BWCA Canoeing with my dog Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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distinguished member (158)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/12/2020 08:41PM  
Tonight, I took my lab pup out on the water for the first time. (About 50 pounds at 7 months.) I used a 16 foot Penobscot, which I would classify as lively. We have worked on the canoe/sit/lay on and off for months in my yard.

We showed up at our local resorvoir for an evening paddle. We go there regularly for our two mile walks and that is what she wanted to do. The water was flat as glass when we started off.

I added about 100 pounds of hitch hikers from shore to help stablize and help calm her down. I took a British slip lead and tied it to the thwarts and onto her collar. She did not like the initial get-in with the side-to-side wobble. (Very glad on the slip lead.) After about a 100 yards, she calmed down a bit, but would not lay for anything. It was like driving in the truck, she wanted to watch her surroundings. The one thing that really helped was we let her sit on the 4-wheeler on the seat in between our legs. When she would move around, she would feel for the inside of my thigh and I would adjust my stroke to the opposite side she would lean.

What I found that actually surprised me was that my paddle stroke changed. I use a longer paddle and found that my lower shaft hand grasp is about 5 to 6 inches higher so I could shorten my paddle some. You really want to focus on the paddle entering the water parallel to the sides of the canoe and follow through, keeping it tight to the gunwale. If you lazy paddle, you get more side-to-side wobble, resulting in a more nervous dog.

What I didn't expect was, when we passed walkers, she loved watching the young girls babble, keeping a eye on them always. At the end, we passed a couple middle aged women, one that was built and dressed in something my wife would wear. That really made her want to get out. She was convinced that was her mom. I had to finish up the loop keeping pace with them or we were going to get wet.

I don't believe this was the best canoe for the job. Something a bit wider and flatter would have been better. Maybe giving her a chew bone would entice her to lay down. Bucket seats would have been more stable, but harder to handle the dog than suspended. I was constantly putting preassure on her shoulder, then counter bracing with my legs in a bit of a figure 4, combined with when and where and how hard I paddled.

My pup is still scared of swimming and that was my advantage and we need to pick up a life jacket for her. She likes to splash, just not swim. I'm still on the fence on bringing her up this summer, but we survived and she is a work in progress and a far way from Maddie the Goose on YouTube. I guess keep the water small and time paddling realistic. One hour was pushing her patience.

When we made it home tonight, I unloaded our canoe and laid it down in the yard. I flipped it up and asked her to get in, and she willingly did, then she laid down on the floor. I will take this as a win. Have a good paddle, friends.

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distinguished member(800)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/13/2020 07:13AM  
Our baby doesn't like to lay down either, except as she skooches under the thwart. There is just too much to see. The hardest part is getting her to sit in the center, not to one side or the other (whichever side is closer to the flying lures). Sitting between your legs is one thing, but when she's in the middle of the canoe it's a different story .

We also taught our lab to "load up" on command, and she waits until we tell her it's "ok" to unload. At 73 lbs I don't want her jumping in when I'm not ready. And she won't jump into 2 feet of muck because she thinks it's the shore. Yes, she was pretty dirty after that learning experience ! Dogs always keep things interesting.

distinguished member (165)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/13/2020 08:11AM  
My dog, a black lab/border collie mix, took a while to get used to the canoe also. I would keep taking her out and suspect she will get used to it.

I don't think tying the dog to a thwart is a good idea in the even of an upset.
distinguished member (382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/13/2020 08:48AM  
The one extra command that I taught my canoe dogs is "settle down". I'd just hold them firmly by the collar and give a little shake and they learned it quickly. It's mostly just to let them know that they aren't supposed to run around and do anything they want in a canoe.

In my experience it can be really helpful to put something like a rubber backed bath mat in the boat to give them solid footing and their own spot.

Penobscot 16s are a bit wiggly, but it's a tandem so you should be fine with practice.

My last canoe dog was a black lab. Several times she jumped into an empty floating solo canoe without tipping it at all. I put the canoe in the water, turned around to get my pack and by the time I turned around again she was already in the boat. She could also jump(like a cat) from one canoe to another to visit other paddlers.
07/13/2020 10:56AM  
I suppose if the dog is afraid of water getting comfortable in a canoe will be difficult. I have the opposite problem, my dog wants to swim, it been a trial but he will now stay in the canoe. I’ve owned a Penobscot, my opinion but I consider it a very stable canoe. Agree with earlier, put a piece of foam down, royalex is really slippery. No way an uncomfortable dog will feel safe if they can’t get a grip on the surface.

distinguished member(1577)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/13/2020 12:03PM  
We started with our lab in the yard with the canoe. We set it down in the grass and let her get used to it. Smelling, listening, etc. Then we sat in it in the yard with some treats and encouraged her with specific commands like "jump in" and "get out". It took 15-30min or so a few times over a two week period but she warmed up to it very well. Then we put it in shallow water and repeated the commands and treats. Finally, we went for short paddles on the local lake. We lay down a cut piece of a yoga mat that is her place. We've done numerous trips to the BW with her and she does great!

07/13/2020 12:42PM  
Congrats on your first dog paddle! For what it's worth, both of my labs practiced in the yard then had some reservations when the boat was on the water, but both got over it quickly enough and now love the boat. I've also found that both my dogs are very curious and want to sit up and get their noses working when we are fairly close to shore, but somewhere around 75-100 yards out they lose interest in it and will lay down. Hopefully yours will start doing that as she gets use to this canoeing thing.

I used to put rocks in the bow when fishing to help with balance, but got nervous in case of tipping; if the boat goes upside down the rocks will come out, but if just half way and back it will be full of water and rocks. Not sure how many it would take to sink a canoe, but until I do I'll put my food barrel or a dry bag filled with water up there instead.

Both my dogs prefer the firm feel of kevlar under them instead of foam, so long as there is no/little water under them. I carry a masonry sponge (about a buck at Home Depto) to help keep water and mud out.

Good luck on your next lesson.
07/13/2020 02:27PM  
FWIW usually canoes do not fully capsize. They partially fill with water then right themselves. Most canoes have just enough flotation to keep them afloat when filled with water. It does not take much to sink them!
07/13/2020 02:39PM  
Dog life Jacket, yoga mat to stand on, and treats. Practice practice practice. We never forced our dog to get in the canoe. We practiced a lot in the back yard with treats and encouragement to get her in. The English lead worked well for us. Our dog seems more comfortable with it on when trying new things. But I would not tie the dog in either. Our dog took a while to lay down. They're very curious animals and what to check out everything.
07/13/2020 03:55PM  
Love the idea of "yard practice" with the dogs--we never thought of that before hitting local lakes with our dogs. They did well on afternoon paddling excursions, but I'm not sure they would have been good companions on a 10-day trip.


distinguished member (173)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/13/2020 05:33PM  
Don't despair. My old Chesapeake was not good in a canoe initially. I mean really not good - for the 1st almost 2 years. Then we took her on our 1st trip, May 1st (probably not too smart, given water temps). Day one she whined quite a bit, I think bec. of all the great smells coming across the water. There after she became a champion BWCA canoe - camper, and LOVED it. If she saw the packs come out, she'd go sit by the truck and not budge. "Canoeing" was one of her favorite words! She learned to not enter or exit the canoe until told. She stayed calm in terrible conditions. She was quiet, and never bothered anyone on portages, just marched on ahead to the next lake. I'm glad I kept at it with her, because we had 13 years of canoe camping together! Good luck!
member (48)member
07/13/2020 07:49PM  
Congrats on the win, Sounds like your off to a great start!

My dog (3yo) was recently on her 5th canoe trip in the bwcaw, and it was her best!

She was real jumpy in her earlier canoe ventures, always wanted to be right up on the bow even in tandem. We put her is the middle and it was back and forth every 5 seconds trying to look straight ahead of us. The bow paddler did not appreciate that.

Now when we go, she knows we are camping. She even will lay down on a pack and look from there or nap which is a blessing!
distinguished member(650)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/14/2020 11:19AM  
printing: "She was real jumpy in her earlier canoe ventures, always wanted to be right up on the bow even in tandem. We put her is the middle and it was back and forth every 5 seconds trying to look straight ahead of us. The bow paddler did not appreciate that. "

My dog does the same thing. Either she does this or stands on the front seat with her front paws on the bow. Reminds me of the girl in the movie, Titanic! LOL

07/14/2020 09:17PM  
My girl settled down from the get go at 1-1/2 years old. People don't think she's a border collie because of how mellow she is. She will turn into a normal collie if you show her a ball or frisbee.

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