“Oh my gosh, are your dogs wearing life jackets?”
“I didn’t know such a thing existed!”
“How did you train them to ride in your kayak?”
When my husband Philip and I started training our dogs, Orion and Leo, to ride in our kayaks, we quickly learned that pedal pooches were an anomaly on the lake. The first time we took them out, we passed people fishing from the shore and walking across the bridge who took out their phones to take pictures. Whenever we launch our kayaks, we inevitably strike up conversations with fellow boaters or families passing by the boat ramp, and the dogs are all too happy to make new friends.
Like most families, our dogs stay home while we work and run errands, so we’re always looking for creative ways to include them in our daily lives and hobbies. In the last story, I began a two-part series with steps 1-5 for training a dog to ride in a Hobie kayak, starting with basic obedience and safety. Now I’ll explain how we introduced our dogs to our kayaks and kayak fishing.
Step 6: Associate the kayak with positive experiences.
Positive reinforcement works brilliantly for dog training and kayaking. With Orion and Leo, we simply figured out what motivates them to make the kayak a fun, enriching experience. Orion’s biggest motivation is cuddling, so he needed no coaxing to jump into my lap, though convincing him to ride behind my seat took a little more effort. Leo, on the other hand, loves food and squeaky toys, so a combination of treats, praise, and his favorite ball easily lured him into the back of the kayak.
Step 7: Practice makes perfect.
We kept our first few outings short to gauge our dogs’ responses to riding in a moving vessel over water. At first Orion and Leo spent equal amounts of time in both of our kayaks, but Leo whined inconsolably whenever he rode with Philip and tried to jump ship, literally, if our kayaks got too close together. Since Orion is more laidback, he now rides exclusively with Philip while Leo rides with me. Overall they both acclimated quickly to kayaking, but other dogs may need more time depending on their age, personality, and experience with water.
Step 8: Going fishing? Then streamline your gear.
I tend to view kayak fishing as a solo activity. Even when Philip and I go out together, we inevitably drift to different locations. Leo provides excellent companionship, and it’s hilarious watching his reactions to seeing largemouth bass for the first time.
However, a 40-pound dog presents a minor logistical challenge when packing fishing gear in my Hobie Mirage Outback. Since Leo takes up most of the ample cargo space behind the Vantage CT Seat, I have to streamline my gear to the basic necessities. I only carry one or two rods and a small tackle box that fits into the dry compartment at the bow of my kayak. My hooks, lures, and multi-tool stay within easy reach in the built-in tackle box in front of my seat and the side mesh pockets. I also carry plenty of fresh water for both of us and check on Leo regularly to make sure he doesn’t overheat under his life jacket.
Step 9: Watch the hooks!
No one wants to tangle a line and lure on a low-hanging branch, but watching where I cast is even more important now since Leo doesn’t know to watch for sharp hooks. A quick glance over my shoulder works fine for my spinning rods, but I also plan to fly fish from my kayak, which requires more room and careful positioning for the back cast.
Step 10: Have fun!
At the end of the day, kayaking is about having fun, and we have enjoyed it even more since we began bringing our dogs. Right now our dogs are our children, so kayaking is a hobby that we can enjoy as a family. With summer on the horizon, we plan to spend as much time as possible on the water, and we look forward to many more years with our pedal pooches.