Retail Brand Planner, Greg Freyberg, took some time out of his summer adventures to give us some helpful tips and tricks for making canoeing with dogs fun! Read on for pearls of wisdom from the Ruff Wear Pack:

Sophie and I hit the Deschutes River recently to scope out the racecourse for the Second Annual Race for the River event here in Bend, Oregon.  Last year Sophie participated in the inaugural race in the “floatie” category with my wife and son. They had a ton of fun, so this year we are stepping it up and entering the “canoe with your dog” category.

Sophie and Family Ready to Push Off

Last summer we purchased a canoe and started to include Sophie in our paddling adventures. Initially, Sophie was not a fan of the water, so she was often left on shore. Like with most dogs, Sophie did not appreciate me paddling away while she stayed on shore, so she proceeded to bark the entire time.  Enough of that!  I soon outfitted Sophie in a Ruff Wear life jacket and began the process of turning her into a boater. It took a little getting used to, but before you knew she could not wait to get in the canoe.

"Paddle Faster Greg! I see geese up there."

As with any new activity, it took a little patience, flexibility, and positive encouragement to make things fun. Here are a few tips I learned during the process:

  • Put the life jacket on and let your dog run around on shore for a while to getting accustomed to it.
  • Encourage your dog to get in the canoe with the boat on shore.  Treats can help if you have a food-motivated dog. Get them comfortable with the feel of the boat under their paws.
  • Now for the launch. Make it quick and smooth. I found it works best to put Sophie in the bow, then quickly but smoothly, launch the canoe onto the water. Speed is important to keep them from jumping out. As soon as they can’t see the bottom they will most likely lose the urge to jump out.
  • Try to get the dog to sit in the center of the canoe.  This can be done with a lot of positive verbal reinforcement and multiple sit commands. It will take some time for most dogs to overcome their apprehension, but more often than not, they will eventually sit down and relax. They might even lie down and go to sleep!
  • I noticed on my second or third trip that Sophie was having a hard time getting a solid footing due to the v-shape of the canoe bow.  To remedy this I found a piece of plywood and cut it into a shape that fits into the bow to create a flat surface for her to sit on.  This really helped Sophie relax.


Sophie assuming her Caption of the Boat Duties

Now back to our re-con trip. We headed out from the new boat launching beach at Riverbend Park in the Old Mill District here in Bend. Because dogs must be on leash in this park, I found it very helpful to use my waist-worn Roamer Leash while getting the boat ready to launch. After the launch I unbuckled the leash from my waist and left the handle unbuckled to eliminate any possibility of the leash handle getting hooked on anything in the “unlikely” event Sophie would jump out or the canoe turned over. Please, never tie a dog to any watercraft in the event there is a mishap; they need to be able to swim clear of the boat.

I decided to head up stream and check things out. Sophie settled in quickly, and took in the scenery. She was paying extra attention to the number of geese along the river.

We made it to the turn-around and then enjoyed the float downstream.

Floating past the launch, we quickly made it to the downstream turn-around where I needed to dig deep to paddle back to the finish.

The stand up paddleboard craze has really hit the Deschutes. I had to pick my way through the many paddles on the river. We were all heading for the spot in the river where the current is at it’s most gentle. Many of these SUPS were beginners so I tried to give them a wide birth. Unfortunately, this resulted in me coming close to shore right in front of the Riverbend Dog Park.

Just then, someone launched a tennis ball from shore for their dog to swim out and retrieve. Unfortunately for me, Sophie thought this ball was for her and SPLASH, over the side she went.  This the first time she had ever jumped out of the canoe. She quickly realized what she had done.  Because of her life jacket, I was not concerned for her safety.  She REALLY wanted back in the canoe, but at 70 lbs., I could not lift her in.  We were about ¼ mile from the launch, so I thought I would paddle and she would just swim for it. I stayed close to shore. She alternated between swimming and running along the shore. We made it back safe and sound.  Another successful voyage.  I touched on this in my last post about taking Sophie mountain biking. Prior joining Ruff Wear, I never considered taking my dog with me on my adventures.  Take it from me and bring your dog along.  It’s a blast!



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