Owning a big dog doesn’t mean you’re limited to playing fetch with your pooch in the dog park! In fact, many large dogs love being in a kayak out on the water. No matter what the weather is like – rain, sun, waves or snow – you’d be hard pressed to find a more reliable paddling companion.
While kayaking with your pooch is great fun, you’ll want to make sure you get the right kayak for the job. After all, a big dog can easily capsize a less stable kayak – and trying to re-enter a kayak with an agitated, drenched canine can be a major pain!
Quick Answer: 5 Best Kayaks for Big Dogs
- Best Sit-On-Top Kayak for Dogs: Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu
- Best Fishing Kayak for Dogs: Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Fishing Kayak
- Budget Pick: Sea Eagle SE330 Inflatable Kayak Pro Package
- Best Inflatable Kayak for Dogs: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
- Best Sit-In Kayak for Dogs: Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus
Top 5 Kayaks for Large Dogs
What’s the best kayak for me and my large dog?
The best kayak for you and your dog will largely depend on the size and temperament of your dog. Larger dogs will obviously need more space than smaller ones. Well-behaved dogs will be much easier to handle on the water and can be placed in a less stable kayak without concern for capsizing.
A kayak’s dimensions are a major factor in determining how stable it will be on the water.
Many touring kayaks have a width between 18 and 25 inches. This allows the kayak to travel quickly through the water with the minimum amount of resistance. It also makes this type of kayak less stable – and not ideal for taking a four-legged companion along.
Recreational kayaks typically have a width between 28 and 36 inches. This width provides a larger surface area for the kayak’s base – making these kayaks more stable and suitable for bigger dogs.
As well as knowing the kayak’s dimensions, it’s important to measure your dog’s dimensions too! You want to make sure your pup can fit comfortably inside the hull, and have enough room to turn sideways with all four legs inside the boat.
It’s a good idea to check your dog’s weight before jumping on a kayak, as too much weight could make the kayak less stable and efficient. The weight limits for all the kayaks I’ve reviewed here are between 425 – 550 pounds, so you should be fine with yourself plus a dog and your gear.
Single Vs. Tandem Kayaks
Tandem kayaks are longer and can hold more weight than single kayaks. If your dog is a big boy or girl (over 40-50 pounds) a single kayak will probably be too cramped for them. A tandem kayak will have a separate seating area for your dog to sit, plus more storage area for gear, food, and drinks.
Sit-In Vs. Sit-On-Top
Sit-on-top kayaks offer more flexibility and are generally more stable than their sit-in counterparts. A sit-on-top kayak will give your dog more room to move around, as well as the freedom to easily hop in and out of any lake, river or ocean.
These kayaks also have self-draining scupper holes built into their hulls, which allows any water that seeps in to drain away. If you do manage to capsize, re-entering a sit-on-top kayak is fairly simple. Sit-on-top kayaks are also typically less expensive and easier to use than sit-ins.
If you’re looking for a stable, affordable kayak that can handle you plus a large furry friend, you can’t go wrong with a sit-on-top. They aren’t the fastest or most maneuverable type of kayak, but that’s probably not what you’re looking for anyways.
If you plan on using your kayak for longer than a few hours, a good aftermarket seat will support your back and ensure your paddling experience is as comfortable as possible.
Interestingly, fishing kayaks are some of the best dog-friendly kayaks available on the market. They’re designed for maximum lateral stability, which works perfectly for kayaking with a large dog. Built with extra wide hulls, theses kayaks enable a fisherman to stand upright while casting off.
Inflatable kayaks might not be the first thing you think of when considering a kayak for dogs.
Won’t their claws tear through the material and sink the boat? Actually, no. Modern inflatables are made from extremely durable PVC and are able to handle rocks, gravel, and even rapids. Think of the type of material used in a whitewater raft or rubber dingy.
Inflatables have other advantages as well. They’re lightweight, easy to set up, and you don’t need a roof rack to transport them. Many inflatables are also more spacious than traditional hard bodied kayaks.
What to Bring When Kayaking with your Dog?
Along with all your usual kayaking gear, bringing a few extra things will make your dog’s kayaking experience that much better.
- Life vest. Life vests aren’t just for humans! Even if your dog is a great swimmer, a canine life vest is a great investment. Knowing that your dog is safe will give you peace of mind, and make your paddling experience that much better.
- Water. Some drinking water is a good idea, especially on hot days or when kayaking in salt water environments.
- Leash & Harness. Bringing a leash along is a good idea – especially if you plan on exiting the boat, or doing an overnight trip. A harness makes it easier to grab your dog and lift them back inside the kayak in case they jump in the water. Make sure never to tie your dog to the kayak! They need to swim freely in case you capsize.
- Sunscreen. Sunscreen is important for your dog’s nose and belly, especially if your dog’s breed is susceptible to sunburn.
- Treats. Don’t forget to reward your pup for their good behavior! Treats or rewards are great for positive reinforcement and will help train your dog to behave while on the water.
How to Train your Dog for Kayaking
Acclimating your dog to being in a kayak ensures that both of you have a rewarding experience. The first step should be to get the dog used to the kayak (do this on dry land), as well as used to wearing their life vest. Using their favorite toy is a great way to make them more comfortable during this process.
The next step is to train your dog to get in and out of the kayak on command. You can start this on dry land, and then proceed to shallow waters.
Once they’re used to sitting inside the kayak, start out slowly by paddling on calm, still waters. When they’re comfortable with calm water, you can progress to choppier, deeper waters.
Featured image courtesy of Alan Levine (Source)
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.