Dog Water Sport Gear List

6 04 2017

written by: @lifewithmutts

Original Article Here

Spring is here! It’s really starting to warm up in the South and for our pack that means we’re heading back out on the water. Time to dust off the cobwebs on the kayaks and stand up paddle board that have been sitting idly in the garage all winter.

For those of you who have never tried a water sport with your pup, you may have questions about what kind of gear you need. After years of kayaking and SUPing with my dogs, I have a pretty solid list in my head of what I need when we pack up and head to the lake or the river.

Here are our must-have items:


 **Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that if you buy one of the suggested products using the links provided,  we will make a few cents to help keep our blog up and running, at no cost to you.

1. Watercraft (Kayak, SUP, Canoe)

Obviously in order to spent time ON the water, you need some sort of watercraft. Our favorites are kayaks and stand up paddle boards. You don’t have to go out and purchase an expensive kayak or board to try the sport though. Canoe and kayak rentals have always been pretty abundant, but as the sport of SUP continues to grow, there are now a good amount of options to rent them too, many of which are dog friendly. Just make sure you call ahead and let them know that you’re bringing your furry friend!

(Also, don’t forget your paddle. Sounds like a no-brainer, but believe me it happens!)

2. Life Jackets

If you’ve ever rented a kayak or even canoed at scout camp as a kid, bringing a life jacket for yourself when you’re on the water is probably a no-brainer. In fact, many towns and parks mandate that you wear a life jacket on the water, or at least have one with you on your boat/board. But what about your dog? Even if your dog is a great swimmer, if they are new to water sports, they may fall in accidentally and be caught off guard. Better safe than sorry! My dogs can swim and are paddle pros, but I always make sure they’re wearing a life jacket when we kayak and SUP, just in case.

For the last year, we have been using Alcott Mariner Life Jackets,which are a super affordable option at only $26.99. You can read our review here. We are now testing out the new Hurtta Life Savior, which is a more premium jacket. We will post a full review for that shortly as well. (So far we absolutely love them too!)

3. Floating Lead

Another safety precaution that you may want to consider is a floating lead. We always bring one on trips down the river or for open-water paddles, anywhere that has a current or that may be choppy. Even good swimmers can get in over their head in choppy conditions or fast-moving water, making a safety line a really great idea. This will allow you to grab your dog if they fall in the water or swim too far away and get stuck in the current.

Look for a floating lead with a carabiner hook on the end, so you can hook and unhook your dog easily. Never tie a rope to your dog’s collar! If they get tangled on a fallen limb or if the rope gets wrapped around theirs legs, this could be a dangerous situation. You need something that you can detach easily. Also, never use a regular leash or long line that. If you use something that doesn’t float, it adds extra weight as well as increases the chance of your dog stuck on something as the leash drags behind them underwater. We use this 20-foot floating lead from Sport Lines.

4. Water

This is one of those things that may sound like common sense, but it’s easy to forget to bring water when your’e going TO the water. Bring enough for yourself AND your dog(s).  Dogs get hot and dehydrate quickly when you’re out in the middle of a lake, river, or ocean with no shade and sun reflecting off the water.

5. Collapsible Dog Bowl

Don’t forget a dog bowl too! Bringing water for your pup is pretty useless if you end up wasting half of it trying to use your hand as a bowl! We use this small collapsible silicone bowl from Dexas. It ‘s small and lightweight and can be clipped onto your board or kayak with the attached carabiner.

6. Dry Bag or Dry Box

It’s always smart to keep a phone on you in case of emergencies… if you get lost or stranded, injured, etc, it’s important to have a way to tell people where you are. BUT phones are expensive and most of them do not do well when wet, so it’s important to bring a dry bag or a dry box to keep your phone, keys, and any other personal items dry and secure. I picked up this inexpensive dry box a few years ago for under 10 dollars and it’s still going strong. For longer paddles or when I want to bring more than just a phone and keys (snacks, money, dog treats, camera, etc) I use this dry bag from H2Zero.

7. Waterproof Camera or Phone Case

Spending time with your dog on the water is fun. It’s an activity that is sure to make some great memories. Be sure to bring either a waterproof camera like a GoPro or for a cheaper option, pick up a universal waterproof phone case to keep your phone dry so you can capture the highlights!

8. Snacks & Treats

Paddling is a great workout for you and your pup. Bring high-protein snacks like granola bars or trail mix to keep your energy up. Don’t forget treats for your pup too! They need energy just like we do, and they’re also great for training if your dog is new to water sports!

9. Cheap Sunglasses & Flip-flops

You will lose them. Maybe not today, but someday, and you will thank me. Leave the Ray-Bans and Rainbow sandals at home and grab no-name brand shades and shoes, just in case. You’ll care a LITTLE less if they float away (or sink).

Fun extras:

In addition to our must-haves, here are some other ideas to make your day on the water even more fun. A fetch toy that floats is great way to keep your dog entertained while burning off some of their energy! The Ruffwear Lunker is a floating toy that is sure to be a big hit with your water-loving pup. You can also bring a small cooler and find a cute little beach or riverbank to pull off and have a picnic. Also, don’t forget sunscreen! Remember that you aren’t only getting the rays from the sun directly, but also reflecting back at you off the water.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to stay safe and have fun with your pup!

Want to SUP or Kayak with your pup but don’t know where to start? Check out our “SUP with your PUP” post.

Do you have other gear that you bring on the water with your dog or questions about the gear we use?

Thanks for reading!

Debbie & Roxie

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Why Your Dog Needs a Dog Life Jacket

30 08 2016

Jan Reisen | June 09, 2016

While some dog breeds are natural swimmers, like retrievers and spaniels, others are less suited to the water. Either way, if you and your pet plan to spend time in or on the water, a dog life jacket is a wise investment. Even good swimmers can tire, have trouble staying buoyant, and struggle to keep their heads above water. Some breeds, such as Bulldogs, have body types less suited to swimming and will need help staying afloat. If your dog accompanies you on a boat, a personal flotation device (PFD) is essential. If he falls overboard, he’ll struggle in rough water, a strong current, or large waves. A dog life jacket makes it easier for him to stay above water and easier for you to retrieve him and get him back on board.

Choosing a Life Jacket For Your Dog

There are no standards or certifications for canine life jackets or life vests, but here are some features to look for:

  • A handle will make it easier for you to grab hold of your dog if he’s floundering. It also makes it easier to teach your dog to swim; you can guide him in the water until he feels confident swimming on his own.
  • The life jacket or vest should have a D-ring so you can attach a leash.
  • Decide whether your dog need a life jacket or a vest. Dog life jackets cover more of the dog and provide both buoyancy and visibility. They’re recommended for boating and any time your dog may be in open or rough water. If your dog swims primarily in a pool, a life vest is lighter, covers less area, and and is easier for swimming.
  • Although dog life jackets come in all sorts of fun colors and prints, bright colors will make it easier to spot him in the water.

Even if you think your dog is an Olympic swimmer, any dog can be overcome with fatigue, struggle in the waves, become disoriented in the water, or just need a little extra buoyancy. A life jacket will keep him safe, help him feel confident in the water and help you bring him back on board or back to shore in an emergency.


Chica, a River House staff member’s dog, attending the Family Stand-Up Paddleboarding class. Photo by Kelly Beal Photography.


Types of Life Jackets to Consider

Be sure to check sizing guides to get the right fit for your dog.

Outward Hound Ripstop Life Jackets
This life jacket has easy-grab handles, high-viz colors, quick release buckles and multiple reflective stripes.

K-9 Float Coat from Ruffwear
A telescoping neck closure is adjustable for different size dogs.The jacket also features a strong handle for lifting a dog out of the water, reflective trim and closed cell foam panels.

PAWS Aboard Neoprene Pet Life Jackets
A breathable mesh underbelly helps drain water quickly to keep your dog drier and cooler when he comes out of the water.

He&Ha Pet Quality Dog Life Jacket Adjustable Dog Life Vest Preserver
This vest style flotation device has a convenient top grab handle, a D-ring to attach a leash, vibrant safety colors and mesh holes for ventilation.


Bravo, a River House staff member’s dog, attending the Family Stand-Up Paddleboarding class. Photo by Kelly Beal Photography.


Full article can be found at:

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Nature Rx (Part 1)

1 12 2015

This is the first video in a  series which is meant to bring awareness that spending more time in nature improves your health, well-being and leads to making better environmental decisions.

From Nature Rx’s facebook page:

“Tired, irritable, stressed out? Try Nature! This non-harmful prescription is shown to relieve the crippling symptoms of modern life. Side effects may include confidence, authenticity, and being in a good mood for no apparent reason.”

Discover award-winning comedy, Nature Rx. Set in the world of a spoofed prescription drug commercial, Nature Rx is all about inspiring folks to explore and rediscover their love of the outdoors. Learn more at – watch more funny videos, find out more about the many benefits of getting outside for you and the planet, and meet some of the community and folks behind Nature Rx.


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Steven Kotler and the Five Dog Workout

14 07 2011

So you think you’ve got big dog problems? Check out the small dog problems Steven Kotler, author of A Small Furry Prayer, which hits bookshelves this month, deals with on a daily basis. Kotler, who also wroteWest of Jesus, and his wife, fellow author Joy Nicholson, moved from Los Angeles to Chimayo, New Mexico, a few years back to start Rancho de Chihuahua ( as a sanctuary for small dogs. Amazingly, they’ve managed to preserve both their sanity and their relationship. The book is a sidelong look at the world of dog rescue as told by a novice—Kotler—who fell into animal activism by falling in love with an activist. If you’ve ever thought the world dog rescuers live in is probably a kooky place, Kotler and the bazaar culture of northern New Mexico don’t disappoint. When you put 30 chihuahuas and their L.A.-transplant rescuers in the black-tar heroin capital of America, crazy things are bound to happen. When I asked Kotler whether all of the stories—from the coyote that wanted to play with his pack to the altruistic lesbian dogs—he responded: Not only are these stories all true, but there are a dozen others that are even crazier. I didn’t include those because nobody would have believed them.


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A W-A-L-K around my neighborhood.

10 06 2011

Each morning, whether rain or shine, I take my dogs on a W-A-L-K (we can’t say “walk” w/o my dogs running with excitement to the door) around my neighborhood. One thing I consciously do is allow my dogs to stop and sniff every once in awhile. This sure does make them happy. So as they are exploring with their noses, I take the time to observe my neighbor’s landscapes with my eyes. I am happy to report that in my neighborhood more and more people are using native plants mixed into their ornamental gardens. Why am I so happy?

Using native-plants assures they’ll thrive and as they support native birds, insects and other pollinators that depend on familiar home-grown species for a healthy eco-system.

I would like to share with you some pictures I took earlier this month of my dogs on our daily w-a-l-k. To the right you will see Pepper amongst both native (Goat’s Beard and Oregon Mock Orange) and the ornamental non-native plant (Astilbe).

Vida is running through a field of  Buttercup in a nearby park .

One of my favorite trees in Oregon is the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii).  See photo below of Vida & a Pacific Madrone.

I have seen more and more people plant the Pacific Madrone at their homes. I am sad to say that I don’t have one of these in my yard.  Although we do have 6 Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolia) trees and a Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) we started from a stray seedling .

One of my favorite homes which showcases (see picture below) both native and non-

native landscaping is one block away from my home. They have a beautiful rock garden that features non-natives such as Lithodora, Candy Tuft, Coral Bells, and Daylillies and natives such as Snowberry (Symphoricarposalbus), Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Pink Thrift (Armeria maritima) and a variety of Juncus that I am pretty sure is native.

In my backyard (see picture below) I’ve planted two Ceanothus next to a red twig dogwood (Sambucus racemosa), but along the row of natives we’ve also incorporated non-natives such as Sedum Dragon’s Blood, a beautiful flowering Crabapple, Coral Bell, a Hydran-gea Paniculata and a Euphorbia.

Oregonians, if  you want to learn more about landscaping with native plants then I would recommend picking up the three booklets about gardening with native plants that were produced by the Native Gardening Awareness Program, which is a committee of the Emerald Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon.  You can also view it online at the following link:

Enjoy taking a w-a-l-k. I know Pepper, Vida and I will. Don’t worry I won’t be coming by your house and noting the percentage of native vs. non-native plants you have incorporated into your landscape.

Written by Melinda Koshi Vega, Office Manager of the City of Eugene Outdoor Program

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Paco Pads

1 04 2011

Just recently my partner told me he wanted to purchase a “Paco Pad” for his 8 day trip down the Colorado River.  I said sure if this will help you sleep better.  What I didn’t realize was the price tag attached to a “Paco Pad”.    The price of these pads ranges from $150-$340.  So, I asked myself really what is a “Paco Pad”?

According to all our river guides here at the River House it is a “must have” on the Grand Canyon.  Each one of our guides has a special relationship with their own paco pad.  I am wondering if this is like the relationship I have with my water bottle?  I have been thru so much with my water bottle.  We have traveled to 5 different countries, 16 different states and even an island.   I do get the special relationship some of us might have with our outdoor equipment.  Everyone at work here assures me that the $$$ spent on Mike’s Paco Pad will make him feel like he is on his Tempur-Pedic at home.  According to the manufacture it is feather bed of outdoor camping.

Photo from River Connection


Please read the following excerpt from Jacks Plastic Welding Inc. (the manufacture of Paco Pads):

One of the great selling points of Paco Pads for river runners was the fact that they did not need to be rolled up. When they are unrolled, they are as functional in the day time as they areat night for sleeping. To illustrate this point, consider a raft that has a lot of coolers, and ammo cans and stuff in the cargo area. This stuff can clank around, and a passengers fingers can get smashed or even cut off if they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paco Pads not only cushion the passengers, they also keep them from getting stuck where they don’t belong. Add to this the insulating factor that pads provide on a raft and there is a great benefit to a ice chest’s ability to hold ice. We have even rolled up beverages inside them and kept things cold inside a rolled up pad for the entire day. On our long Grand Canyon private trip it is fun to watch the evolution of a raft rig. On the first day a raft will be rigged so that all the stuff can be secured to the boat. By the second or third day, the passengers have figured out how to rig the boats so that the pads are actually elaborate lounge chairs. There is a lot of heavy snoozing that can go on during the day, and they figure out how to make it work well fast. There has been a lot of peanut butter and jelly smeared on Paco Pads. They work well as a place to set up lunch, and help to keep food bits off of the beaches. They can be simply rinsed off in the river. It is a good idea to wash them with soap and water occasionally so that rodents do not get the idea that they are something to eat in the winter while they are in the garage.

Alright I get it!  It is functional, durable, has multiple uses, and waterproof! And guess what, they make Paco Pads for your pets too! I guess I will be taking Vida and Pepper on the river with us this summer. Stay tuned for some pictures!

To  learn more about the Paco Pad from the Jacks Plastic Welding Inc. go to their website:

written by: Melinda Koshi Vega, Recreation Office Coordinator at the River House

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Snowshoeing with Hannah and Pepper

30 12 2010

It’s snowing!!  I know it’s snowing outside before I even have a chance to look out the window.  My dogs run from one end of the house to the other (stopping to look out the window), both so excited to go outside and prance in the snow.  Sadly, in Eugene the snow doesn’t stick around long enough to fully enjoy it.  I don’t understand why they enjoy the snow so much, since neither are northern breeds.   

We have two dogs.  One is an elderly Doberman Pincher by the name of Hannah.  Our other dog is a small, middle-aged, energetic, 15 lb. Poodle/Bichon mix by the name of Pepper.  Every year we take a day trip with our dogs to a nearby snow park so they can frolic in the snow.  My partner and I prefer to cross-country ski, but we make this compromise for the dogs.

If you can walk, then you can snowshoe.   The key to snowshoeing with your dogs is to keep them safe.  First, it’s a good idea to give your vet a call and make sure your dogs are healthy enough for this activity.  As with humans, dogs, too, can get frostbite or hypothermia.  Because neither one of our dogs is a northern breed we equip them both with dog coats.  Hannah gets an extra layer with a sweater underneath.  Because Hannah is an elderly dog she is more susceptible to hypothermia.  Keep an eye on your dogs and watch for signs of discomfort such as shivering, or slowed breathing.

Because Pepper is so small, he gets tired quickly and we have to carry him for part of our trek (wrapped in a blanket).  We come prepared with a carrier for him.  Hannah carries a pack on her back; we load it with snacks and plenty of water.  When we stop to take a sip of our tea, our dogs take a break and drink water.   We periodically stop and check their paws for packed snow and ice.  Hannah wears protective booties, but we don’t have any for Pepper since we carry him part of the way.  Pepper’s paws tend to trap snow so we like to put paw wax on his paws.  When snowshoeing with your dogs, I highly recommend either booties or paw wax to protect your dog’s paws.

I still don’t know who gets more enjoyment from these outings; the dogs or my partner and me.  Our car ride home is quiet with the dogs sound asleep in the back and we humans grinning from ear to ear after enjoying the outdoors.  If you can take time in your lives for your furry companions, it is truly rewarding.

Winter is here and I suggest you grab your snowshoes and go frolic in the snow.  If you don’t own snowshoes you can rent them at Berg’s Ski and Snowboard shop.  We enjoy going to Midnight Lake/Bechtel Shelter, Salt Creek Falls or Waldo Lake.  Enjoy the Outdoors.

Written by Melinda Koshi Vega the Office Manager at the City of Eugene Outdoor Program

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