Taking your dog with you when you go kayaking can be a great day that is full of fun for the both of you, but it’s important to keep your dog safe and protected to prevent a fun day from turning into a tragic one. Equipping yourself with a dog PFD will keep your companion safe and allow you both to enjoy the day.
Can’t All Dogs Swim?
Many people believe that all dogs are capable of swimming, but this is not always the case. Some dog breeds are simply not equipped to swim, or if they can, they’re not very good at it. Dogs such as Greyhounds and Whippets that have low body fat aren’t very buoyant and tend to struggle in the water when attempting to swim. It’s also difficult for them to regulate their body temperature in the water, which can lead to a chill that can make them sluggish and affect their mobility. This is also true for toy breeds such as Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas. Some small breeds may actually enjoy the water, but they tire quickly and struggle with the regulation of their body temperature.
Your dog’s body structure can also have an impact on how well they can swim. Dogs that have low hindquarters and barrel chests typically aren’t very good swimmers and have a tendency to sink faster than they can paddle. This includes Boxers, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Bulldogs. Dogs with short noses such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Pekinese also don’t swim very well due to their need to keep their head tilted up in order to keep their mouth and nose above water.
Other dogs may simply not enjoy swimming. Even breeds that are known for their water-loving nature have the occasional individual who is opposed to taking a swim. You can’t always anticipate a dog’s reaction based strictly on her breed. It’s good to keep that in mind when considering your dog as a kayaking companion. A dog who doesn’t care for swimming can still potentially be included in your kayaking adventures, just don’t expect her to be willing to jump into the water for a dip.
While most dogs love going out with their people, it’s important to remember that not all dogs are suited for kayaking and other water sports. If your dog is not a strong swimmer due to body structure or if she has health issues such as epilepsy or cardiac disease, it might be better to play fetch on the shore rather than risk her health and well-being. If you’re not sure if kayaking is a suitable activity for your dog, take the time to check in with your veterinarian before heading for the water with your dog.
Why You Should Have A Dog PFD…
There are numerous reasons why your dog should wear a PFD. Even if your dog lives for the water and is a pro swimmer, there’s always the potential for an accident or other issue that could interfere with your dog’s ability to swim to safety.
When taking your dog kayaking, there is also the possibility that the kayak could overturn or something could spook your dog, landing her in the water. If the water is rough or your dog panics, she might have a difficult time staying afloat. Canine floatation devices come in a variety of bright colors, so not only will a PFD keep your dog afloat, it will also help you to spot your dog so that you can assist her out of the water. Most PFDs even come with a handle to make it easier to get your dog back onto your kayak or boat should they go overboard.
It’s also important to remember that most dogs today live a relatively sedentary life. A quick lap around the pool isn’t the same as swimming against river currents or across a large lake. Even younger dogs can grow tired, making it more difficult to swim and stay afloat and older dogs or those recovering from an injury or illness may find it even more difficult to swim efficiently. Regardless of the age and health of your dog, chances are good that she will be tired after an active day of kayaking, which can interfere with her ability to swim when it’s time to head back.
What to Look for In a Personal Floatation Device for Your Dog
When choosing a PFD for your dog, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider when making your selection in order to get a device that is well-suited to both you and your pet. Here’s what you should look for when shopping for your pup’s gear:
- Colors: Pick a PFD with bright colors that will stand out in the water both during the day and after the sun sets. Orange, yellow, bright blue, bright pink and bright green are all good choices and will make your pet easier to spot. Try to stay away from camouflage or muted colors that are more likely to blend in with your pet’s surroundings.
- Reflective Patches: For even better visibility, pick a PFD with reflective strips or patches. This is especially helpful if you’re planning on being out after dark.
- Leash Ring: Having a place to hook a leash on your dog’s floatation device will give you better control over your pet. If your dog goes into the water and you find yourself struggling to lift her back up, a leash hooked onto her vest can also help to keep her nearby so that you can get assistance or make your way to shore.
- Lift Handles: Make sure that the PFD you pick has one or more lift handles to assist you in lifting your dog out of the water. These handles are normally located on the top of the vest and should be durable enough to lift your dog completely out of the water and into a boat or kayak.
- Chest/Chin Pad: A chest/chin pad is a floatation pad located on the vest underneath your dog’s chin. This will help keep your dog’s head above water, even if she is tired or otherwise incapacitated.
- Buckles, Velcro, and Straps: Try to purchase a vest that is worn like a jacket and has Velcro to fasten the neck and belly areas along with easy-release buckles to hold the vest securely in place.
- Abdominal Floatation Pad: You want the floatation material of your dog’s PFD to be located mostly on the back and sides to help keep her in a balanced position that will allow for easy paddling. However, it’s not a bad idea to purchase a vest with additional floatation material along the belly. This can be especially helpful if your dog has a tendency to sink when in the water without a PFD or has other issues that make swimming a challenge. Just make sure that your pup doesn’t tend to be flipped over in the water due to the additional padding under the belly.
- Fit: You want your dog’s PFD to fit snugly so that she can’t easily get out of it, but not so tight that she doesn’t have a full range of motion. Your dog should be able to do all of the things that she normally would including walking, running, sleeping, relieving herself, and of course – swimming. Purchase a vest that isn’t overly bulky or equipped with decorative pieces that could potentially snag on debris in the water. If at all possible, take your dog to a local pet store so that you can fit her with a vest rather than relying on mail-order sizing measurements. Once you have purchased a device for your dog, have her wear it around the house for awhile before taking her kayaking to give her the chance to get used to it. Finally, whenever your dog is wearing her floatation device, periodically check her for signs of skin irritation to make sure that there are no areas that are being irritated by friction from the vest.
Providing your dog with a personal floatation device is an easy, inexpensive way to ensure the safety of your beloved companion. An accident can happen in just a few seconds, but a good PFD will help to keep your dog afloat until you can rescue her.
Photo credit: Rusty Clark via Flickr CC2.0