Bringing Jack on your kayak or paddle board adds a whole dimension of excitement and reward to kayaking!
Many dogs like to "bow ride," perching up on the deck like a bow sprint, keenly watching everything around them. Others like to ride low and stable in the cockpit.
Some dogs will lie down and sleep while you paddle. Others will run around with lots of nervous energy until they get the hang of kayaking. Others stand at attention, eagerly taking in all the new sights and sound and movement. And some love to jump into the water and back into the kayak over and over! Imagine a couple of tennis ball chasing dogs jumping in and out of the water and each others' kayaks retrieving several floating tennis balls!
Jack needs to get comfortable both around (maybe in) the water and in your kayak. Start by playing with Jack in the kayak in your backyard. Toss a favorite ball into the kayak, feed Jack in the kayak, run and jump together into and over the kayak. Sit together in the kayak and have quiet time together.
Put on Jack's PFD only when you are about to have fun playing together, especially around the kayak. Make sure he associates the PFD with "we're about to have fun!" Hook up your leash to the pfd and walk a bit with it on, especially just before playing in the kayak.
If Jack is not already used to being near water, walk together on the shore of a local lake or bay. Or let Jack play in a small wading pool in your yard. Progress to walking on a dock over the water, walking in shallow water, playing ball or another fun game near and then on the water. Finally swim with Jack and enjoy the water together. Each step here will make your first kayaking experience with Jack more successful!
On your first outing or two, stay near shore and have Jack jump out of the kayak, swim and get back in. Of course you'll want to start in very shallow water so Jack has an easy and successful first experience. Then try it in water just deep enough for Jack to swim, but close enough to land that you both can go to shore for Jack to get back in, if necessary.
Many dogs get quite fidgety on their first few paddling adventures, so start out in a harbor or along a lake coastline where you can stop as frequently as necessary to get out and walk for a few minutes. Just like people, Jack thinks that staying in a kayak for too long is no fun!
Most dogs hate slipping around on wet plastic or fiberglass, so put an old piece of carpet, astro-turf or closed cell foam wherever Jack will stand or sit. This includes fixing material on the deck if Jack might walk around there. Use tape or self-adhesive industrial strength 2" wide hook and loop ("velcro"), with the fuzzy loop side on your kayak.
Always bring along a squirt-top water bottle or soft cloth bowl of water so Jack drinks lots of fresh water - salt water is really bad for them, and for us too!
Most dogs will appreciate a handle on their back so you can help them back into the kayak if they fall or jump out. A doggie PFD (life jacket) with a handle is best, followed by a harness or just a strong collar.
If Jack is likely to get cold, have a towel ready to wrap around Jack while paddling and certainly to dry off Jack afterward. Do bring along a leash so you can keep Jack under control in the boat if s/he moves around too much or is in danger of falling off when you don't want that to happen. A leash is also required for "walking" your dog on many beaches and lakeside shorelines.
The easiest way to paddle with Jack in a kayak is to use a large cockpit, "family-style" double. There will be lots of room for Jack to move around without getting in your way. If your Jack is smaller than the hatch of your single kayak and you will be paddling in calm water, Jack can sit in the hatch with the cover off. Be sure to have a float bag in the rear hatch, just in case of capsize! Sit-on-top kayaks work well as long as there is either a large hatch for Jack to hang out in, or a relatively flat section on the deck large enough for Jack to wander around on.
If you always paddle with Jack in a family style, large cockpit double, and prefer his/her company to that of people, just remove the front seat and give Jack all the room s/he ever dreamed of.
Kayak models we have found to work very well: