Paddle With Your Dog
10 steps to a safe and fun aquatic outing with your canine first mate.
1 Debunk old myths
Dogs are not all natural swimmers. A Greyhound’s low body fat means it has no natural buoyancy, and a top-heavy French Bulldog lacks a long muzzle to hold above water. Even dogs bred for water, such as Labrador Retrievers, might struggle with strong currents or overexert themselves in the water.
Dogs aren’t all inborn sailors either. “On boats, dogs need time to establish their sea legs and adjust their balance,” says trainer Drayton Michaels, owner of the dog-training school Urban Dawgs in Red Bank, N.J. Michaels, who specializes in conditioning dogs to new experiences like sailing, adds that “some dogs may also experience motion sickness.”
2 Put safety first
Life jackets protect humans and dogs. Even dogs that are good swimmers can fall out of a canoe, panic or become injured. The ideal flotation device keeps your dog’s nose above water and has a sturdy handle to pull your dog to safety. Typically, life jackets are fitted based on the dog’s weight or chest size. Try the vest on your dog before purchase. A snug (but not overly tight) fit promotes safety. “Condition the dog to the vest separately and prior to conditioning him to the boat,” Michaels says. “Let your dog wear the vest on land or in a pool, reinforcing compliance with praise or treats.”
3 Prepare the vessel
Canoes and kayaks come in different shapes and sizes, with varied seating options for a dog. A kayak is typically decked over on each end with a cockpit in the center, which might hold you and your dog (though probably not a large dog like a Newfoundland, of course). Cover the hull’s bottom with indoor-outdoor carpeting or a rubber mat to help your dog maintain its footing.
4 Start on solid ground
“To condition your dog to a small boat, keep the boat in the yard a few days if possible, rewarding the dog for approaching, touching or climbing in the boat,” Michaels says. If you plan to rent a vessel, take your dog to the boat area a few times prior to your own launch, and reward any behavior your dog makes toward, with or in the boat.
Want to read the full story? Pick up the May 2012 issue of DOG WORLD today, or subscribe to receive the best dog articles, dog news, and dog information every month!
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