As much as most dogs love being in a canoe or kayak, they also appreciate an occasional day off, especially on longer trips.