Kayaking is the perfect sport to share with your canine buddy and we want to help you pick the best kayaks for dogs to get on the water. These kayaks are stable and give your dog plenty of space to get comfortable. Before taking your pup paddling, remember to get them a PFD and teach them commands to keep them safe.
A lot of dogs love getting on the water and taking them kayaking is the perfect way to share your passion with your pet. With the right kayak for your dog, they can chill out, go for a swim, or chase bubbles off the bow to their heart’s content.
While you’re on the water, it’s important that you keep yourself and your dog safe. There are special PFDs for your pet and you should always stay in types of water where you know they are safe and comfortable. You should also be ready for a capsize and have your dog appropriately trained for what to do if this happens.
In this article, we will explore what type of kayak is suitable for your dog and give you some hints and tips for safe doggy paddling.
Sit-on-top vs sit-in
Before you think about taking your dog on the water, you should consider the type of kayak you need for where you live. Sit-on-top kayaks are a popular choice for recreational paddlers because they are comparatively safe and easy to paddle.
Sit-on-top kayaks also have more space on the top deck for your dog to walk around. They are usually easier to get your dog back on board if they choose to go for a swim. There’s a lot of reasons here that sit-on-top kayaks are usually considered the perfect kayaks for dogs.
So why would you want a sit-in kayak, then? Well, for a start, they’re a lot warmer. If you live somewhere colder, or with a prevailing wind, your dog might want to hunker down under the cockpit and stay warm. Remember, you can’t wear a spray skirt if your dog is out with you.
Sit-in kayaks are usually narrower than sit-on-tops. This can make them less stable and with an active dog, you may feel unsteady. They can go further and faster, though, so if you’re looking for a day-tripper and you have a small or confident pup, a sit-in might just be the right choice.
Each kayak has its own maximum capacity which is dictated by the manufacturer. Overloading a kayak makes it difficult to paddle straight and more likely that it will tip over.
When you’re loading a kayak, it’s important to remember the 70% rule. The capacity of a kayak is pretty well how much weight you can load it with before it sits below the water level. To keep your kayak stable, maneuverable, and easy to paddle, you should avoid loading to any more than 70% of the maximum weight limit.
As an example, if your kayak has a weight limit of 500 lbs., the optimal weight limit would be 350 lbs. This optimal weight limit includes everything you plan to carry on the water with you, including your dog.
If you’re close to your weight limit, you might want to consider a larger kayak to allow you to carry more equipment with you in winter. If you are buying your kayak while your dog is a puppy, remember they are going to grow.
The best kayaks for dogs need to be strong enough to stand up to the abuse they will have to go through. This means that most kayaks on our list are plastic. Plastic kayaks are designed to withstand things like rocky beaches and bumps on rivers without damaging them, so claws are going to be no problem for them.
But you shouldn’t discount inflatables. If storage space is tight and you need a kayak that is easy to store, there are inflatable kayaks on the market which are more than tough enough. Even better, inflatable kayaks are usually really stable, as well as being comfortable for your pup to curl up in.
Your dog is going to want to move around at times and your kayak needs to be stable enough that this won’t risk a capsize. For your dog to relax properly, it will need to feel secure in the kayak, and wobbling about isn’t going to help with this.
Mostly, this stability comes from having a wide kayak. The width gives your kayak primary stability, which is what we use to keep the boat flat. A flat boat will allow you and your dog to get comfortable.
Longer, narrower boats often rely on secondary stability, which is how stable a kayak is when paddled on edge. These have specific purposes, like white water or sea kayaking, but as we’ll come to, these aren’t really suitable for dogs.
Suggested Types of Kayak
There are loads of different styles of kayaks. Let’s take a look at the types we recommend for you and your dog.
This is a broad term that includes any type of kayak specifically for recreational kayaking. Recreational kayaking is often where we start out, but that doesn’t mean it’s just for beginners. These kayaks are designed to be used in sheltered water, slow-moving rivers, and on short trips.
Recreational kayaks are built to be stable and really easy to paddle. They usually have enough space and capacity to take your dog with you on the water too.
If recreational kayaks are stable, fishing kayaks are near enough unsinkable. Okay, not quite, but they are just about the most stable boats on the market. If you’re a keen angler who wants to take their well-trained dog along with them, a specific kayak fishing boat is a must-have.
That’s not to say you have to be going fishing to buy one of these kayaks. Though the features and expense may put you off, some paddlers go for fishing kayaks simply because they are so stable. You can let your dog roam the top deck as much as they want when you know your boat is unlikely to tip.
If you want a kayak with a large enough weight capacity to carry your dog, tandem kayaks could be the answer. Many of these tandem kayaks are designed to be paddled solo, too, so it won’t make it too hard to move around.
Many tandem kayaks also come with a third seat position in the center, so your dog can still have space, even if you paddle with a partner.
We mentioned these earlier, but inflatable kayaks can be incredibly strong, stable, and comfortable for your dog. Of course, you need to know that your kayak is rugged enough to stand up to paws and claws.
Inflatable kayaks are particularly good if you have limited space for either storing or transporting your kayak.
Kayak Types to Avoid
Long, narrow, and designed to be out on the water for a long time. Sea kayaks don’t exactly shout about how good they are for dogs.
Unless you’re an experienced sea kayaker, chances are you will need to focus on keeping yourself upright. In this situation, having a dog trying to get comfortable between your legs isn’t going to help.
When you’re out on the sea, you usually want to be wearing a spray skirt to stop water from filling your cockpit. This means you won’t be able to keep your dog in your cockpit with you, and there’s not usually a lot of dog-friendly storage options.
White Water Kayaks
White water kayaks have similar issues to sea kayaks. You have limited space and you will usually be wanting to wear a spray skirt to keep the water out.
These kayaks are designed to be highly maneuverable and to be paddled in challenging environments. White water isn’t always suitable for dogs. Even those who are experienced on the water will struggle to get comfortable and to free themselves from a white water kayak.
Before you take your beloved pet out on the water, there are some safety issues you should think about.
Use a Pet PFD
You wouldn’t head out onto the water without your PFD on, so why would your dog? Even if your dog is a confident swimmer, open water and weather can make it a different and potentially dangerous experience for them.
Having your dog in a PFD and making sure they are comfortable is essential to prevent them from panicking. If your dog panics out on the water, they may try to climb on you and can put you in danger, even with your PFD on.
There are different styles and sizes of dog-friendly PFDs. Find one that fits your dog comfortably and remember, they may change size as they grow.
Think of it like you’re taking your dog to start a new sport. You shouldn’t just throw them in at the deep end.
Like us, our dogs need to get used to a sport so that they can be comfortable in their surroundings. Your dog may need to get used to the kayak and water separately first before putting the two together.
Try to get your dog used to the kayak on land by using treats and familiarisation. Giving them their own ‘spot’ in the kayak can help this familiarisation and give them somewhere to go when they get on the water.
On the water, start sheltered. Let them explore the kayak and get comfortable before you venture further from shore.
Your dog needs certain training before you head out kayaking. This is especially important for fishing kayaking, or those going further from shore.
It is up to you how you train your own dog, but knowing what to do in event of a capsize as well as when you are launching and landing is important. You need to know that your dog will follow clear commands quickly.
Do not attach your dog to your kayak
You might be tempted to attach your dog to your kayak to prevent them from swimming off. If you choose to do this on the land, that’s okay, and can keep your dog nearby while you set up. Always remember to detach their leash before you head out kayaking.
If you get into any difficulties out on the water, your dog will not be able to get away from the kayak if they are attached. If their lead gets wrapped around equipment in the kayak, your dog might not even make it out from under the boat if you capsize. If it wraps around your leg, you might not either.
This might all sound a bit over the top, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It can be all too easy to get sunburnt out on the water. Ears are a particularly sore point for dogs and are likely to get burned, especially if you’re in a kayak without any shelter. Remember to suncream up your dog and while you’re at it, put some on yourself too.
Talk to your vet
If you have any concerns about taking your dog on the water, talk to your vet first. If your dog has a preexisting condition, it can be worth checking that they are going to be okay out kayaking.
Kayaks most suitable with dogs
Sea Eagle 370 – Best inflatable
Sea Eagle are known for making a range of lightweight and durable inflatable kayaks. The 370 has a three-person capacity, so you have plenty of space for two of you and your pet.
The sport series, Sea Eagle’s entry range of kayaks, are aimed at all paddlers regardless of experience. These kayaks are stable and easy to paddle. They pack down to fit in the trunk of most cars and inflate quickly.
Length: 12 ft. 6 in. (381 cm)
Width: 34 in. (86 cm)
Capacity: 650 lbs. (295 kg)
- Lightweight and easily portable
- Stable and loads of space for two people and a dog
- Durable PVC build
- Inflatable seats are not very supportive
- Higher sides can make it difficult to haul large dogs back onboard
Perception Pescador Pro 12 – Best for anglers
The Pescador Pro 12 is a high-quality angling kayak with a large capacity. This kayak is really stable and easy to paddle, designed to cruise around lakes as you find the best spots to cast.
This is the larger model, designed for speed and maneuverability while adding storage space. The storage wells at the bow and stern are both potentially comfortable spaces for your pet to curl up while you fish.
Length: 12 ft. (365 cm)
Width: 32.5 in. (82 cm)
Capacity: 375 lbs. (170 kg)
- Stable kayak with plenty of storage where your dog can get comfortable
- Comfortable, supportive seating
- Accessory tracks and rod holders
- Fishing specific kayak which may have more features than most people need
- Heavy to transport
Wilderness Systems Pungo – Good for longer trips
Wilderness Systems Pungo is a recreational kayak with touring capabilities. This is a kayak equally at home cruising around local lakes or going on an overnight trip. The hatch storage at the rear has plenty of space for storing all your equipment.
The large open cockpit design, with a removable deck-dashboard, gives your dog plenty of room to get comfortable and stay sheltered. The Pungo has a comfortable, supportive seat so you can stay out on the water all day. This is a great kayak for those who want to take their dog on longer trips.
Length: 12 ft. 2 in. (371 cm)
Width: 29 in. (74 cm)
Capacity: 325 lbs. (147 kg)
- Large open cockpit for your dog to shelter in
- Touring style design for longer journeys
- Good storage capacity
- The narrow design may feel unstable if your dog likes to move a lot
- Relatively low capacity
Sevylor Coleman Colorado Kayak – Budget inflatable for fishing
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado is a heavy-duty PVC inflatable kayak. Designed as a two-person fishing kayak, this not only has the capacity to comfortably take your dog along for the ride, but it’s really stable too.
Compared with other kayaks, this is a no-frills fishing inflatable. It does come with rod holders, paddle holders, and comfortable, supportive seating, though.
This isn’t a kayak you’ll want to paddle long distances in and the tracking leaves a lot to be desired. That said, it is quick to inflate, easy to store, and really easy to paddle.
Length: 10 ft. 10 in. (331 cm)
Width: 39 in. (99 cm)
Capacity: 470 lbs. (213 kg)
- Incredibly stable
- Large capacity
- Affordable option
- Tandem option
- Poor tracking
- High sides can be difficult to haul large dogs over
- Not designed for longer distances
The Old Town Vapor 10 is a recreational kayak with a huge cockpit space. This is the smaller of the two models and offers a lot of kayak in a compact space.
The 10 ft. keel line keeps this kayak tracking straight and means you can pick up a decent amount of speed, too. The high-backed seat system is comfortable and supportive, so you can stay out on the water all day.
There is plenty of space for smaller dogs to get comfortable in the cockpit with you. There is also a day storage well for all of your equipment. If the Vapor 10 isn’t quite large enough for you and your dog, there is always the Vapor 12
Length: 10 ft. (3 m)
Width: 28.5 in. (72 cm)
Capacity: 325 lbs. (147 kg)
- Compact recreational kayak
- Defined keel line for tracking
- Large open cockpit and plenty of storage
- With a relatively small stature and narrow build, this may not feel as stable as other kayaks.
- Limited space and capacity, unsuitable for larger dogs.
Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two – Best tandem
The Malibu Two is a tandem sit-on-top kayak that has a range of seating positions. This highly versatile kayak can be paddled either solo or as a pair and always has space for dogs of all sizes.
This kayak is designed to be easy to paddle recreationally. It tracks well and the small rocker kick at the front helps to prevent waves from flooding your boat. The seats are supportive and comfortable enough to keep you on the water all day.
For a tandem kayak, the Malibu Two doesn’t have the largest capacity. If you have a large dog and want something a little bigger, there is an XL model available, too.
Length: 12 ft. (3.7 m)
Width: 34 in. (86 cm)
Capacity: 425 lbs. (192 kg)
- Loads of seating options to paddle this kayak either solo or tandem
- Comfortable and supportive
- Loads of deck space for your dog to roam
- Limited storage space
- Low capacity
Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO – Lightweight sit-on-top
The Pelican Sentinel 100X is a relatively basic, affordable sit-on-top kayak which is perfect for getting your dog on the water. The open deck has plenty of space for you and your pet to sit comfortably, and you can stow your gear out of the way behind you.
The Sentinel 100X EXO is lightweight and easy to transport. It’s durable, too. The polyethylene design will easily withstand your dog running around and scrabbling back onboard.
The EXO is the slightly upgraded model and if you’re on a tight budget, the Sentinel 100X would still do the job. The EXO is more compact but has more storage space and far superior seating. It also has an anti-slip carpet, which is the perfect spot for your dog to get comfortable.
Length: 9 ft. 6 in. (289 cm)
Width: 30 in (76 cm)
Capacity: 275 lbs. (125 kg)
- Affordable and lightweight
- Stable and easy to paddle
- Anti-slip carpet for your dog to get comfortable
- Limited capacity may not suit larger dogs