There are so many ways to enjoy life with our dogs. We can take them with us when we go camping, hiking, swimming, playing Frisbee in the park or walking around the block.
While I'm still dreaming about walking on an ocean beach with my dog, I've decided to try something a little closer to home. Kasey, my dog, and I are going to try K-9 kayaking. I've paddled in a kayak by myself, so it's time to include Kasey on a lake kayaking outing.
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Lonnie Olson, director of Dog Scouts of America, (www.dogscouts.com) offers suggestions and directions to make K-9 kayaking a safe and fun activity for everyone. Olson offers training information and goal-oriented checkoff sheets for this activity at the Dog Scouts website.
Dog Scouts of America is a nonprofit organization of people dedicated to enriching their lives and the lives of others with dogs. Olson notes that before setting out on your kayaking adventure, you must have some excellent training for your dog. You need to keep your dog safe and under control at all times.
Olson reports there are several types of kayaks you can use when considering this water activity. There are sit-on-top and sit-inside designs, tandem kayaks for two people, and solo, single-seat kayaks. Consider the size of your dog and your preference for seating when choosing your kayak.
The first consideration in beginning this activity is teaching your dog how to get in and out of a boat from the shore, a dock and the water. Hold the kayak still so the dog won't rock it too much when he jumps into it. Then ask for an immediate sit. Just like in all boating activities even for people, dogs need to learn there is no goofing around on a boat.
No matter how excited they are, dogs need to sit and obey the rules. And dogs don't jump out or off the boat until they are released -- given a command word like "off."
Once your dog is comfortable getting in and sitting in the boat, he needs to learn to get in the boat on cue. Require the dog to "stay" in the boat by himself by going back to shore and pretending to pick up something you left behind.
Obedience training is important here. Don't expect your dog to "stay" in a boat if you haven't taught him the command on dry land first.
The next goal to accomplish in K-9 kayaking is launching the kayak. While your dog is on a "stay" in the boat, slowly push it out. You can get into the boat as you push it out or you can hang onto the boat while the boat floats out with the dog in it.
Don't head out for a day on the water the first time you go out with your dog. Go a short distance at first. Your dog needs to get used to the sound of the oars bumping the sides of the boat and the paddles dripping water on him.
Gradually increase the time you spend paddling or rowing around, allowing your dog to learn "stay" in a variety of new contexts. As he shows you he understands "stay" by sitting in the boat quietly, you can use other words he knows to help him feel comfortable in the boat.
He can't sit motionless in the boat all of the time, so you can tell him to "settle" (relax and lie down) or whatever else it's OK for him to do in the boat.
To avoid trouble while on the kayak, you have already taught your dog the obedience command "leave it" on dry land first. Now you can use this command to pay attention to you, and to keep your dog from going after animals or other interesting objects on the shore and capsizing your kayak or canoe.
Olson suggests taking along several pieces of equipment when going on a lazy river trip. The equipment includes a leash, which is never tied to the kayak but rather a waist leash snapped to you and onto the dog only when the dog is swimming near the kayak or onshore; a harness; dog life jacket; doggy snacks and water; sunscreen; first aid kit; and poop bags.
Wish Kasey and me luck. I have a feeling it's going to be a good thing we both like being in the water.
Ozzie: Male Corgi mix about 5 years old and weighing about 13 pounds.
Jewel: Female boxer mix about 3 years old and weighing about 52 pounds.
• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.