6 Tips for Canoe Camping with Your Dog

6-canoe-tips-for-your-dogYour dog is an impor­tant mem­ber of your fam­i­ly, and you want to take him wher­ev­er you may roam—even if that means adding a four-legged mem­ber to your pad­dling crew. With a bit of plan­ning and a few key sup­plies, canoe camp­ing with your pup can be the bond­ing expe­ri­ence of a life­time. Here are 6 ideas to help you pull off a mem­o­rable trip. 

Dog and Canoe—Introduce the Two
First and fore­most, you’re going to want to make sure that your dog is com­fort­able with the canoe. You can’t expect him to sit back and relax the first time you bring him onboard—dogs aren’t big on slip­ping and slid­ing around, so you need to make sure he gets the hang of things before you set out. Take him out for a few prac­tice runs and see how he adjusts. Make sure to reward good behav­ior and nev­er tie him to the boat (com­mon sense but worth reminding).

Invest in a Dog­gy Life­jack­et
Regard­less of your dog’s breed, affin­i­ty for the water or demon­strat­ed swim­ming abil­i­ties, you need to get him into a life­jack­et before hit­ting the open water. No mat­ter how strong of a swim­mer your pup may be, if you tip your boat kilo­me­ters from shore, you want to make sure that he’s going to be okay. There are sev­er­al com­pa­nies that offer great options that are light and comfortable—some also include a han­dle, which can come in handy if your four-legged friend jumps ship with you still aboard. 

Put Your Pup to Work
An extra set of hands (or paws, in this case) always comes in handy dur­ing portages. It can be a pain to haul a week’s worth of gear while try­ing to bal­ance your canoe and traipse through unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ries en route to your next pad­dle. By out­fit­ting your dog with a sad­dle­bag, you can use his strength and keen­ness to help to your advan­tage. Dogs love being giv­en jobs and most seem to gen­uine­ly enjoy­ing car­ry­ing their share of the load. Just make sure that you get your pup used to the bag before head­ing out, and be care­ful not to over­load him. 

Bear Bells Save Lives
If you’re set­ting up camp some­where remote (if you’ve had to pad­dle to get there, you prob­a­bly are), you need to be mind­ful of bears. Above and beyond tak­ing the usu­al pre­cau­tions, you need to ensure that your dog isn’t like­ly to star­tle a mama and her cubs while explor­ing all those excit­ing new scents. A bear bell is a cheap, effec­tive way to make your dog’s pres­ence known—just loop it onto his col­lar and breathe a lit­tle eas­i­er. The fact that you’ll be able to hear him wher­ev­er he goes is just an added bonus! 

Cre­ate a Home Away From Home
One way to ensure that your dog takes to tent life is to bring a bit of home to the wilder­ness. A blan­ket or pack­able toy can make all the dif­fer­ence in help­ing your pup adapt to his tem­po­rary digs. Some­thing that smells like home will help him tran­si­tion and will help ensure that he gets a good night’s sleep—something you’ll be grate­ful for when you wake up with the sun. 

Enjoy It!
It seems so obvi­ous but the most impor­tant part about includ­ing your dog in your pad­dling posse is to enjoy it. Dogs often notice things we don’t and by tak­ing time to let him explore, chances are you’ll dis­cov­er things you would have ordi­nar­i­ly over­looked. Let your four-legged com­pan­ion help you stop and appre­ci­ate the small things—you’ll be so hap­py that you did.

by Kate Walker