By Rachel Vasey // February 2019
Like a dog to water!
Owning a campervan, my dogs often come with me on short breaks around the UK. My favourite place to visit are the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake district as I love the scenery and all the water! Being so fascinated with the water (but not wanting to get wet) I had the idea to buy a kayak. – “But what about the dogs?” I hear you ask! Fear not, I slowly introduced the joys of kayak travel to them and they have turned out to be the perfect water companions.
If you are interested in finding out how to build a dog’s confidence on new and novel items such as a kayak, life jackets and water – keep reading! If you don’t plan on taking your dog on the water with you, there are some cute pictures of my rescue Pug, Moo, to encourage you to continue.
Moo surveying the beautiful countryside on the kayak
Before you head out onto the water, it is important to ensure that your dog is comfortable with every element of kayaking; from the kayak itself to the lifejackets.
As Moo is used to wearing a harness, she already had a positive association with things going over her head so the initial introduction to a lifejacket went well. If anyone has worn one before, you will know they are quite stiff and, for a dog, a little different to harnesses, so I was sure to take things slowly and at her pace.
Using some of her favourite treats (sausage and cheese), I rewarded Moo for having the lifejacket around her neck and resting on her back. After a few seconds I removed it and repeated the previous stage, adding more time for her to wear it. As Moo’s confidence grew, it was time to fasten the clasps!
Once she was fully wearing the life jacket, we played some of her favourite food games and slowly allowed her to spend more time in it. This can be built up over a few days and in different environments.
Moo sporting her pink life jacket in the house and at our local lake
The next stage was introducing the kayak. It is worth thinking, has your dog ever seen one before? If they have, it would usually be on water, so it can be a little unusual for them to see it on land. As with introducing the lifejacket, be ready to go at their pace.
I rewarded Moo for showing any interest in the kayak; this quickly showed her that a kayak was an amazing thing to be around and she soon hopped in on her own accord. I provided her with lots of rewards and built up the time she spent time in it.
Once Moo was comfortable with a bit of movement, I got in and we practised sitting still, with her on my lap whilst I used the paddles. Be prepared for your neighbours to look questioningly into your garden!
The kayak in question
Time to take all this training onto the water!
Placing the kayak in the water, Moo jumped straight in and we began floating in the shallows, slowly building up to deeper waters. I did ensure that we went out onto the lake on a calm day to make sure her first experience was the best, and of course I had a pot of her favourite treats with me to reward her every so often.
Going into deeper waters with confidence!
Now for the most important part of this process…
After a fabulous day on the water, it is important to get warm and restore your energy levels… and my advice would be to visit the local pub for dinner. Moo truly embodies the perfect pub dog and loves nothing more than relaxing by my side after a fun day.
If you would like to learn how to help your dog to relax when your attention is not on them too, contact your local Dogs Trust Dog School.
Moo settling in the pub!