Going on an adventure with your dog is always a rewarding experience. Not only will you further develop a bond with your pet, they will get lots of exercise and fresh air. Being in the wild is mentally stimulating for your pooch. New surroundings bring about mental stimulation that your pet craves. Canoeing is not as tiring as hiking or cycling for your dog but it is still a great way to spend time together.
This weekend I went paddling down the River Wye near Herford, England with some friends and my dog Cleo. I rescued Cleo from Cyprus a few years ago and now she joins me on most of my adventures. Here is my story of how we rescued her. I was keen to spend Saturday on the water but didn’t want to leave Cleo behind.
The canoe hire company (http://www.herefordkayakcanoe.co.uk – I would highly recommend) were more than happy to let Cleo join us on the water. I was slightly nervous as she had never been in a canoe before and it had been a couple of years since I had been paddling. All went well though. I learnt a lot and would like to share my tips for canoeing with a dog.
If your dog is poorly trained it is likely to be more dangerous and not an enjoyable experience for you both. Your dog should be able to react to basic commands such as sit, stay and lie down. There will be times when you and your dog will encounter wild life such as herons, swans and ducks. Your dog needs to be able to stay in the boat and not chase after the wildlife. Cleo was an absolute star this weekend. She enjoyed watching the swans and geese but stayed calm in the boat.
Selecting an appropriate canoe
You want the canoe to be as stable as possible. If you are hiring a canoe, ask for a large one that can seat 3 people. That way it won’t rock as much and your dog will have a more comfortable journey. The size of your dog will dictate how big a canoe you will need. Cleo weighs about 25kg so a fairly large canoe was needed.
Some dogs don’t mind getting wet. Actually, some will love it. But what most dogs won’t like is sitting in a pool of water at the bottom of the canoe. Firstly try not to get any water in the canoe if possible. If you are hiring a canoe, the amount of preparation you can do is minimal. Putting some foam matting on the bottom will make things much more comfortable for your dog. It will also stop the canoe getting damaged by your dogs claws. Another option is getting some of the suction matting you would have at the bottom of a shower. You could also use some fake grass and stick that at the bottom. The key is keeping your dog dry in the canoe.
Build your dogs confidence
All dogs are built differently. Some will jump straight into the canoe where as others will be more timid and cautious. A good way to build your dog’s confidence is to get them to jump in and out of the canoe on dry land. Turn it into a fun game so your dog will associate getting into the canoe as a positive action. Once your dog is in the canoe, give them a quick treat and lots of positive encouragement.
The next step is to go from dry land to water. At first, your dog may slightly put off from the rocking motion of the canoe. After a few minutes, they should get used to it. Continue with the positive encouragement. I find that having the dog in first is the best way. Then place yourself into the canoe. That way you can control the movement of the canoe.
At no point should you tie your dog to the canoe. This is highly dangerous and in the event of a capsize, puts your dog in danger.
Life jacket for your dog
Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, ensure you kit out your dog with a life jacket. Some currents can be incredibly strong and will quickly tire out your dog if they have to swim in it. If you are fighting the current yourself, the last thing you want is your dog to be struggling to stay afloat. Here you can buy a simple, cheap and effective life jacket for your dog. If you were to capsize, picking up a floating dog will be much easier than trying to save a swimming one.
I didn’t have a life jacket for Cleo for this adventure but in the future, I will definitely bring one. It goes without saying that you should also be wearing a life jacket.
Bring a dog medical kit
As with any adventurous activity, you need to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Having a first aid kit for your dog is always recommended if you are doing something where the risk is higher. In a canoe, you are likely to be more isolated and further away from emergency care. Having some simple medical supplies can potentially be life saving for your dog. This basic dog first aid kit is taken from the blue cross website:
- bandages – a roll of self-adhesive or crepe bandage (5cm width)
- conforming/open-weave bandages (2.5cm width)
- some non-adhesive absorbent dressings (5cm x 5cm) to cover open wounds
- surgical sticky tape
- a box of cotton wool
- a box of sterile absorbent gauze
- blunt ended scissors, preferably curved
- a thick towel
- an Elizabethan collar
I would recommend putting this first aid kit in a small waterproof bag. This 2L Karrimor Drybag is ideal to keep your medical kit waterproofed.
Having all of this kit and equipment is useless if you don’t know what to do with it. There are plenty of companies that will train you how to help your dog in the event of an accident.
I am a big believer in leaving no trace. There is no reason to leave your dogs poo there to contaminate the area. It’s just not very nice. Have enough poo bags with you and have frequent stops so your dog can do its business on the shore. If you don’t want to carry the poo you can bury it. Just make sure you bury it away from water sources or trails. Dig a 6-inch deep hole and place it in there.
Other Essential Equipment
I always bring Cleo’s large collapsible dog bowl if I am going on any adventure, be it hiking, cycling or paddling. If there is no fresh water source, I ensure I bring plenty of water for me and Cleo. I also bring her lead so she can be secured when I am on the shore. If I’m camping, pretty much take the same stuff I would for any other camping trip with Cleo. I have previously written about wild camping with a dog here.
Going paddling with your dog can a really fun way to spend time in the wild together. There are plenty of rivers in the UK that you can leisurely paddle down, enjoy the scenery and camp for the night. Preparation is key to being safe and for you and your dog having a fun time. I’m looking forward to spending more time on the water with Cleo in the future. Let me know how your canoeing adventures go with your dog.
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