Pets onboard need Life Jackets too!

Safe boarding and kayaking with your best friend

Taking a dog on a paddleboard or in a kayak requires some forethought. A dog that adapts to a marine environment is a wonderful companion and an extra playmate for the kids, adding to the fun of going out on the water. If your dog has never been out on the water, don't assume the dog and paddleboard will be a great mix.

Not all dogs will be comfortable on a board or yak.

Dogs and animals, in general, prefer stable surfaces, and many are fearful of water. If your pet trembles at the sight of water, don't force or stress it. Before taking your dog boarding, allow it to get acquainted with the board while at home or waterside.

Get your buddy accustomed to wearing its own PFD.

People aren't the only beings who should wear a PFD (personal flotation device or life jacket) while on the water. Ensure the PFD fits your dog securely; if possible, allow your dog to practice swimming while wearing it. If your little buddy has never worn a PFD, it may resist at first.

NRS CFD Dog Life Jacket: For me, one of the critical concerns when picking a PFD for Lola was body heat. Many of the PFDs are made with the thought that your dog would be swimming or under a boat's canopy and have a lot of material wrapping the belly and not allow heat out. When on a kayak or paddleboard, there is no shade, and therefore I searched for a PFD that had a minimal amount of coverage, allowing for plenty of ventilation. The NRS CFD has minimal coverage for its supported weight. It is incredibly well built and has a rugged leash/tether ring, a beefy grab handle, wide belly straps, reflective strips, and even a zippered pocket for his personals (treats).

Some dogs just may be too big.

Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Newfoundlands, and web-footed Portuguese Water Dogs seem to thrive around water and often make good dogs with larger boats, but not so much in kayaks or paddleboards.

People and dogs on a board face risks not encountered on land, so precaution is recommended.

Pets and dogs need fresh drinking water at least three times a day, more if the weather is hot. Bouncing and rocking boards may not be the most practical place for a dog bowl. An alternative is a dog sports bottle, which is less messy and you can squirt water right into the dog's mouth. Don't be afraid to force your dog to drink water. Out on an uncovered board for a dog can become sweltering. Dogs and cats do not sweat, and panting is the primary means to rid excess heat for dogs.

A sudden dunk in the water may frighten and panic your pet.
Don't assume all dogs can swim, because they can't, believe it or not, some are not great swimmers. Any dog or cat on a board can tumble overboard when you're not looking. Most dogs can naturally "doggie paddle" but not indefinitely! Hypothermia or a blow to the head can make their "swim" life-threatening. Dogs with short legs such as toy breeds will struggle more to stay afloat, and large dogs will be harder to pull out of the water. A harness or flotation vest with a lifting strap and 10-15ft of rope is recommended. Why 10-15ft? If you are on any water with any amount of current and your dog falls off on the high side, you need enough rope so he can cross all the way under the board without getting hung up.
Your dog's first trip on the board should be short, to introduce him to the board's motion when underway. Dogs can get seasick, as people can. While your canine is onboard, look for any signs of fatigue, clumsiness, or disorientation. The next step is to start paddling. The rocking of the board may be unfamiliar to your dog and may make him a little uneasy on his paws.
Providing swim time and shade for your pet is a good idea.

Heatstroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion are real dangers for dogs on the water, especially for overweight animals. Again, a dog onboard needs plenty of water. Excessive panting, drooling, and abnormally rapid pulse are danger signals that your pet may be suffering from heatstroke. You could save your pet's life by immediately immersing it in water, allowing it to cool down.

Some breeds can get sunburned, especially those with light-colored noses or muzzles. Eyelids can sunburn, and dogs can suffer eye damage from too much sun exposure. Keep on board some topical antibiotic ointments for cuts and scrapes.

Make sure your canine's nails are trimmed so as not to get caught in deck padding or hardware. Your pet should be walked ashore at least twice a day to stretch his legs and poop & pee.

Disclaimer about NRS: While I have used and love their products for over a decade, I have paid full price for all the NRS Gear that I own, and have never received any gear from them for free, or for review and the link below is not an affiliate link in any way. 

With that said, NRS, if you would like to send me gear to test and review, I would love a working relationship with you guys!

NRS CFD Life Jacket






Available Sizes








What I liked

  • Comes in many sizes for the perfect fit
  • Big tough grab handle is easy to grab in a panic
  • Wide straps for comfort when suspended
  • Minimal design for less heat trapped
  • Nice rear zippered pocket
  • Durable leash ring

What I did not like

  • I really don't have anything that I didn't!

Chris Sgaraglino

Over the past 37 years of my adult life, I have gained a very diverse portfolio of adventures from which I have been blessed to be a participant. This wealth of experience and knowledge has defined my character, my morals and values, and my healthy respect for people and the great outdoors. It is a true definition of an Outdoorsman!