Tips for a SUP, Kayak or Canoe Adventure with Your Dog

Who says people are the only ones who get to enjoy water sports like kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)?

Read these helpful tips if you’d like to SUP (stand-up paddle board), kayak or canoe with your dog.

We believe things like hiking, biking, blading and even water sports, can be more fun when you bring your dog along.

But, before you hop on a board or take your pal out for a run while you blade or bike, make sure your dog knows basic commands, is healthy and LIKES to do these things.

And please, before you hop on a stand-up paddle board, take some time to learn the mechanics of this marvelous invention. The same applies for kayaks and canoes.

Learn how to use them and be comfortable falling off or wiping out before you bring Fido along. It’s a little different when you have dog with you!


This girl just had her first kayak, canoe and stand-up paddle board experience and she KILLED IT! Introducing your dog correctly to the water and to the water sports will help her be successful and have fun.


Basic Obedience is Super Important on Land AND in Water

We’re advocates of basic behavior training and want to encourage you to make sure your dog knows common commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “down” before taking him on any adventure. Having a dog that listens and doesn’t act like a lunatic when on leash will benefit everyone.

It goes without saying that safety on the water is more crucial.

Your dog has to be able to be calm, listen and do what you ask when you ask when you’re in the water.

Swimming – Yay or Nay?

First and foremost you should know if your dog likes water and if he’s comfortable swimming. Don’t just assume he does because of his breed.

Start your dog off early with water exploration and you’ll have a water dog in no time.

If Fido runs away as soon as you get near a river, lake or ocean then you need to start desensitizing him to water, but that’s another article, for the sake of the topic at hand, we’re going to assume your dog does like water and is comfortable swimming.

Is Your Dog a Floppy Fish or Mermaid?

While it is true most dogs can swim, some are a bit more comfortable and agile in the water. Dogs of all ages and sizes can SUP, kayak and even canoe, but their breed, size and weight might determine what kind of watercraft will work best.

Teeny Chihuahuas and even 135 lb Great Danes can have fun doing water sports but making sure they’re comfortable and introduced to the equipment correctly is paramount.

Life Jacket is a Must for You AND Fido

Assuming your dog is cool with water, the next tip is to buy a high-quality doggy life jacket.

Sizing is important.

Take your dog with you to the store and try it on your dog before purchasing if possible. We recommend watching some YouTube videos on how to get the perfect fit. If the straps aren’t adjusted correctly your dog could be encumbered by the jacket instead of feeling secure. Don’t worry, it’s easy to get a good fit.

Preparation and Water Inspection

Once home, occasionally just let him wear it around the house then take a toy and head out to a body of water.

Be sure to check the water and make sure there are no algae blooms, blue green algae or other funky stuff like oil, trash or debris in the water. If you don’t feel safe swimming in it then please don’t have your dog go in it either 🙂

Always Make it Fun

Make it a fun time and never ever force your dog to go in the water or swim if he’s scared. Doing so will ruin it and neither one of you will have a good time.

Doggy life jacks come with a nice handle on top. This can be used to help your dog get out of the water or up onto your SUP, kayak or canoe.


sup kayak canoe dogs
2-legged Chihuahuas can even enjoy the water! Photo Credit: SonnyRoo at Drool In The Pool, Tuhey Pool, Muncie, Indiana 2015.


Get Comfortable with the SUP, Kayak or Canoe On Land First

If you’re renting a SUP, kayak or canoe we suggest you introduce your dog to it on land first. Place the watercraft on the grass, beach or loading area and let your dog smell it and walk around it. You can sit in/on it and encourage your dog to come near you. Again, don’t ever force your dog, use positive reinforcement and praise.

Once he seems comfortable coax him to place his paws on it, then walk over it.

After he’s walked over it a few times, have him actually stand on it. If it’s a SUP, it will be pretty stable on land, but if it’s a kayak or canoe, it will wobble when your dog gets in it.

Reassurance Will Help Build Confidence

Reassure your dog that everything is fine and encourage exploration. The more comfortable and confident your dog, the more adventure and fun you will have on the water.

Slowly take the SUP, kayak or canoe in shallow water and again, let your dog investigate. You can walk around it, lean on it, swim around it, call your dog over to investigate while in the water, all of this will help him prepare to be in/on it.

By this time, you can have your dog in the water with you just swimming a little and relaxing. Keep a dog toy handy and toss it out every so often. This will get your dog used to hopping in and retrieving his toy, which builds his confidence.

Ready to Start?

Once you’re ready to start, take the watercraft back to shore and if you’re on a SUP, you can get on your knees, keep your paddle in hand and encourage your dog to hop on with you.

Learning to balance yourself on a SUP is a task; learning to do it with a dog is more of a challenge. Some dogs pick it up quick while others panic and jump off, often tipping it over in the process.

If your dog is keeping his balance pretty good, then just float around a little in the shallow water then when he’s comfortable slowly stand up.

We recommend staying close to shore until your dog totally relaxes. If you fall off, laugh it off, don’t panic. Both of you will have life jackets on so just call your dog back over and you hop on then get them back up on it. Use the handle on the back of the life jacket if your dog has problems getting back up.

Kayakers and Canoers

For kayakers and canoers, do the same thing.

Start off on land, get your dog in the kayak with you, have him sit while you’re sitting in it then push off into shallow water.

Once he’s comfortable, paddle out. If you tip over it’ll be a little difficult getting back in and you’ll probably have to help your dog, but as long as you don’t panic, you’ll be ok.

What Happens if You Can’t Get Back on Your SUP or in Your Kayak or Canoe?

If you’ve tried getting back on your board or in the kayak or canoe and just can’t, you can lift your dog up by the handle that’s on the back and put him in the watercraft. Then, just swim back to shore.

Since you both have life jackets on, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t panic. We keep coming back to not panicking because it’s easy to get scared when you’re away from shore, alone, with just your dog. That’s why we say to stay close to shore until you’re comfortable then set sail and explore.

Things to Watch for in the Water

Saggy butt: When dogs are swimming correctly, their spine and the top of their butt is visible in the water. If you notice your dog’s butt disappearing in the water, he’s getting a saggy butt. He’s tired and needs a break from swimming. Stay away from saggy butts!

Line tangles and dangles: If you have a long line or leash on your dog, please, please, please make sure it floats. Don’t let it dangle in the water or get far away from you. You can’t keep an eye on it and it could get snagged on things under the water that you can’t see, like rocks or sticks. This could cause your dog to drown.

Water snakes: If you see a water snake, get your dog away from it ASAP. If either one of you get bit, get to shore quickly or yell for help.

Algae blooms: If there’s large amounts of algae in the water, DO NOT let your dog drink it or get in it. Certain types of algae can make your dog sick, causing diarrhea and vomiting. If you notice your dog seems lethargic, starts vomiting or getting diarrhea soon after your water adventure, contact your veterinarian and tell them what body of water you were in and that your dog drank water/algae. If you don’t act quick your dog could get sick fast.

Other water enthusiasts: Depending on where you are, there could be rowers present and if you float into their lane they might not be able to move quick enough to avoid a collision.

Water depth: Ask how deep the water is before you go out. If you have any type of hesitation in being in a 30 foot body of water, there’s no shame in that. Just stay closer to shore, within yelling distance. One thing, small local rivers or lakes might be a good choice to start with to build up your confidence.

Final Tips

Keep Valuables Dry: Purchase high-quality containers specifically designed for water sports. Keep your phone 100% charged, keys, license, cash, credit card, etc. in containers.

Bring Water and Dog Bowl: Depending on the length of time you’re on the water, you might bring water bottles and a collapsible dog bowl.

Sunscreen: If your dog is light-skinned or has light hair he might need sunscreen and will you unless you don’t mind getting a little tan or sunburn.

Potty Time and Towels: Before you hop in the car to leave, make sure to give your dog ample time to potty. Take extra towels so you catch most of water from getting on your seats.

Waterproof Emergency Alarm: Regardless of how invincible you may feel, we suggest that everyone carry a waterproof emergency alarm. Keep it full charged and in a waterproof bag. You never know when it could come in handy. Here’s a link to the top 10 for 2020.

Keeping these things in mind when you get ready to SUP, kayak or canoe with your dog will enable you to feel more confident. You’ll have a better time and you’ll know what to expect.

Hopefully these things help you and you have a wonderful time on the water with your dog.

Off to the water,

Kelley Stewart, CEO|Pet Sitter
sit-stay-play In-home pet sitting & more.LLC
Proudly serving Muncie, Yorktown, Anderson and Indianapolis, Indiana areas.

P.S. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us your favorite place to SUP, kayak or canoe with your dog. We have friends all over the United States and would be happy to share some great spots with our fans.

P.P.S. Places to rent SUP, kayaks and canoes near Muncie, Indiana

Indianapolis: Eagle Creek Outfitters at Eagle Creek State Park for SUP, kayak and canoe rentals

Daleville: Canoe Country for canoes, kayaks and tubes

Prefer land based activities? Check out this article where we give you ideas on where you can walk your dog in/near Muncie.

sup kayak canoe dogs
Not up for paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing with your dog? Why not try a dog pool or dog beach. Many cities have special pool days just for Fido, check with your local animal shelter, newspaper or rescue organizations. Photo Credit: Drool In The Pool, Tuhey Pool, Muncie, Indiana 2015