Best Canoes for Dogs (How You Can Canoe With Your Dog)


Best Canoes for Dogs

If your dog loves the water, you may be wondering if it’s okay to take him/her along on your next canoe trip. The good news is, lots of dogs love the water, and taking your dog out in a canoe can be a fantastic adventure for both of you. So what are some of the best canoes for dogs?

But first, let’s make sure we’re crystal clear on whether dogs and canoes mix.

Can you canoe with a dog? Yes, you can absolutely canoe with a dog. Many people canoe with all sizes of dogs, from small to large breeds. The three top things to look for the best canoe for your dog are seating capacity, weight limits, and canoe build materials.

That said, there are several things to keep in mind. Some dog breeds are more comfortable around water than others, and some may get nervous in a canoe even if they enjoy swimming. Understanding your dog will help you determine if they are a good candidate for canoeing. That includes their breed and their individual personality.

Read on to find out more about canoeing with your dog and special considerations to keep in mind. We’ll also take a look at some of the best canoes for dogs, canoe accessories for dogs, and other products that will make your pal’s canoeing experience a positive one.

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Best Canoes for Dogs

If you’re in a hurry…

The 6 best canoes for dogs are:

  1. Old Town Saranac 160
  2. Old Town Penobscot 164
  3. Old Modern Handicrafts Wood Canoe
  4. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS
  5. Sun Dolphin Scout SS
  6. Lifetime Kodiak Canoe

1. Old Town Saranac 160

The Old Town Saranac 160 canoe is 16 feet long and has a weight capacity of 850 lbs. So it’s large enough to handle most dog breeds, even the larger ones. Made of thermoformed polyethylene, this canoe is extremely durable, so it can hold up under lots of stress from weather and rough waters.

On Old Town’s website, the Saranac 160 canoe is specifically marketed as “dog friendly.” It’s quite stable and takes a lot of rough water to get it rocking. The Saranac 160 has a flat bottom, making it perfect for practicing with your dog on solid ground before ever taking it out on the water. 

Contoured seats with backs will ensure you and a friend can ride along comfortably. The middle bench seat is great for some dogs to sit on, while others may prefer sitting on the floor between seats. 

One of the best features of the Saranac is its price tag. It is a large, durable canoe for a fraction of the price of many competitors. It will give you plenty of options for both long and short-range paddling trips, plenty of room for a friend and a dog, and plenty of confidence in the water. 

2. Old Town Penobscot 164

Old Town’s Penobscot 164 is another great canoe marketed as “dog friendly.” It’s slightly larger than the Saranac, spanning 16 feet 4 inches, 37.5 inches wide, with a weight capacity of 1,250 lbs. It’s made of triple-layer polyethylene with aluminum gunwales. 

The Penobscot has two nylon mesh seats, one at the front and one at the back. With a large open space in the middle, it creates a perfect center alcove for dogs of all sizes. The minimum rocker and shallow arch bottom make for a sleek, smooth ride. However, it may be more difficult for your pooch to explore the boat on land since the canoe doesn’t sit flat.

The Penobscot is somewhat more expensive than the Saranac, but it is a fantastic canoe for taking longer trips with a variety of dog breeds.

3. Old Modern Handicrafts Wooden Canoe

This rustic-style wooden canoe is an excellent choice if you have a smaller dog. This stylish, premium canoe is 12 feet in length and has a weight capacity of 375 lbs. It could easily seat one person and a dog, particularly smaller or medium-sized dogs under 100 lbs.

This canoe is handcrafted from cedar wood reinforced with fiberglass, epoxy resin, and marine varnish. It is strong, durable, and scratch-resistant. The curved bottom isn’t well-suited for out-of-water practice, but if your dog is already used to canoeing, this shouldn’t be a problem. The wooden canoe can handle both short trips and longer adventures with ease.

The main drawbacks of this canoe are that it’s expensive, and it may not work as well for large dog breeds. That said, smaller breeds should do quite well in this fancy wooden canoe.

4. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS

The Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS can seat up to three people and has a weight capacity of 800 lbs. Whether you switch out one of the people for a dog or add a dog to your party of three, there should be plenty of room in this canoe. It is 15.5 feet long and 42 inches wide. 

Constructed of “Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex® High Density Polyethylene,” this canoe can take quite a beating. It is highly stable even in rough waters and is unlikely to tip even if your dog moves around from time to time.

The Mackinaw SS is a fairly cost-efficient canoe that will work for most dog breeds, though it will probably work best for smaller and medium-sized dogs.

5. Sun Dolphin Scout SS

The Sun Dolphin Scout SS is similar to the Mackinaw above, with slightly smaller dimensions. It is 14 feet long, 38 inches wide, and has a weight capacity of 765 lbs. With three seats and plenty of floor space, you can easily fit a friend or two as well as a smaller dog. 

The Scout, like the Mackinaw, is made of durable polyethylene that can withstand swift currents and rapids without tipping. It is an inexpensive but well-built canoe that will work especially well for taking smaller dogs out on the water.

6. Lifetime Kodiak Canoe 

The 13-feet Lifetime Kodiak Canoe has 3 molded-in seats, which provide additional floatation. Relatively smaller than the Sun Dolphin canoes above but can still provide a comfortable space for a small dog. It has a capacity of 600 lbs. and has convenient centralized rod holders for fishing. It also includes storage options such as ditty trays at the rear.

Most reviews say that the Lifetime Kodiak Canoe is quite heavier than most canoes. Loading it on a camper to transport wouldn’t be much of a challenge though. Packages usually include 2 paddles, so you and your dog are ready to canoe right away.

Canoe Safety Kit for Dogs

So you’ve found your perfect canoe, let your dog practice with it in the backyard, and now you’re ready for some real practice in the water. You’re feeling confident that your pooch will be trip-ready in no time, so you’ve started thinking ahead. Is there anything else you need to make your dog’s canoeing experience as safe and fun as possible?

Life Jacket

Even if you know your dog’s an expert swimmer, you should always make sure he’s wearing a life jacket before taking him out on the water. The Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket is an excellent choice. 

This doggie life jacket comes in seven different sizes and three colorful styles that will make it easy to see your dog if he does happen to fall in. Plus, with three different styles geared toward beginner, intermediate, and expert swimmers, you’re sure to find a style suited to your dog’s experience level. 

Another fantastic life jacket for dogs is the Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket. This life jacket comes in six sizes and eight different print patterns, so you can choose the size and look that will fit your dog best. It also contains reflective strips to keep your dog safe after dark.

Both of these life jackets are made of lightweight, breathable material to keep your dog comfy even when out of the water, making them perfect for your next boating excursion.

First Aid Kit

The waters can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to prepare for the unexpected. Most people carry a first aid kit in their car or camping gear, but have you ever thought of taking one with you on a canoe trip? 

And if your dog is along for the trip, you’ll want to make sure you remember his health and safety as well. This Dog First Aid Kit is a fantastic kit containing essential supplies for both dogs and humans. Some of the kit’s key features include a pet first aid handbook, which provides valuable information for how to care for a number of injuries or illnesses that may come up, a wilderness survival handbook so you can take care of yourself, a wound irrigation syringe used for cleaning cuts, scrapes, and other injuries, and a tick and splinter remover.

In addition, this kit also includes various bandages, sprain and strain supplies, an emergency blanket, and medications to treat pain and allergies. It is a must-have if you’re planning to take a long canoe trip, particularly if you’re going to be away from civilization for any length of time.

Water Bottle

Keeping your pooch hydrated is crucial to avoiding heat and dehydration-related issues. Ensuring he has enough drinking water will also make for a more enjoyable canoeing experience for both of you. This Dog Water Bottle is a convenient 2-in-1 bottle with a bowl attachment, so your dog can take a drink any time he needs. 

The bottle’s unique design is spill-proof and makes it easy to let your dog take a drink without water sloshing all over the place. It also prevents backwash. It is made of food-grade silicone, comes in 18- and 21-oz sizes, and four bright colors.

Canoe Accessories for Dogs 

So you’ve got a life jacket, first aid kit, and a doggie water bottle; now you’re wondering how to make your pup more comfortable in the canoe. Are there any padded canoe seats made specifically for dogs?

Dog Canoe Seats

Having a place for your dog to sit comfortably is important for helping him stay calm and sit still in the canoe. Though there aren’t any canoe-specific dog seats, there are booster seats made for use in the car that may work just as well in a canoe.

The Henkelion Dog Booster Seat is one great option, especially for small and medium-sized dogs. It is made of durable, waterproof materials so it won’t become soaked if it gets splashed. It is also easy to clean between uses. The fabric is breathable, so your dog won’t get too hot sitting in the seat.

The Henkelion booster seat is easy to assemble and strong enough for outdoor use. It comes with built-in straps so you can secure it to the canoe seat or bench. The seat is approximately 17 x 13 x 10 inches, so it will fit most small and some medium dogs easily enough. 

The Pet Gear Booster Seat is another great option that may work for some larger dogs as well. It comes in two sizes; the larger size is 22 x 17 x 11 inches. This booster seat is made of heavy-duty polypropylene plastic, so it is completely waterproof. It comes with a removable and machine-washable plush cover and pad to give your dog a comfy place to sit. 

The main drawback of this booster seat is that it is designed to be strapped to a car seat using the seat’s own seat belt system. This may make it difficult to use in a canoe, as it has to be secured to be safe, and there may not be any way of securing it in some canoes. That said, if you can find a way to secure it and keep it stable, this seat should work quite well for your dog. 

Canoe Dog Beds

If you’ve got a bigger dog or are unsure about using a dog booster seat in your canoe, you might want to consider using a dog bed instead. But you don’t want just any dog bed. Since you’ll be out on the water, you’ll want a dog bed that’s waterproof. It also has to be durable enough to take a bit of a beating.

So what are the best dog beds to use on canoes?

The Pet Bed on Amazon is one great option. This water-resistant bed comes in five different sizes and is made specifically for indoor-outdoor use. The plush padding and low walls will give your dog a soft place to lay down while also maintaining a sense of security. The jumbo size is approximately 35 x 28 x 8 inches, making it large enough for most dogs but small enough to fit in the center of most canoes.

In addition, the bed is easy to clean either by wiping it down, running water over it, or putting it in the washing machine. It’s a versatile, multi-use pet bed that would make a great addition to your next canoeing trip with your dog.

Another great option is the Cheerhunting Outdoor Dog Bed. In fact, it’s a perfect choice for the biggest dogs, as size options range between 43 x 26 and 51 x 35 inches. This waterproof, machine-washable dog bed is easy to take with you on the go. Just roll it up and pack it away in the included carrying bag. 

The soft, plush fabric is like a thick blanket. It will help keep your larger dog comfortable even in the cramped spaces of a canoe. Plus, the bottom side is made of anti-slip material to keep the bed from sliding around on the bottom of the canoe. This pet bed is a must if you plan to take your big dog canoeing.

Canoe Shade for Dogs

So what if it’s a hot day, and you plan to be out in an area where there are not many trees to keep the sun off you and your dog? Or, for that matter, what if it begins raining while you’re out on the water? Is there anything you can do to keep your pet a little more protected from the elements?

Being out in the fresh air and sunshine is good for dogs, but too much sun on a hot summer day can cause heatstroke and dehydration. On the other hand, if it’s a rainy day, your dog may get chilled if they get wet and can’t dry off. Either situation can lead to a less-than-perfect end to your canoeing adventure.

Fortunately, there are canoe shades available that will keep both the sunshine and the rain from ruining your dog’s day.

The Adjustable Umbrella is not made specifically for canoes, but it will work great as long as it has an edge to clamp onto. The Sport-Brella comes in two different sizes and eight fun, colorful patterns, so you can choose one that best matches your canoe.

This versatile clamp-on umbrella offers UPF protection of 50+, and it claims to protect you and your pet from 99.95% of harmful UVA and UVB rays. It is adjustable, so you can bend it to any angle. The heavy-duty, durable cover will hold up under light to moderate rain as well. 

The Sport-Brella is easily folded down and packed away into a carrying bag, making it easy to transport from the car to the canoe and back again. It comes with a 1-year warranty. 

Another great sunshade for the canoe is the Sun Shade Canopy. This canopy is made specifically for canoes and kayaks. It comes in several different colors and patterns, most of which are different camouflage styles. 

The Sun Shade Canopy takes a little more work to set up than the Sport-Brella, but it comes with all the necessary hardware and easy-to-follow instructions. Durable waterproof fabric and aluminum rods give you about 8 square feet of sun protection and will also guard you moderately well from rain showers. 

Though it is lightweight and seems fairly prone when set up, the wind will not damage it if you set it up correctly and tie it down properly. This canopy also comes with a convenient carry bag and folds down quickly and easily for transportation and storage.

Canoeing with Your Dog

When deciding whether to take your dog canoeing, there are several factors you should keep in mind. These factors include breed, personality, age, and size.

One of the first questions is:

How do you keep a dog in a canoe?

How do you keep a dog in a canoe? You can keep your dog in the canoe by keeping them comfortable. The way to have an enjoyable canoe trip with your dog is to make sure your dog is comfortable, both physically and psychologically. To do that, accessories like a dog canoe bed and sunshade will make your dog more comfortable.

Best Dog Breeds for Canoeing

Some dog breeds love going for a swim and, thus, are more likely to enjoy a boating adventure. 

These breeds include:

  • Labradors
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Newfoundlands
  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Poodles
  • Border Collies
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
  • Australian Shepherds

If your dog isn’t one of these breeds, that doesn’t mean they will be afraid of the water, but these breeds are some of the most well-known water-lovers. Keep in mind, also, that not all water-loving dogs will be good for canoeing. And, not all dogs within a water-loving breed will actually enjoy being around water. All dogs are unique, like humans. This takes us to our next factor:

Your Dog’s Personality

Your dog’s unique personality will likely be the most important determining factor as to whether you can take him canoeing. If your dog is overly excitable, tends to chase fish or sticks floating in the water, or otherwise can’t be counted on to sit still, he may pose a safety hazard in a canoe.

For example, if you have a Newfie who loves to jump into the water anytime he’s near a pool or pond, chances are, he’ll capsize the canoe every time he jumps out and climbs back in. If your dog always tries to climb into your lap or interferes with your paddling, taking him canoeing may not be the best idea.

Generally, more movement leads to greater chances of throwing the canoe off-balance and causing you (or your dog) to fall in. Dogs who are more relaxed and know when to sit still will do better on a canoe trip.

Your Dog’s Age

If you have an older dog, especially if he’s a rescue, he may not be comfortable around the water. On the other hand, if you have a puppy or a very young dog, he may be more inclined to bounce around and make the boat unsteady. 

Whether your dog is old or young, it’s a good idea to introduce him to the canoe slowly before taking him out on the water. Allow him to sniff it, get inside, and explore the corners in a safe, familiar place, such as the backyard. If the initial exposure doesn’t frighten him, take him to a shallow pond and let him experience the canoe in calm waters. 

If the dog appears anxious or frightened at any point, don’t force him. Pay close attention to how he’s responding as you acclimate him to the canoe. Both old and young dogs may enjoy the adventure, but it’s important to familiarize them with the boat in a safe environment before taking them on any canoeing trips.

The Size of Your Dog

Some experts suggest the dog’s size should play a large role in whether you take him canoeing. Though they may love the water, larger breeds such as Newfoundlands and golden retrievers may not be the best type of dog to take canoeing. This is because larger dogs are more likely to capsize the canoe than smaller dogs. 

That said, it’s possible to take larger dogs out on the water if you keep a few things in mind before and during the trip. In the next section, we’ll quickly look at some safety tips for canoeing with larger dogs.

Canoeing with a Large Dog

As it turns out, many larger dogs enjoy a canoe trip just as much as smaller dogs do. It’s perfectly acceptable to go canoeing with a large dog. 

But isn’t it more dangerous to canoe with a bigger dog?

Here are ways to take your large dog on a canoe trip safely:

  • Make sure your dog is comfortable around the water. As discussed above, knowing your dog’s personality and comfort zone when it comes to canoes is extremely important. This is true, especially for larger dogs. If the dog becomes anxious while you’re out on a rough river, he may hurt himself trying to jump out or may tip the boat from moving around a lot.
  • Make sure your dog is wearing a life vest. Even if your dog loves the water and swims like an Olympian, it’s important to take standard safety precautions. Giving your dog a life vest will ensure that, even if an accident happens and causes him to panic, he’ll be able to float to safety.
  • Invest in a larger canoe. Heavy-duty metal or polyethylene canoes that hold two or more people will be more stable in the water even if your dog moves around quite a bit. Invest in one of these bigger, better canoes before taking your big dog out on the water.

Canoeing With Dogs – The Challenges

When I edited this article, I realized it was kind of sanitized. Literally. Here are some things that will happen with your dog in a canoe. You need to prepare for them.

  • Yep, some dogs will throw up – luckily you’re around a lot of water, so you can rinse down your canoe. But make sure you have something to get the chunks out
  • And your dog may even pee in your canoe – Once again, rinse…
  • Your big dog will capsize you and your canoe – Always wear your life vest when canoeing with your dog. It’s easier to help them, when you aren’t drowning yourself. And get them a life vest, especially if they aren’t good swimmers.
  • Dog toenails scratch expensive canoes – Put a mat down in the bottom of your canoe for them to stand on. Give their nails a good clipping and filing before you go canoeing.
  • You’ll paddle to a beach or island, let your dog out, and they’ll run off or refuse to get back into the canoe – One word-leash.

Best Canoes for Dogs Summary

Taking your dog canoeing can be a great adventure for both of you!

If your dog loves boating as you do, it’s perfectly fine to take him out in your canoe. Just remember to follow a few basic safety precautions, such as wearing life jackets and carrying emergency supplies. Allow your dog to familiarize himself with the canoe before taking him out in it. And if you have a larger dog, be sure to purchase a strong, heavy-duty canoe that will accommodate him.

Steve W

I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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