Bringing your dog with you on the water (e.g. canoe, SUP board, kayak)

Is it a good idea to bring a dog with you in a canoe, kayak, SUP board? It doesn’t really matter to most people who want to do it — they are going to try it. I suggest they make their attempts safer and more positive and hire a dog trainer to help.

Getting reputable professional help from a dog trainer who specializes in compulsion-free training is essential. If you rely on leash corrections in your training, it is unlikely you will be able to while you’re managing a paddle and trying to remain on top of the water? If your dog has a poor recall, what is your plan if your dog jumps in the water and starts swimming away? Yelling at the dog to come back to you isn’t likely to motivate your dog to come to you (or reduce the likelihood that your dog will not jump into the water again in the future). It doesn’t work to improve a recall on land, so it is unlikely to work in the water. If your plan is paddle after the dog furiously and then scold the dog for jumping in or for not coming when called, that’s isn’t going to improve your dog’s behaviours, either (on land or in the water). Both of these options in effect reduce the likelihood that in the future your dog will stay in the boat or come back to you. It’s science, not an opinion.

Does your plan involve a leash to keep the dog with you? It can be unsafe to have the dog on a leash while in the water: the leash can get caught on things under the water, not to mention the leash can get caught on you and possibly injuring or dragging you into the water as well.

Please don’t even think of using a shock collar in a water environment. Or a bark collar. Or any electronic collar.  I’m sure there are trainers out there who would recommend them, but use common sense, please.

Why not train your dog for this? Find a trainer to help you teach your dog to enjoy the water and to show good manners and impulse control while around water while at the same time building a bond and making the experience pleasant for both of you. A little time and effort into training before heading onto the water will mean a lifetime of water fun adventures for you and your dog.

Why You Need the help of Dog Trainer to take your dog on the water with you

They obviously loved their dogs and the couple were trying their best to launch their kayaks from the shore while keeping their dogs inside the kayaks.

The man, while sitting in his kayak on the shore, had his arms wrapped tightly around the body of a highly-aroused medium-sized dog, trying to keep it from charging towards another dog being walked on leash nearby. After the dog on leash was gone, the man’s efforts were directed to trying to keep the dog in the kayak while he tried to use his momentum to slide into deeper water.

The woman, sitting in her kayak on the shore, had her hands full with their other dog, a large-breed dog who seemed less bothered by the dog on leash passing by, thankfully. The woman was trying to find a spot for the dog in her kayak where the dog would remain and where she could still manage to paddle the kayak. The dog was uncertain about this whole experience and when the woman was able to use her momentum to slide from the shore, the movement of the kayak increased the dog’s uncertainty.

I should mention that neither dogs were wearing life vests.  If (when) their dogs jumped (slipped?) off the kayak into the water, it would be difficult to pull them back onto the kayaks.  It may be that the dogs are good swimmers, but an added benefit of a dog life vest is that they usually have a handle on the back that will help you lift the dog back onto your kayak (or SUP board, canoe, etc.).

The lady seemed to be jovial about the whole experiment; I’m not so sure about the man — his dog was much more fearful and he had not been able to get off the shore by the time I left the scene. As I was leaving  the scene, the woman’s kayak had floated alongside his — I’m not sure if she was trying assist him or if the current has caused her kayak to bump alongside his.

I hope that the couple did not try to venture further than the shoreline where they were struggling. For their sake and their dogs’ sake.

I have a class for people to train their dogs for situations like this. You might not get to ride with your dog right away, but it’s going to make things more enjoyable and safer for you and your dog.

Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke in Dogs

This is general information only gathered from various resources and is not intended as veterinary advice.  Please consult a veterinarian if you have concerns about the health of your dog. 

Dogs that are at higher risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke include breeds with shorter snouts (e.g. Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs) and those with weaker bodies like older dogs, young puppies, and ill dogs.

Dogs cool themselves by panting to maintain their normal body temperature (101 to 102.5 F ; 38 to 39 C). Dogs can sweat through their noses and pads but this doesn’t do much to cool them. Overheating can cause severe tissue damage in minutes, affecting important organs like the brain, kidneys, liver, and the digestive system in minutes.

Heatstroke occurs when the dog’s temperature reaches 109 F (42.8 C) or above.

Symptoms can include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Glazed eyes
  • Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
  • Bright or dark red tongue, gums
  • Staggering
  • Elevated body temperature (104ºF and up)
  • Weakness, collapse
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unconsciousness

What to do:

Move dog out of heat and to the shade or air conditioning.

If the dog can stand and is conscious,

  • give small drinks of water (too much too fast can cause vomiting)
  • Take temperature. If the dog is 104 F (40 C) or lower, continue to monitor temperature
  • contact vet for further instructions even if dog seems recovered

If the dog cannot stand, seems unresponsive, or if the dog is having seizures:

  • confirm the dog is breathing it has a heartbeat
  • stay with dog (don’t try to immobilize a dog having seizures, just supervise to keep the area around the dog clear to avoid injury to the dog and anyone nearby; time the seizure and observe details that your vet may ask you about)
  • notify vet that you are bringing in the dog
  • begin to cool the dog gradually with COOL water (NOT COLD water) by placing wet towels or gently pouring COOL (NOT COLD) water on belly area, back of head and the underside of neck. Do not pour water into dog’s mouth.
  • Take dog’s temperature. If the temperature is at 104 F (40 C) or lower, STOP THE COOLING PROCESS (to avoid risk of blood clotting or temperature dropping too low)
  • Take dog to vet ASAP even if the dog seems to be getting better


  • Provide LOTS of fresh, clean water at all times.
  • On warm days, dog outside should have access to shade.
  • There is mixed opinion on the effects of “summer haircuts” (not suitable for all dogs). It has been suggested that in order to protect the dog’s skin from the sun, the dog’s fur should be trimmed no shorter than an inch (a few centimetres).
  • Exercise dogs during the coolest parts of the day. Stay in the shade when possible.
  • 32 C or hotter, dog should be kept indoors.
  • Limit exercise or play sessions; keep them short; take lots of breaks to cool down.
  • The heat from the concrete or asphalt can overheat your dog (and burn paws).
  • Never put dog in a hot vehicle (parked or being driven). It’s better to leave the dog at home where it’s cool and there is fresh water to drink.

SUP PUP: Not for all dogs

Young Puppies: Please do not SUP PUP with young puppies. Puppies are more susceptible to heat stroke, hypothermia, water intoxication/toxicity, drowning, and (depending on their vaccination history and health status) infection from bacteria/parasites that may be present in or near bodies of water.  When appropriate, socialize puppies to the board and to the water in very short sessions (keep an eye on the weather and temperature), but for safety, you must not stand on the board, you should stay along the shoreline in very shallow water (no deeper than the minimum amount to float the board), and use your arms to prevent your puppy from jumping off the SUP board. Do not attach your puppy to the board. Your puppy must be wearing a dog life vest. Do not use a pet carrier on the board.  You  may need a pet carrier if you have to carry your puppy and the SUP board by yourself, but leave the carrier off the board. (A soft-sided one might be able to be safely stowed on your board, but it will get wet.) If your puppy is difficult to manage on the board, train on dryland and wait until your puppy is older before training on the water.

Ill, injured, exhausted, fearful, over-reactive, or un-trained dogs: Do not put your dog’s safety at risk by riding a SUP board, and don’t cause your dog distress. Learn to recognize your dog’s stress signals (especially the subtle ones that humans usually miss). Do not bring your dog if there will be things in the environment that will cause your dog to become overly aroused (due to excitement, fear, frustration, aggression) which may lead to excessive barking, pacing on the board, jumping off the board, redirecting stress towards you or the paddle, etc. You want things to be safe and pleasant for the dog, you, and others on the water (including wildlife). Get the help of a skilled dog professional to help your dog learn to be less sensitive to the things that trigger such an intense reaction. All dogs on a SUP board should have a very reliable recall, especially around water. As well, the dog should be able to perform the following skills reliably while floating on a SUP board: sit, down, stand, stay, and be able to drink water from a container you have brought. (When distressed, your dog may not be comfortable enough to drink water, which can quickly lead to more stress, dehydration, and heatstroke.) Another essential skill you dog needs is Leave It, especially for things that may be floating past, such as other dogs, people, wildlife, sticks, buoys that look like balls/toys.

Should your dog wear a leash while riding on the SUP board?  Weigh the risks carefully. Generally, it’s not a good idea for your dog to be on a leash while riding a SUP board. For training purposes a leash might be appropriate, but always consider the safety implications (for yourself and the dog). The leash may become tangled in the dog’s legs, your legs, and if the leash goes into the water, it may become snagged on things under the water (dragging your dog and perhaps you into the water).  Keep the leash safely stowed on the board (you’ll need it for when you come to shore, and it may be a useful item in case of an emergency on the water). If your dog will not follow commands while off leash, you will need to work on these skills before you SUP with your dog.

Pet First Aid Kit for SUP PUP

We don’t anticipate injuries to happen during SUP PUP, but it’s good to be prepared just in case.  Any first aid you administer will be temporary until you can properly attend to the dog at home or at the vet. You may want to have a few of the items with you on the SUP board (waterproof container, of course) once you are venturing from the shoreline.

Protecting Paws 

There may be some rough ground along the shoreline (and things under the water we cannot see). Check paws before and after for sensitive areas, burns from heat or friction, problem nails, wounds, etc. One option is to put on paw wax before and after to help protect and soothe.  Booties might be an option but, obviously, will become soaked and likely fall off. You don’t want to have them on too tight, though, since that is uncomfortable and can cause problems for circulation. If you find ones that work well for dogs in water, let me know. You don’t want to leave dogs paws in wet booties for very long. Paws need air circulation and need to dry out from time to time in order to keep the skin and pads healthy.  One option is to have dry booties ready to put on after if your dog’s paws are sensitive. Dry booties can be helpful in case of an injury, too, because they can help keep the debris away from the wound until you can get home or to the vet for proper cleaning and dressing of the paw.

Keep nails trimmed to avoid snagged nails and split nails and to avoid injuries to you if your dog is paddling or scrabbling in the water or on the board.

VET WRAP & GAUZE: The human version of “vet wrap” is called “self-adherent cohesive wrap bandage” and may be less expensive. Avoid black-coloured vet wrap because it may not adhere well when wet. Gauze and vet wrap can be used to dress a wound that must be dressed immediately and it can be used to make temporary booties.

STYPTIC POWDER  is normally used to stop bleeding for nails but in wet conditions it clumps and can stain the fur and other surfaces. It’s best to use it on dry paws.

STERILE SALINE SOLUTION (to rinse debris from eyes or wounds)

FIRST AID WIPES to disinfect an area on the dog or your hands. There are ones that are pre-soaked with povidone iodine (which is supposed to be gentler on wound tissue) but these are expensive.

EXTRA BOTTLE OF CLEAN WATER: to rinse paws, wounds, soothe skin, cool dog’s head and belly, to let the dog drink if the dog’s water container is empty.

A few human bandages for yourself. Human bandages that have adhesive (or medications) should not be used on dog’s fur.

PLASTIC WHISTLE. So you can call for help from the water (once you are advanced enough to SUP PUP farther from shore).

Is Your Dog Ready to Try SUP PUP?

Firstly, you should learn how to ride a Stand Up Paddle board without a dog on it because it can be tricky to maintain your balance when it’s just you on the board — the added weight and movement of a dog can complicate things significantly.

To determine if your dog is ready to try SUP PUP, you will want to consider a few things:

When you SUP PUP, you will be on a moving Stand Up Paddle board, paddling and trying to stay upright. Does your dog obey your verbal commands for basic manners like SIT, DOWN, and STAY?  Does your dog normally require any sort of hand signal, physical prompt, or coercion or force (e.g. leash corrections, prong collars, etc.) to do the behaviours you ask for?

Is your dog extremely fond of water and has a difficult time resisting the urge to swim?

Does your dog bite at the water a lot? If your dog is ingesting the water, it can pose a health risk, even if the water is clean. Ingesting too much water is life-threatening. 

When your dog is around water, will he/she come to you reliably when you call from 15 ft away?

Does your dog know how to swim? Is your dog physically strong enough to keep its head above water?

Is your dog afraid of water? Is your dog overly cautious about new objects or experiences? Do you want to PUP SUP more than your dog wants to? 

When you are holding a broom, shovel, rake, or other similar object, does your dog try to attack, play with, or run from it?  

Does your dog chase, bark at, or try to grab moving objects? Something floating past the board will look like it’s moving. What about objects that resemble balls? Buoys can look like toys to a dog. Does your dog bark at or chase wildlife? Ducks and geese may seem extra exciting or interesting to a dog floating on a SUP board. 

How does your dog react to strangers or other dogs that are nearby? You don’t want your dog barking its head off at things nearby.  You don’t want your dog jumping off the board to go say hello. You don’t want your dog showing aggression to others nearby, either. If something went wrong, could someone approach to help you or your dog?

Does your dog have an injury or weak/painful joints? Riding a SUP board requires constant balancing and it can be too much for some dogs who do not have the strength/stamina. 

Is your dog a young puppy? Is your puppy’s immune system ready for the water environment (e.g. bacteria, parasites)? Or do you need to take things more slowly and gradually socialize your puppy to the water and the board?

Fearful or unruly behaviour by your dog while on the SUP board will make things unpleasant and dangerous for you, your dog, and others (including wildlife). 

The SUP PUP Prep Course teaches you how to help ensure that your dog is enjoying the experience safely (including dog first aid around water), and you will learn how to improve your dog’s basic manners to a level where your dog is likely ready to give SUP PUP a try.

Once you are confident in your SUP skills, of course.

SUP PUP Prep Course

To ride a Stand Up Paddle board with your dog safely takes a bit of preparation. Firstly, you should learn how to ride a SUP board without a dog on it. Only once you are confident in your SUP skills should you think about doing it with a dog on board. Adding a moving weight to the board will be a challenge, and if your dog is behaving in a way that is distracting to you or is unruly, that increases the challenge of controlling the SUP board and staying upright.

SUP PUP Prep Course teaches you how to ensure that your dog is enjoying the experience. (Why would you want your dog to come with you if your dog was not having fun?) The course also teaches you how to train your dog basic manners to help ensure you are both safer and enjoying the SUP PUP experience.

Will your dog jump off the board to chase whatever is floating past? Will your unleashed dog come when called when you are standing on a SUP board holding a paddle while your dog is swimming around? Have a well-trained dog that is socialized to the board BEFORE you try to SUP together.  Here is a list of questions to help you to determine if your dog is ready to ride a SUP board.