May brings perfect temperatures to the Lowcountry and everyone is looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors with their friends and loved ones. This spring, be sure to include your furry, four-legged friends in your outdoor recreation.
Kayaking and paddle boarding with dogs can be great fun for humans and canines alike! From my experience, a bit of planning goes a long way in making sure the experience is enjoyable.
The most important factor in paddling with your dog is knowing your dog.
Be sure your dog knows how to swim before heading out.
If your dog is a bit skittish around water or not a great swimmer, a canine lifejacket is an essential piece of equipment in the beginning. Not only does it help your dog float if he falls in the water, the jacket offers handles to quickly pull him back in the boat. In addition, the embrace of the jacket comforts fearful canines.
Small breeds are generally a bit easier to take out paddling because their weight is less likely to disrupt your boat or board. For kayaking, a recreational-style single kayak with a large open cockpit works well. Your dog can sit between your legs or on your lap. For larger dogs, you will need a double kayak—with Fido riding up front. For paddle boarding, just be sure your board has enough buoyancy to support the extra weight.
Until your dog gets comfortable out on the water, he may try and jump out of the boat or board and swim to solid ground. It’s important while acclimatizing him that you do so in an area where he can safely swim to land.
Around here, the salt marshes are full of grass and oysters that can seriously injure your pup. A lake or pool is a much better place to get started. You also want to have a leash to correct this behavior, if it starts. Keep a leash on the dog the first couple of times out on the water, so you can correct the flight response as it happens. Do not, however, pull on the leash when your dog swims, as it could snag on something.
It’s a good idea to put a float on your leash, so as not to lose it.
I like to make a loop of 15 wine corks and attach it to the handle. Also be sure to carry fresh water to prevent your dog from drinking salt water. If your dog is treat-trained, bring those to reward calm behaviors on the boat or board. Sometimes, no amount of training and practice will make a dog enjoy paddling. In this case, neither of you will have a very good time. Find another activity to do together like running on the beach, walking in the woods or playing in the park.
This spring, give paddling with your pooch a try! Bring your dog and explore all the dog friendly spots on Hilton Head. You just may discover a great bonding activity that you both love. At Outside Hilton Head, dogs are allowed on both hourly and daily kayak and paddle board rentals.
Written by Jessie Renew
Outside Hilton Head has provided personalized adventures for all ages for 30 years, from kayak, fishing, nature and dolphin tours to kids’ camps, history excursions, family outings and stand-up paddle boarding. Don’t miss the guided full moon kayak tour, which explores the salt marsh. For more information, call 843-686-6996 or go to www.outsidehiltonhead.com.