Canoeing With Your Dog

Canoeing With Your Dog

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Dogs can be great to bring on canoe trips, even whitewater ones. I’ve brought my dog on the demanding Dog River, and even on a fly-in wilderness trip! Dogs obviously love the opportunity to run around in the woods and be outdoors just like you do! But there are several practical reasons to bringing your pooch along too. For one, it means you can go on more trips and not worry about finding a sitter. Dogs can also warn you of approaching bears, and even scare them off which can be a real asset.
Merlin and I pose in a kettle hole along the Dog River, northern Ontario. Photo: Ted Baird
Merlin and I pose in a kettle hole along the Dog River, northern Ontario. Photo: Ted Baird
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you hit the water with your dog:
• Doggy paddling–  First off, make sure your dog is a good swimmer, (most are). I’ve seen my dog swim down a class 4, he preformed and impressive front ferry and eddied-out at the base of a ledge with the perfection of a professional kayaker.
• Doggy PFD? – A lot of people say putting a life jacket on your dog is important. I would not advise against it, and it’s a must for dogs that aren’t good swimmers. That being said, ask any whitewater rafting guide if they’ve been in a position where they’ve had to pull off their PFD while trapped in a keeper and they’ll say yes. If you’re in a keeper, you need to swim down and enter current into that will pushes down river to escape. Dogs are not able to undue their own lifejackets, so it is possible that the extra safety precaution could be more harm than good.
My dog Buck relaxes in the canoe as I  fish in Temagami. Photo: Tori Farquharson
My dog Buck relaxes in the canoe as I fish in Temagami. Photo: Tori Farquharson
Commands – Tech your dogs the following commands as you go, but don’t start off with an overly demanding whitewater river. Your first couple trips may be a bit eventful but if you don’t throw yourself, and your dog, in there, your pup is never going to learn.
 “In the boat” and “out of the boat” (Arguably the most important of all).
– “Front of the boat”, and “back of the boat”.
 “Other side”, this is used when the dog is lying in a position that is causing the boat to be unbalanced.
 Obviously “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down” are key too, but most dogs already know these ones.
• Rapids – I run class 1 & 2 rapids with my dog standing in the canoe or on the spray deck, and I sometimes run short class threes with him on the deck. I’ve never had a dog fall off. And, my old dog even jumped from one side of the boat to the other, saving a dump! For longer rapids, let you dog out and let him run along the bank, meeting you at the end. This can take some training, and it helps if you walk the trail with your dog right to the to show them where you’ll pick them up. It’s amazing how fast they’ll figure it out, and often times, my dog is waiting at the end of the trail before we get there, How does he know where we’ll end up?
• Doggy backpack – One of the draw backs is having to carry their food. Why not let them carry it? For portages, a specially made “doggy backpack” is a good thing to bring. Your dog can help carry his own food and a few other things. Make sure the stuff inside it is waterproofed if it needs to be, and don’t leave it on your dog when he’s in the canoe.
Bugs – Dogs get bothered buy bugs too. After bringing a Thermacell

Buck always seems to wind up next to the Thermacell. Photo: Tori Farquharson
Buck lies next to the Thermacell. Photo: Tori Farquharson

with me on one of my trips, I noticed my dog always ended up beside it! Also available are non-toxic bug repellent sprays specially made for dogs.

Buck awaits his float plane ride for our charter into the East Natashquan River. Photo: JIm Baird
Buck awaits his float plane ride for our charter into the East Natashquan River. Photo: Jim Baird

 

 

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Jim Baird is an Adventurer, videographer, writer, photographer, and talent. His previous rolls include extensive work with a map company as well as guiding and prospecting. Jim has shot video for Cineflix productions, BBC Worldwide, 13 Minds, and The Weather Network US. He's produced video series such as “The Kesagami River Solo” and “Lessons From The Trail with Jim Baird”. Jim’s content has also appeared in print for several publications that include Explore, Canoeroots, Real Fishing, Ontario Out of Doors, Outdoor Canada, Canoe & Kayak, and Field & Stream magazines. Jim is an expert woodsman, white-water canoeist, survivalist, and a bold wilderness navigator. His expedition experience includes a solo trip down the canoe eating rapids of the Kesagami and then along the tempestuous James Bay coat, an 800-mile snowmobile expedition across the Northwest Passage, 300miles above the Arctic Circle. A month long descent of the Northwest Territories Kuujjua River in the Arctic Archipelago, followed by 120-kilometers of paddling on the Arctic Ocean. He's also completed a 33-day canoe expedition via four rivers including the Adlatok in northern Quebec and Labrador.

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