Your 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.
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