Sunday, April 05, 2015

Planning for Dog Rescues -- Part Two: Your Own Dog

It came to mind the other day, after seeing a dog in distress on a rocky cliff at Cadboro Bay, that some paddlers bring their pets along on the water. It's a good idea to make plans for how you would rescue your dog (or cat, or other pet) if there were any problems.
Since it's a safety law for humans to have life jackets or PFDs, you'll probably want to have a life jacket for your dog. This choice might seem optional, as some dogs are very strong swimmers. There are plenty of styles of life jackets, as you could see on this Google search page. The most practical designs have a sturdy harness with a handle for lifting the dog -- two handles on life jackets for big dogs! This design is a good reminder that it's very hard to grab hold of a wet dog and lift it out of the water. Even if the dog is a strong swimmer, a PFD is stronger than an ordinary harness, and will make rescuing the dog easier.
While some dogs might be assisted with a paddle float tied on a rope or some other improvised float, most will be less able to assist in their own rescue than a human. Our paddle group does safety practise, learning how to assist each other on the water. It's a good idea for a pet owner to do some safety practise with the dog. Maybe you already do lots of swimming with the dog, or maybe it's never gone in the water before. Take some time in safe conditions to try some of the ways you might have to help your dog if there's a problem. Start simple, make it fun, and maybe you'll feel prepared in practical ways for your time on the water with your dog.


  1. I'm so happy to see you post on this topic. It is impossible to get a dog back in the kayak or boat without a doggie life jacket. Our dog is about 50 lbs. I have discovered first hand how tricky it is. If the dog goes in, encourage it to come over to you. Some dogs panic and start swimming out to the middle of a lake or current, Talk kindly to the dog to calm it, grab the handle and try to get the front lets up first. The dog will usually kick from behind to try and get back in. Sometimes you need a second person on hand to help haul up the dog. Happy trails. The doggie should always wear a good PFD. It also makes them more visible to other boats in the area.

  2. Good point! A 50 pound (23 kg) dog might be easy to pick up if you're standing on shore, but as you say, it will be very very hard to lift that same dog into your kayak at arm's length, wriggling, and soaking wet. I note that your website link shows you in a sit-on-top kayak, which would be a little easier than trying to have a dog climb onto a sea kayak. Must be fun to paddle with your dog panting in your ear to say "Faster! Faster!"

  3. Hi Paula, big dogs don't fit in sea kayaks. I tried to haul the 50 lb. doggie on the back-deck of my sea kayak. Terrible idea. Super tippy and she didn't like it. So we bought a roomy sit on top kayak-a fishing kayak. She likes it but actually prefers the paddleboard. It is much easier for her on a big paddleboard and it is easier to get her back up if she jumps off or gets knocked off by accident. Our dog loves the paddleboard - she stands in the front :)