We got a kayak last week. And, wanting to include A.J. in our outdoor activities, we got a three-person kayak to make sure we had plenty of room for him to ride along. The only concern we had was – A.J.
A.J. loves water. He gets near water and all he wants to do is swim out and retrieve something. We’ve had some pretty serious training sessions at the shoreline because he gets so excited that his brain doesn’t always work very well. We weren’t sure how this excitement would mesh with sitting in a kayak.
We bought him a life jacket. (Safety first!) I put the life jacket on him at home and let him wear it around the house to get used to it. The kayak we bought is inflatable, so before we took it out we inflated it at home to make sure everything was working right and we knew what we were doing. After it was inflated I sat down inside and called A.J. in to join me. We spent some time sitting in the kayak, rocking it back and forth, and getting in and out. We bounced a tennis ball to get him excited, and told him he had to stay in the boat until I told him he could get out. We did everything we could to prepare without being in the water.
We’d decided for our first outing that we’d launch from a park alongside a very lazy river. We got up early in the morning; we wanted to get out before the park got crowded. We found the perfect spot to set up, inflate the kayak, and put it in the water.
As we were getting ready, I kept A.J. on the leash. He was doing really well. He was excited, but he was behaving well and being very patient while we inflated the kayak and got organized. I put A.J.’s life jacket on him, we got the kayak into the water, and I let A.J. off the leash. He immediately jumped into the water and started swimming after whatever he could see floating on the water.
We called A.J. back to shore and I got into the kayak while Greg held it close to shore. I called A.J. over to the kayak and he jumped right in.
Then he jumped right out.
I got him to jump in again just as another dog jumped into the water nearby chasing something its owner had thrown in. A.J. started crying. We tried moving the kayak and distracting him, but I finally told him he could go, and he jumped back into the water and started swimming over to where the other dog was.
Greg stayed on shore while I pushed off and paddled out into the river, seeing if A.J. would want to come with me if I started moving away. We called him back and he swam to shore, and immediately started running around looking for me. I was about 20 feet from shore, and when I called to him and he realized where I was he ran down, leapt into the water, and swam to me.
Now for the tricky part – can we get A.J. into the kayak once we’re away from shore? The answer is: No. He swam to the boat, I grabbed the handle on top of his life jacket, and as I pulled he scrambled at the side. It didn’t work.
A.J. quickly gave up, and with me still holding onto his jacket he simply turned around and pulled me to shore.
We tried a few other things. I thought that if we could get him into the boat from the water, he could just swim along with us until he wanted a break, then we’d haul him in. Greg got in the kayak to see if he could get A.J. in, but that didn’t work either. We wound up just paddling along the shore while A.J. alternated between swimming alongside and running along the shore. We didn’t go very far because A.J. quickly ran out of shoreline.
It looked like kayaking with A.J. was just not going to happen.
After we got home I was looking online to see if anyone had hints on how to get a dog into an inflatable kayak away from shore. I couldn’t find any. But what I did find was a video of another dog who was doing exactly what A.J. had done. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INB2rUzmM7w)
So maybe it’s not completely hopeless after all. We just need to let A.J. be A.J.