Leaving your dog on shore when you go out for a paddle can be tough. It feels like those “puppy-dog” eyes sear into your back as you float away. What if you could bring them along? Thanks to the expansive range of dog-friendly kayaks now available, there are lots of options for bringing your furry plus-one along on your next paddling adventure.
Choosing the right kayak depends on the type of paddling you want to do, and when you’re bringing your dog along, you’ll have to take their size and disposition into consideration, too. The ideal kayak for a 90-pound Labrador will be different from one that can handle a pocket-sized Pomeranian.
Good kayaks for dogs benefit from a bit more stability and space; recreational and fishing kayaks are a better bet than sleeker day touring kayaks. Look at sit-on-top styles, also available in tandems, for more space for larger dogs. Sit-inside recreational kayaks with oversized cockpits are a good option for sheltered waters.
Finding a stable, comfortable kayak is the key to getting you and your dog safely on the water. Some kayaks are better than others for this, and we’ll touch on key features you should look for when buying a dog-friendly kayak.
In this article, you will also find links to learn more about recommended kayaks for you and your paddlin’ pup.
Top picks: Best dog kayaks for 2023
The following dog-friendly kayaks have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all dog kayaks here.
Best Kayaks For Dogs
BKC TK122 Angler Tandem Coastal Cruiser Kayak
Mirage Revolution 13
10'6" BEACH SUP-YAK AIR + KAYAK KIT
Shop dog kayaks
If you’re ready to start browsing, follow the links below to our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. Within, you’ll find a myriad of dog-friendly kayak options, whether you’re paddling solo or tandem, looking to fish along the way, or need the portability of an inflatable kayak.
Clicking on specific kayak models will lead you to important information like specs, prices and places to buy the boats.
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Shopping for a used kayak for a dog?
Choosing to buy used can save you some cash, and a lower initial investment might be a good idea if your dog decides they aren’t a kayaker. You can always sell a secondhand kayak for what you paid if things don’t work out.
If you’re looking for a used dog-friendly kayak, consider the following five tips:
You can start browsing online buy-and-sell pages for dog-friendly kayaks right now. Check out popular ones like Craigslist, Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace using general search terms like “kayak”. This strategy casts a wide net, and it takes a bit more time to sift through the results but ensures you don’t miss any potential matches.
You can also look for used kayaks through special interest groups like local paddling clubs. Kayakers love upgrading their boats, and often sell off older models. Outfitters are another option, as they may be updating their rental fleets at the end of the season. The best times of the year to look are spring and fall, before and after the paddling season.
Do your research
Our Paddling Buyer’s Guide is a comprehensive catalog of nearly every canoe, paddleboard and kayak on the market, including contemporary and classic models. Read up on the specifications, and check out some reviews before you go take a look at a used kayak.
Check the kayak’s listed weight capacity against the weight of you, your dog and any gear you’ll be bringing. Pay special attention in the reviews if there’s any mention of users taking their dogs along. For an overview of what makes a kayak dog-friendly, read the “Dog Kayak Buying Advice” section below.
Talk to the kayak’s owner as well about your plans to paddle with your dog. Have they ever done it? Do they think the kayak is stable enough? Of course, their answers only reflect their own experience, but it will help guide your decision.
Inspect the kayak
Bring Fido along to view the kayak—just be sure to check with the owner beforehand. Especially if your canine companion is a larger breed, you’ll want to make sure that they can get in and out of the boat easily and sit comfortably. Look for any sharp edges or exposed hardware that may scratch your dog when they’re getting in and out of the kayak.
As with any used kayak purchase, be sure to inspect the hull, seat, hatches and other outfitting for damage. If replacement parts are needed, they may still be available from the manufacturer.
When you are looking at the kayak, try imagining any steps you can take to make it a bit more comfortable for your pup. If it’s a plastic kayak, the material might be a little slippery and unsteady for their feet. Gluing a layer of foam or rubber on the deck or inside the cockpit can provide more grip, security and insulation from cold water.
Don’t forget the extras
A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is not only an essential piece of kit for you, but also for your canine friend. Even though some dogs are strong swimmers, a PFD helps them conserve energy and stay afloat in current or choppy waters. If you have a puppy, looking for a gently used PFD that’s appropriate to their size makes sense as chances are they will quickly outgrow it.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
Dog kayak buying guide
As dog owners well know, each dog’s personality is unique, and so is their behavior aboard a kayak. Some excitable dogs move around on the kayak, while others just lay down and snooze. When choosing a kayak, consider how you want to paddle, but also the size and energy of your pup. Most doggy paddlers don’t use a dedicated kayak with dog seat when they go out. Instead, look for a kayak with the following features to ensure a safe and fun experience for both of you.
Stability and space are key. A wide kayak with a flat hull is going to provide tons of stability for the extra weight that your dog brings. Sit-on-top recreational or fishing kayaks are the best choice for bigger dogs, while sit-inside recreational kayaks with oversized cockpits are suitable for small to mid-sized dogs.
Furry friends should have enough space to sit or lay down without interfering with your paddle stroke, or your ability to get in and out of the kayak. Recreational tandem sit-on-tops are popular options, as they are short enough that a solo paddler can maneuver them, but provide more space for lounging hounds. A sit-on-top kayak’s open deck also makes it easy for your dog to jump on or off.
Smaller dog breeds can fit into a wider range of kayaks, but they have unique needs, too. They might be able to fit comfortably into the cockpit of a touring kayak with you, but if you have a curious pup, make sure they can peek their head above the sides of the boat. Allowing a small dog to ride in an open hatch is fine on calm, near-shore water.
However well-behaved your dog, remember that it only takes a sudden, unexpected shift in weight to potentially spill both you and your dog into the water. For this reason, stick to sheltered waters and slow-moving rivers where you are within easy swimming distance of shore. Avoid paddling with your pup early or late in the season when water and air temperatures are colder.
Still have questions? Here are answers to some of the most common questions about kayaking with your dog.
Can dogs go in kayaks?
Bringing your dog along in a kayak is a matter of having a spacious and stable kayak (sit-on-top kayaks generally work well) and taking it slow. Kayaking is an unfamiliar activity for most dogs, and building trust goes a long way in making the experience fun. Start with short excursions on very calm water, and pay close attention to your dog’s behavior. If there are any signs of nervousness, bring them ashore.
Even though many dogs are strong swimmers, a doggy PFD conserves energy and helps keep them afloat in current or choppy waters. Most puppy PFDs also have convenient handles on the back, so you can haul your pup out of the water if they decide to abandon ship.
Is a canoe or kayak better for a dog?
There are benefits to either a canoe or kayak for your dog, depending on your dog’s nature and the type of paddling you’ll do. A canoe has high sides and lots of space to stretch out. This can be more comfortable for bigger dogs or ones who like to move around.
Smaller dogs may feel uncomfortable not being able to see over the canoe’s high sides. If your dog is a keen swimmer, and you suspect they will want to jump off the boat, a kayak’s lower profile—especially a sit-on-top kayak—is easier for them to climb back on.
What kind of kayak can I take my dog on?
When assessing whether a kayak is suitable for your dog, look for certain aspects that will make it more comfortable and safe, like space and stability. Make sure there’s enough space for your dog to sit or lie down comfortably, without interfering with your ability to paddle or get in and out.
Sit-on-top kayaks have more deck space for restless pups and are easier to climb on and off. If you are using a sit-inside kayak, ensure that it has a wide and long cockpit with room for your legs and your dog. Check the capacity of any kayak you’re considering as well, to see if the kayak’s weight limit is greater than the total of your weight plus your dog’s and any gear you’ll bring along.
Can a dog be in an inflatable kayak?
Inflatable kayaks are a good choice for kayaking with your dog, since the flexible materials give dogs more grip and cushiony comfort than the slippery plastic of rigid kayaks. Nearly all inflatable kayaks are puncture-resistant, and many mid-range and high-end inflatable kayaks use reinforced PVC that is strong enough to handle the sharp toenails of a large dog inside.
Can a dog fit in a one-person kayak?
Most dogs can fit in a one-person kayak, as long as the kayak’s deck (if it’s a sit-on-top) or cockpit (if it’s a sit-inside) is large enough for you and your dog to sit comfortably. If your dog is uncomfortable, they will be restless, making it difficult to paddle (and possibly even stay upright).
The most dog-friendly kayaks are wide and stable recreational or fishing kayaks. Make sure the kayak’s recommended weight limit is greater than the weight of you and your dog, plus any gear you’ll bring along. For very large breeds, a tandem sit-on-top kayak is a better choice.
Dog kayak reviews
Read our expert reviews of a wide range of kayaks that are appropriate for kayaking with your dog below.
- Fishing Kayak Review: Ascend 12t
- Fishing Kayak Review: Ascend 10t
- Fishing Kayak Review: Ascend 128t
- Tandem Recreational Kayak Review: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
- Boat Review: Seaward Passat G3 Kayak
- Inflatable Recreational Kayak Review: Innova Thaya