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Old 02-12-2019, 11:19 AM   #1
madison
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Training a pup for a canoe/kayak

Hey All,

I'm starting to look at the maps and guidebooks again and plan the summer paddling trips. This year, we have a new member of the group, a sweet and very energetic black lab puppy who just turned 7 months old, and she, like her predecessors, will be riding along.

I know there are several members here who have paddled regularly with dogs and I'm wondering if any of you have any tips on training a pup to ride in a canoe. My previous 2 dogs, 1 a full lab and the other a lab mix, were very good in canoes and kayaks, although I honestly can't remember training them to do it. It seems like they just took to it naturally with very little input from me. That may happen with this current pup, although it is difficult to imagine right now. She is a ball of energy, and it is hard to imagine her sitting still in a boat for hours at a time. I'll obviously start close to home, in shallow water with short day trips, but I'm hoping to do a couple of multi-day, long distance paddle trips on big lakes this summer and I'll need to be reasonably confident that the pup won't tip us over.

Thanks in advance for any advice offered.
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:22 PM   #2
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I started off by keeping my dog between my knees as I paddled. Certainly not the most comfortable way to ride for either of you but its a good way to keep the dog from moving around too much. Eventually I was able to let her sit in front of me on her own, but she would still tend to move from side to side. I know it sounds a bit cruel, but a swift swat on the ass with the paddle was helpful in getting the point across to sit back down.

Like anything though, the more you do things together the more shell get used to doing it, although my dog never really got over the impatient whining while riding in the canoe, especially on longer paddles, or when paddling with a group of other paddlers. Best of luck to you both!

Last edited by Justin; 02-12-2019 at 02:00 PM..
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Old 02-12-2019, 03:39 PM   #3
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I haven’t had a dog in forever (12 years), but the last two I had were smaller dogs and rode well in boats, including canoes. One was a beagle mix who was pretty high strung but behaved well in the boat because my dad and I always took him fishing. When he got older he’d even lay down.

I say get him/her in the boat early. I’d even suggest training now by doing some sessions with dog and master both sitting in the boat on the ground or garage floor, maybe rocking it a bit and just getting the dog comfortable being there. Then when you get on water they’re somewhat used to it.
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Old 02-12-2019, 04:04 PM   #4
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Thanks guys. Justin, you must have edited Jenny's "impatient whining" out of your videos, she always seemed calm and right at home in the canoe.

Keeping the dog between my knees at first is a good suggestion; Stella always wants to sit or lay on my feet anyway so getting her to do that will probably not be difficult.

I think the most important thing will be not to push it- if she's still fidgety and nervous in the boat, keep the trips short and the gear strapped in and stay close to shore. Hopefully she'll be a paddling champ by the end of summer.
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Old 02-12-2019, 04:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madison View Post
Justin, you must have edited Jenny's "impatient whining" out of your videos, she always seemed calm and right at home in the canoe.
It would come in spurts, and I do believe I have a few clips of her being impatient & whining, but it was hard to hear through the GoPro mic & never made the final cut. When we were alone she was pretty good for the most part, and when she started acting up Id usually look for spot to get out & take a break. It was much more frequent & annoying if we were paddling along side others, and especially if they had other dogs with them.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:09 PM   #6
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My last dog (Abbey, the one in my profile pick) once tried to jump from my wife's boat to mine and nearly capsized us both!
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:07 PM   #7
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I have a nervous dog that I couldn't bear to put in a kennel again. Tried it once and he sat and barked for the first 2 days, and then they finally brought him in the office with them. I still feel bad. So, it was time to start bringing him along, but how?

I have the proverbial 17' Grumman rigged for fishing, complete with a trolling motor. My wife sat in the bow facing stern, the dog had a mat for traction, and while he was a bit nervous at the start he calmed down rather quickly. The steadiness of the canoe with the motor and my wife's constant attention worked well together. Half hour in and he was leaning over the side to drink. Blew his mind as we passed by a goose at about 5 feet, and soon he was as happy as could be. Fell asleep on the way home.

Fast forward many years and now we just hold up his life vest, he walks over to put it on, and he goes to his spot by the canoe. For the first 2 years he would bark whenever I netted a fish, but now he just sits and stares at them.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:53 PM   #8
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Start training the "place" command now, on a mat or towel or rug that you can take with you and put in the bottom of the canoe. "Place" is basically a down/stay in a particular place... except you make the "place" something that can move/go with you. Start with short spurts, 5-10 seconds at a time, depending on how she does. Practice 2-3 times a day in the beginning. Eventually work your way up until she'll stay in her "place" through an entire meal, then a movie, and so on. (Google "training the place command" -- the Internets will do a much better job explaining how to do it than I am!)

Once she's got place down in the house, move her "place" outside in the yard, where there are more distractions. Start back at short lengths and work your way back up. Then introduce the boat, just in the back yard, and see how it goes.

First time out on the water, just go to a local pond or lake. Go for a few very short paddles, let her out in between to have some fun and let off steam. And just work your way up. She may be a natural and and catch on quickly and everything I've said above will prove to be excessive.

Or she could be like our golden, who, after a summer and a half of being perfectly behaved in our pontoon boat, decided to take a running leap off it (while moving) in order to try to catch a seagull in mid-air!
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Old 02-13-2019, 06:28 AM   #9
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I'm sure the duck hunters can help...

https://www.ducks.org/hunting/retriever-training

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DQThVK2yhM
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Old 02-14-2019, 10:34 PM   #10
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I have been training dog professionally for over 40 years. All 4 of my dogs ride in my kayak. (Not all at once!) By all means, start now on dry land. Make the vessel a place your dog WANTS to be. Here is an article that may be helpful. It's about training for a SUP, but the principles are the same.

https://www.clickertraining.com/SUP-Pup

Kathy
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Old 02-15-2019, 08:52 AM   #11
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Good tips above & I'll add one more. With a slippery surface in our Royalex canoe, some traction mat on the floor helps. What helped even more was a "travel bed" we use only when camping & boating (including the car ride). When the bed goes into the canoe she knows where her butt should go. Started between my legs now can go elsewhere.

She never gets really relaxed in the boat but we can paddle for a few miles including camping. She always wants to face the near shore.

We believe she knows fun times are coming for a few days when we load up & now walks over to willingly get her "outward hound" PFD on. She also jumps in vs. having to lift her 42 lbs into place.
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Old 02-15-2019, 10:48 AM   #12
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To add my two cents, I began our dog by just pulling the canoe out of the barn and leaving it for her to investigate. Once she got comfortable with the boat we began the process of getting her in & out; I found Pupperoni treats help a lot! Luckily we have a small farm pond so the next step was to try her out in the boat on a small body of water. From there my wife & I took her to a local boat access area just off the Susquehanna River. This area is like a small lake so it was a bigger body of water but still protected. While in the tandem she was OK nestling near my wife's feet. Occasionally she'd lie on the floor and look nervously under the bow seat back at me. Eventually she settled down and all was right with the world. From there it was a short (5 miles) trip on a mild section of the Susquehanna with a friend. On this trip Juneau (our dog) decided she'd rather be in the midships and that worked out. The only potential issue was when she saw a beaver swimming along. I could tell that she was getting ready to jump out after it (she's part lab & retriever with a lot of border collie as well) so I immediately ordered her to lie down; which she promptly did. In thinking that incident through I decided that future trips I'd have her lying down instead of sitting up. For that reason I got an old yoga mat so she'd have something to lie on that wouldn't slip and could give her a place to call her own while in the canoe. After that we progressed with lots of short solo trips on area waterways. At this point she hasn't done more than about an hour in the canoe but she is definitely willing and eager to go so I consider that a good thing.

A couple of other things: 1. I would also advise is to make sure your dog understands that it only gets in & out of the canoe on your command.
2. Get a well fitting PFD for your dog and have them wear it. Mine has a great grab handle on it as well as two attachment points for her leash. So far we haven't needed it but it does give peace of mind; to me at least.

That's all for now. Best of luck in getting your dog accustomed to canoeing. It's such a great feeling to have a paddling companion with you.

Take care and until next time...be well.

snapper
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Old 03-05-2019, 01:42 PM   #13
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I'll second the advise to only let your dog get into and out of the boat on your command. Definitely comes in handy when you're pulling up to a portage or beach with other people or dogs.

Does anyone have any tips for keeping flies from bothering your dog while in the canoe? I like my guy to be pretty comfortable and keep him relaxed while in the canoe. Curious to what others do, as some bug sprays are toxic to dogs.
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Old 03-05-2019, 02:24 PM   #14
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Thanks for posting this, Madison. I too have a black lab and have been wondering the best way to get her accustomed to a riding in a canoe. As it is one of my favorite activities, I would love to have her along. My biggest concern has been her jumping out of the canoe while out on the water. She loves swimming and retrieving and I am kinda paranoid she would see a duck or something in the water and go after it.
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