Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Cross-country canoeing with your dog

Today’s post comes from Jill Legault, information specialist for Quetico Provincial Park.

Summer means playtime for pups!

Dogs love the opportunity to be outdoors as much as you do. A little planning means that everyone in the family will be happy and safe in the field.

Where and when to start

We started by introducing our pup to the shore of a lake long before he ever got into a canoe. It is important to know how your dog will behave around water and if he is comfortable swimming.

dog swimming in life jacket

Our first time in a canoe, we opted for a short day trip from Lake Nym to Lake Batchewaung on a sunny, calm day. We had taken her to the shore of Lake Nym several times before, so it was familiar and she wasn’t stressed.

Our dog is not one to get motion sickness, but that may be something to consider. If your dog gets sick in the car, a windy day in a canoe can also be a challenge.

Canoeing with your pup

Make sure your dog hears the words “sit,” “down,” and “stay.” These commands will be crucial when traveling by canoe.

dog getting into the canoe

Getting into the canoe can be a challenge. We started with some gradual or easy access sandy landings, and worked our way up to rock hopping.

Getting out of the canoe can also be difficult. It is important that your dog “stays” until you land, even if he is excited to jump into the water or meet a campmate.

Give them enough time to feel comfortable settling into the canoe. Our dog loves to sleep with his back against something, but we also need his weight to be centered. We worked hard to get him to lie down in the middle of the canoe.

dog in canoeTrying different settings so our dog was happy and her weight was centered

For many dogs, expecting them to sit still for an hour is too much to ask. We have brought a bone to cross large lakes where it gets bored of sleeping.

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dog in canoe

If canoe camping doesn’t work out the first time, don’t give up! Try some easy day trips from an inland camp or base camp for a few nights. With patience and time, you will be rewarded with an experienced travel companion.

dog behavior

It is important to keep your dog under control in the field. Loose dogs can annoy and harass wildlife – a big no-no. However, you should NEVER leash a dog to a canoe; there is a risk of drowning.

The beginning and end of the trip can be very stressful for your canine friend. Pay special attention to your dog’s comfort level in these times and moments of transition.

dog in car

My dad still has the scars on his knees from when he was a (skinny) kid when he was asked to carry someone’s dog while they went to put their canoe in the water.

As he remembers, the “giant” boxer thought he was being left behind and, since my dad couldn’t let go, he dragged him along the cement pier.

Take your time during these transitions. Indoor parking lots can be busy and noisy, with many trailers backing up and large summer camping groups.

First aid for dogs

Before you head out, talk to your local veterinarian. We talk to our loved ones about what to bring with us, medications and dosage in case of emergency (allergic reactions, vomiting, pain, fever, etc.) and what is appropriate for our area.

For example, if there is Lyme disease in your area, there are several preventive measures to choose from, including carrying a tick remover.

Some things you may want to consider adding to your regular human first aid kit include self-adhesive veterinary wrap, baby-sized socks for cut or split paws, and your veterinarian’s phone number.

Bring needle-nose pliers and side cutters if you’re fishing, in case your dog gets hooked.

dogs and fishing

What’s not so fun and enticing about a shiny dangling lure?

The countryside is not a place to learn difficult lessons. If you plan to fish, be sure to take your dog fishing before heading out into the wild.

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Dog in canoe while person fishing.

Keep all your gear in a closed box in the canoe. In many parks, like Quetico, barbless hooks are required. Regardless of where you are fishing, until your dog is a reliable fishing companion, it is a good preventive measure to pinch the barbs to make the hooks easier to slide.

If you cast from the shore, your dog needs to know when to “stay.” This is for his own safety (a tug on the leash during a cast could end badly for you or your pup), but he doesn’t want his dinner to be scared away either! Never trust others to watch your dog while he throws.

Lastly, while filleting a fish, make sure your dog stays away. It is a bad idea to let your dog eat raw fish because of the bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Some fish also contain parasites that can be fatal to your pup.

dog equipment

Using a canine personal flotation device depends on your dog’s comfort level, his ability to swim, and where you are going.

At the end of the day, you want your dog to be safe. I recommend a puppy life jacket, especially for large lakes and anywhere with running water.

Person with dog in PFD

Even a fabulous swimmer can panic if he suddenly capsizes in the middle of a lake.

Our dog also looks like a bear, and our fellow carriers thanked us for the PFD so they could quickly identify her.

Speaking of bears, we put a bear bell around his neck. Whether camping or transporting, we don’t want our pup to scare a bear.

Our dog is black, so a bright light at night has been a big help in following her.

Our vet recommended we bring all camping gear for his first year. However, a fit, adult dog can carry up to a third of his weight in gear. They can help you with transportation, as long as the saddlebag fits correctly.

dog with two people in canoeMaking new friends

Do not forget!

You need to clean up after your furry friend. There’s nothing worse than pitching your tent on dog poop that someone else has left behind. Be a responsible pet owner.