Kayaking is a fun way to bond with water-loving dogs. Before you embark on a kayaking adventure with your fuzzball pal, however, you’ll need a Fido-friendly kayak (and life jackets!).
To help in our search for the best kayaks for dogs we spoke with Joe Nutkins, Dog Training Instructor & Co Director at Dog Training for Essex & Suffolk, who recommended “sit-on-top” style kayaks for use with your pet. Rather than an enclosed cockpit, sit-on-top kayaks have a broad seating area that sits more atop of the kayak.
This makes it much easier for you and your dog to get clear of the kayak if it were to capsize,” Nutkins told The Spruce Pets. The expanded surface area also allows for more flexible seating, and the space for your dog to readjust their position.
Our favorite kayak for dogs is the Driftsun Teton 120 Hard Shell Recreational Tandem Kayak, which is roomy, with adjustable seating and plenty of storage. Plus, with a 500-pound capacity, it can easily accommodate dogs of any size.
Driftsun Teton 120 Hard Shell Recreational Tandem Kayak
Fits two adults and one child or dog
Sit-on-top style kayak
500 pound weight capacity
4 rod holders and 2 mounting points for accessorizing
4 carry handles
Comes with seats and paddles
12-foot design isn’t very maneuverable
With a 500 pound weight capacity, this kayak can accommodate at least one person plus a pup of any size, and possibly even two humans (or two pups!). Ideal for virtually any size of dog, this kayak is made from a single piece of rotomolded, UV-resistant, high density polyethylene, making it completely claw and puncture resistant. It also comes with two EVA foam-padded seats and paddles, so you’re ready to head out on the water right away.
Despite its 12-foot length, the Driftsun Teton 120 weighs only 72 pounds, which is made easier to lug around thanks to four fixed carrying handles. It’s not the most compact or maneuverable pick, but if you want to spend a full day on the water with a paddling partner, a large dog, and all of your gear, then the Teton 120 is ready to accommodate. In addition to its four rod holders for fishing, the Teton 120 is loaded down with attachment points for Scotty Accessories, and storage space, including watertight storage hatches, bungee storage, and even built-in cup holders.
Price at time of publish: $1,499
Perception Tribe 9.5 Kayak
Numerous color options
Large rear storage
Only accommodates one person
If you plan on taking numerous items, or simply stashing away some treats for the trip (both for you and your pup!) consider this storage-rich plastic kayak, which features a large rear storage area, complete with tie downs which hold items in place in windier conditions. This kayak is made from super-sturdy, puncture-proof plastic, too, making it a durable option for many weather conditions and scenarios.
The seat portion for you is supportive and super-comfortable. Unlike many kayak seats, this one has a tall back, which makes it feel like sitting in a real chair.
We’d be remiss not to mention the funky, groovy color options that this kayak comes in, including a meld of turquoise and blue, or a fiery orange-and-red combination. Speaking of capacity, this one is best for single human and single dog capacity. There’s only one human seat, and the relatively small stature means it’s perfect for one dog and one person.
Price at time of publish: $700
Sea Eagle 300X Explorer Inflatable Kayak
Lightweight and easy to carry
Inflates in just 5 minutes
1000 denier construction
Rated for rough waters
Separate inflatable chambers
Comes with carrying bag
Includes removable center fin
Separate drop stitch floor
Only comes with hand pump
Not a lot of internal space
While “inflatable” and dog claws don’t seem like a great match, the ultra durable Sea Eagle 300X Explorer is one inflatable kayak that should be able to endure your dog’s paws. Constructed from 1000 denier reinforced PVC, the Explorer inflatable kayak is rated for Class IV whitewater rapids (a rating out of 6, indicating rough rapids for an advanced skill set) and is made with overlapping, reinforced seams. You might still want to trim your dog’s nails beforehand, but the relatively small interior of this Sea Eagle kayak makes it most appropriate for small and medium dog breeds anyway (while 9 feet long, the inflated borders take up a lot of the usable space).
Like most inflatable kayaks, the Sea Eagle 300X isn’t as maneuverable as hard-shell versions, though the inclusion of a separate inflatable, high-pressure, drop stitch floor adds some much-needed rigidity and structure. The floor is one of three separate inflatable chambers, which means that even if you somehow manage to puncture one part of the kayak, there are additional chambers to support you in the water, including separate inflatable chambers on the port and starboard side.
Since it’s designed for rough water, the Sea Eagle 300X also includes 16 drain valves, which makes it easy to let splashed water out. It’s also got a removable fin that’s useful for flat water, providing a keel that makes for smoother straightaway steering.
Price at time of publish: $764
Best Set for Multiple Kayaks
Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle
May not be best for super-fast paddling
If you have more than one pup, and more than one person who’d like to join on your kayaking trip, consider bagging a set of two matching kayaks. In addition to simply looking adorable in all their matchy-matchy splendor, these kayaks are priced at a bargain when you buy them in a set of two, which saves you money. ‘
These kayaks are simple and relatively accommodating for most dog sizes, though it is worth noting that they’re slightly smaller, lengthwise, than som either options. This can be a good thing, though, too: If you have a mid to large-sized SUV, these kayaks should be able to fit, with a bit of effort, in your car.
Made from hardshell, UV-resistant plastic, these kayaks are super-durable. Each boat also comes with a set of aluminum oars. Additionally, these kayaks feature heavy-duty bands at the back for keeping all your additional supplies safe and secure while you cruise. The seats feature high backs, which can provide extra comfort and support good posture while you’re out on the water for a few hours.
Price at time of publish: $649 (for two kayaks)
Our top pick is the Driftsun Teton 120 Hard Shell Recreational Tandem Kayak for its 550 pound weight capacity, which can hold multiple humans and a dog or two.
What To Look For
When shopping for a kayak for you and your dog, it’s important to consider size as it pertains to the boat itself, as well as your pup.
“If there are two owners and one dog, you’ll most likely need a three-seater kayak,” Nutkins told The Spruce Pets. Open face kayaks often have movable or removable seats, which allow you to customize the space to provide an area for your dog.
“If your dog is light enough, you might be able to put them in your lap,” Nutkins said, but advised picking a kayak with enough space for your dog to both safely sit or lie down. While some kayaks have storage compartments in the front and back, look instead for models that have unstructured space that can be repurposed for your dog.
Inflatable vs. Hard shell
Kayaks are typically made of a super-durable, reinforced waterproof material. Make sure to double-check that the material is puncture-proof, however, to avoid any accidental tears from your pup’s nails!
One benefit of an inflatable kayak is its potential to create more space. According to Nutkins, “In inflatable kayaks, seats are often removable, so you can feel free to remove the extra seat entirely.” This can be handy for multi-dog excursions. Plus, they can be easier to transport. “Inflatable kayaks often come with straps so you can carry on your back and keep your hands free.”
Hard shell kayaks—particularly the sit on top style, which allows your more flexible space to move around in—are preferable for most kayak outings with your dog. Hard-shell plastic kayaks are typically more durable than inflatable kayaks. Many are also UV resistant, so they protect from color fading over the years. While solid kayaks are great for roof racks on the top of your car, they could be harder to carry while navigating with your dog, Nutkins advises.
In addition to the two main types of kayaks (i.e. sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks), kayaks come in many different shapes within these two types. Some kayaks feature a rounded front, while others taper much more significantly. Shape is an important consideration in terms of comfort for your dog.
Nutkins notes that plastic kayaks can be narrower than inflatable kayaks, which can be roomier and more comfortable for dogs. That said, for smaller dogs, the solid, covered tip on a hard plastic kayak (vs. the open end on an inflatable kayak) may feel safe and cozy for smaller dogs.
How do you train your dog to ride in a kayak?
Safety is the most important factor. To ensure a safe ride with your dog, Nutkins advises “Consider your dog’s size, weight, ability to climb or scramble up out of water.” Ask yourself whether your pup is more likely to follow your guidance, or to panic, if the boat suddenly capsizes, she says. For all dogs, but especially those who aren’t the most adept swimmers, a life jacket is a must.
Why Trust The Spruce
Sophie Wirt is a pet enthusiast and freelance writer for The Spruce Pets. She has two cats, and a soft spot for dogs, too. For this article, she consulted Joe Nutkins, Dog Training Instructor & Co Director at Dog Training for Essex & Suffolk. Nutkins regularly kayaks with her own dog.