Kayaking vs. Paddle Boarding: Which Is Better for Dogs?

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Dogs are called ‘man’s best friend,’ and many people take their canine companions on trips. This leads to stories and videos of dogs swimming in lakes, hiking, snowboarding, and even participating in water sports with their owners. One everyday activity is taking your pup out on your kayak or stand-up paddleboard. So which of these is better for your furry friend?

Kayaking is the better activity for dogs and people, as paddleboarding is less stable. While both activities are better suited for small dogs, kayaking has more room. Either way, you will want to prioritize safety and ensure your dog follows basic commands. 

This article will compare kayaking and paddleboarding, explaining what aspects you should consider before heading out on the water with your dog. 

Kayaking With Dogs

Kayaking is a familiar, relaxing way to explore lakes and rivers. There are a few types of kayaks (you can find quite a few here), though the wide and stable sit-on-top style will be your top choice

You can also find tandem sit-on-top style kayaks, which are designed for two people and will give your dog more room.

What Types of Dogs Are Best Suited to Kayaking?

The main restriction on what dog breeds are good kayaking buddies is their size and weight. If your dog is too large, it won’t be able to fit comfortably in the cockpit. A safe threshold is around 100 lbs (45.4 kg)

In addition, you want to make sure that your dog can stay calm and follow orders, including basic commands like ‘lie down,’ ‘sit,’ and ‘stay.’ Even the slightest movements can cause the kayak to rock and cause your pup to lose its confidence.

How To Get Started

Before you consider taking your dog out kayaking, ensure you know how to do so yourself. Confidence in your actions will help your dog feel less nervous. 

Once you’re ready to add your dog to your kayaking plans, you can’t expect your canine to hop into the boat and behave on the first try. The process starts on land and introducing your dog to the kayak. The following are some of the main steps to follow:

  1. Get your dog used to the water. Have your dog practice jumping in and out of the kayak on land, and teach them where to sit. You can also use this as a way to get your dog used to the rocking associated with paddling.
  2. Stick to shallow water close to the shore when starting. Take your time until your dog becomes more comfortable. 

To make things easier on your dog, you can also consider laying down a non-slip mat where they will be sitting like this one. Slow and steady is your friend, so don’t rush the process. Even if that means your river adventure ends much sooner than you anticipated.

Is Canoeing the Same Thing As Kayaking? 

Canoeing and kayaking have different types of paddles and, therefore, other paddling techniques. With kayaks, the paddle has two sides which leads to faster movement. Canoeing is more slow-paced with a single-sided paddle. 

Paddleboarding With Dogs

Compared to kayaking, paddleboarding is more challenging for humans and dogs. Stand-up paddleboards are the most common type; it takes practice to get used to balancing on the boards. 

What Types of Dogs Are Best Suited to Paddleboarding? 

Similar to kayaking, paddleboarding requires a dog that can stay still. The recommended weight limit is also the same (100 lbs or 45.4 kg). A longer paddleboard is more stable, and if you find one with a non-slip surface, that’s even better. 

How To Get Started

You must get your dog accustomed to the water before any sports activities. If your dog has prior experience with swimming or kayaking, you’ll be a step closer to making them comfortable on a paddleboard.

If your dog loves the water and can’t wait to get on the paddleboard with you, try the following steps to ensure you both stay safe on board:

  1. Practice getting on and off the paddleboard on land before going on shallow water.
  2. Secure a lifejacket on your dog. You should wear one too!
  3. Practice commands like ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ to ensure your dog doesn’t panic before you ease your way into deeper waters. 
  4. Reward your dog with treats for behaving well and following instructions.
  5. Watch out for signs of anxiety in your dog. Slowly head back to shallow waters or to the shore to help your dog relax. This will prevent your dog from jumping off the paddleboard before your command.

As always, go slowly but surely. Wait patiently for your dog to become more comfortable and confident to stand or sit on a paddleboard with you before heading out to deeper waters. If you aren’t careful, your dog could damage your paddleboard with their nails.

Things To Keep in Mind for Both Kayaking and Paddleboarding With Your Dog

Whether you decide to try kayaking or paddleboarding, there are some critical things to remember for your and your dog’s safety and enjoyment:

  • Your dog needs to be used to the water and know how to swim. In addition, you should always have a life jacket for your dog that fits well. You should have a lifejacket on as well.
  • Pay close attention to your dog’s body language. If they seem nervous or upset, it’s best to head back to shore. 
  • If your dog jumps or falls out of the kayak, plan on going back to shore instead of attempting to pull the canine back into the boat (unless your dog is a small breed). Once on shore, get help.
  • Don’t attach your dog to the kayak or paddleboard. 
  • Bring food, fresh water, and treats. 
  • Be aware of air and water temperatures. Know what heat stroke signs in dogs look like.
  • Take breaks for your dog to use the bathroom. 
  • Have a towel to dry off your dog in your kayak or onshore. 
  • Keep your dog from bothering the wildlife. 
  • Only go out in calm weather.

Sun protection is as necessary for dogs as it is for people, particularly for canines with areas of white pigments on their noses and eyes. Thin or white fur dogs are also at a higher risk, but all pups could be covered with pet-specific, unsweetened sunscreen

Here are two pet-friendly sunscreens for you to consider:

  • My Dog Nose It Balm. This sunscreen is made of all-natural ingredients in the U.S.A. and can be applied to any dog breed’s nose, ears, and belly. This product comes in a 0.5 oz (29.6 mL) container.
  • Bodhi Dog Moisturizing Pet Sunscreen. This non-greasy spray can be applied all over your dog’s body (though avoid getting any in their eyes) and comes in an 8 oz (236.6 mL) bottle. You can also use it for cats and horses. 


Regarding dog-friendly water sports, kayaking is a better-starting place than paddleboarding, as the former has more room for your canine companion and is more stable. 

There’s a lot of overlap in how to get your pet ready to go out on the water with you, including ensuring that they will listen to your orders. You must remember to follow safety guidelines, including having a life jacket for you and your dog. 

With practice, however, you can look forward to spending the warm summer days out on the lake with your best friend.