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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Gear Love pt.1

2 02 2016


Throughout a life of outdoor jobs and personal play, we get the opportunity to truly test gear in the realm it is claimed to be designed for.  Sometimes it’s obvious the gear was created more for a profit rather than to increase an outdoor experience; we take note and continue the search for something better.  This can be a circle that brings us back to the original beginnings of a category before “advanced” technology, fads, profits, and marketing got involved with the pursuit.  When gear was designed for its sole purpose of doing a job.  Merely a tool for a problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have Fun, Play, and then who knows?… You might learn something!

7 12 2012


I have received numerous articles and videos recently of some respected people who are championing the value of “Play”.  Here are a couple of recent ones that I highly recommend:

Play is more than fun it’s vital!

The Importance Of Play

In light of these great resources I wanted to take the discussion to the next step and provide you with some tips and suggestions to lead others in playful games and activities and point you in a direction to find further resources to PLAY!  Who knows where you can take it from there, but chances are you might learn something.

So here we go:


from the SBCC Manual

Start with the group as it is, considering the age range, clothing, available play area, and their psychological readiness to interact with each other and go on from there.

Aim for games where everyone is involved. Standing around idle is opportunity for shoving, etc. And nobody likes to be “eliminated” from play for a long period of time and have to just stand around watching.

Be very open and welcoming to everyone, even a bit silly, modeling the style of play you want to encourage. Assure them with words and gestures that each game will be fun. Dress up the games with names promising fun, add appropriate “pretend” elements, and develop the group’s ability to play together.

Whatever the situation begin with simple games, easily explained, with simple equipment that provide easy access and that have few rules, that will end quickly so transition can be made to new games. Make room for new arrivals or latecomers and quickly incorporate them into play. Be ready to shift games as group size changes.

Form a circle. This is an easy way to establish that everyone is included and allows for the group to be able to see you giving instructions.  Remove sunglasses when talking to the group and try to position yourself facing the sun so that your participants are not looking into the sun while trying to look at you.

Begin with a general description of the game including its imagery, objective and if possible a familiar game category. Try to give them choices as to who plays what. Practice any special moves or phrases ahead of time.

Have a balance of strenuous and lower activity games. Let players stretch their bodies and feelings slowly at first. Try to conclude with an appropriate “wind-down” game as well. Be sensitive to when the players are getting tired and may need a less strenuous game, or even to stop playing.

Be very safety conscious, and give clear safety instructions to the participants. Make it clear that the objective is a good time for everyone. Use “Bumpers Up,” and “Wog” where appropriate.  Stress the use of strategy and teamwork.  Avoid rough contact games.


Work towards building trusting relationships between players. Balance individual expression with group awareness and community sharing. Play down aggressive competition, stress cooperation.

Keep your sense of humor. As the Referee-leader, don’t take yourself too seriously.  One outburst of anger can turn everybody off. Encourage and keep alive the make-believe imagery of the games. Play with them as much as practical and possible. Ideal situations are those where the children take over the leadership of the play.

Try to keep teams evenly matched – Some kids will always try to stay together, boys and girls will tend to separate from each other, some will need some “nudging” to get them involved, hopefully most will show some enthusiasm once you get started. Expect some resistance, be enthusiastic! Have some “Divider Games” in your tool-kit.

Have a signal for “everyone refocus and pay attention” such as everyone raising the “one way” sign. Learn some effective “Attention Getter” activities.

Be prepared to modify the game to maintain or create a balance in the level of challenge. Keep the game from being too goal-oriented. Give everyone equal opportunity to play different roles, and don’t allow certain people to dominate. Adjust the challenge, simplify or complicate moves, in order to adjust the speed of the game, its and the ease of achieving its goal. You want everyone to have as an opportunity to enjoy participation in the game.

Be flexible – if a game isn’t working, adapt the game or do something else.

End the game or change to a different game at the height of FUN.  As a facilitator you need to be aware of the group’s energy and interest level.  Ending a game when everyone is having a good time will keep the energy of the group up and the individuals engaged to listen to what’s next.  Don’t play a game and wait for everyone to be tired or bored in order for you to introduce the new activity.  For some groups, you’ve already lost them.

Watch your time!


Recently a new game book has come out entitled “Find Something to Do” by Jim Cain.  It is a small book containing 123 Games and activities using little to no equipment.  I recommend the book as a helpful quick reference to get the ball rolling and play with groups.  The activities are written to be useful for a variety of leaders so I would encourage you to take a look.

A suggested activity that I have played for years to get the fun and play going with one of your groups is one of my favorite games called Transformer Tag


Heads and Tails Tag

Objective:  to tag the other team

Description:Demonstrate to the participants the two body positions suitable for wogging (moving at the speed between walking and jogging!) Some participants will place one hand on top of the head, while others will place one hand on their rear-end.  Have participants stand with their hands by their sides.  Each participant will be allowed to decide which team they are on when you say “GO!!!”

Participants then immediately declare their identity on their head or their tail. One team (the heads) attempts to tag the other team (tails) and vice versa. When tagged, the tail is transformed into a member of the heads team and vice versa. The game continues until one team (heads or tails) has dominated the world, transforming all of the other teams’ members! Can be repeated although I usually do not play it more than 3 times in a row.

Robert Brack, Spencer Butte Challenge Course Director

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Theory of Experiential Education

11 05 2012

The practice of “Learning by Doing,” Experiential Education is a foundational educational approach to learning new information or behaviors.  It is the idea that people learn best while experiencing the material, being immersed, “failing-forward”, adjusting and adapting, while getting direct feedback. 

It is more characterized by Doing & Thinking, Doing & Thinking, Doing & Thinking, etc… 

Photo by Lance Eagen

People like John Dewey, Kurt Hahn, and more recently Sir Ken Robinson embrace this teaching style in their writings and profession.  The reason is because what is being learned is itself real.  Dewey has been summarized to state that:

  • Individuals need to be involved in what they are learning
  • What is being taught must be immediately relevant
  • Individuals must act and live for the present as well as the future
  • Learning must assist learners in preparing for a changing world 

There are essentially 2 ways to learn; Experience and Memorization.

 Experience    —    More Emotion    —    More Engaging    —    Less Controlled            More Effective

 Memorization    —    Less Emotion    —    Less Engaging    —    More Controlled            Less Effective

Think of memorization as “information assimilation.” Learning is achieved by going from Structure to Substance: 

  1. Receiving information about a general principle via symbols
  2. Assimilate and organize information as new knowledge
  3. Infer specific application from general principles
  4. Act on the application and test the general principle

(a great example is learning your multiplication tables.)

 Consider the Experiential approach.  Learning is achieved by going from Substance to Structure: 

  1. Acting and Observing cause and effect of that action
  2. Understanding cause and effect to predict a general principle
  3. Understanding general principles in various circumstances
  4. Applying general principles in a new situation

The intent here is to not pit these two approaches against each other, rather identify which approach, or maybe the combination of approaches, may be more beneficial and therefore appropriate. 

If you are involved in teaching, consider your approach.  Is there opportunity for people to learn by doing, or to be more engaged in their learning and create their own emotions to enhance what is being learned? 

-Robert Brack, Spencer Butte Challenge Course Director

**By the way, if you are bored after reading this AND have seen the weather report for the Eugene area this week (Sunny, 80, and Lovely!), then I do not know why you are still here Go Outside and Play!**

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The Knots Your Headphones Know

9 04 2012

This is a follow up to my post about the “5 Knots Everyone Should Know.”  I was recently sent this picture after my orginal post and thought I would share it here. 

I think I will start to take a closer look at my headphones and see what knot they are trying to teach me.  Who knows, maybe the next update will be the “5 Knots Everyone Should Know How to Untie!”

-Robert Brack, Spencer Butte Challenge Course Director

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The 5 Knots Everyone Should Know

5 03 2012

I love knots, I tie them for practicality and I practice tying them for fun!  Whenever I travel I take a small section of rope because I know practicing knots will be a great way to pass the time.  In my trainings I prefer to see clean (dressed) knots, and often will ask people to retie a knot if a section is out of place.  After all, “a knot not neat is a knot that need not be knotted.”

So here it goes…  In my opinion the top 5 knots that everyone should know are:

#1 The Half Hitch.

-Simple knot, many uses.  Two half hitches will hold dang near anything as long as there is consistent tension.

-It will probably not get you any style points, however there is no reason why people should not know this knot.

#2 The Figure 8 (and its multiple variations.)  This is a great knot that is touted in the climbing community as one of the strongest knots that retain a high percentage of a rope’s breaking strength

-Here I just tied a Figure 8 on a Bight. (and safely clipped it to my coffee mug!) You may ask, “How do you tie that knot directly onto the coffee mug?”

-Glad you asked, you simply tie a Figure 8 Follow Though.  Same knot, tied differently will include the handle of the mug.

-Make your first Figure 8 by taking a bight of rope. (huh, that looks like a head. Did you hear what he just told me?)

-Next, I choke em,

-and poke em in the eye.

-(I am really a non-violent person!)

-Pull that working end out and then we we are ready to tie in the mug.

-The reason this is called the Figure 8 Follow Through is because after you include the mug, the next step is to follow the 8 pattern already mapped out.  The way I learned is very similar to others, and that is to “follow the race track!”  Meaning you follow the path of the rope exactly.

-Remember to dress the knot at the end, so that the ropes are parallel and not crossed.

-One of the bummers to the Figure 8 is that when it is loaded with a heavy weight or experiences a great amount of tension, the knot can meld together making it impossible to untie.  In those cases, only a good pair of safety sheers (or yes a knife!) will be able to undo this powerhouse of a knot.

#3 The Bowline One of my favorite and most practical knots.  This is a great knot that I use for multiple purposes when I want to tie the end of a rope to a fixed point.  Practiced enough, it is quick, easy and strong, with a bit more standing power than the Double Half Hitches mentioned above.

-Start by making a loop with the working end on top of the remaining rope.

-Then for fun’s sake, after you have run the working end through what you are securing, lets tell a story about a rabbit!!!

-The rabbit comes out of the hole,

-runs under a root,

-and then jumps back into the hole.

-Tighten it up and you have a secured bowline!

#4 is the slightly harder, and the more impressive Bowline on a Bight!  This knot is surprisingly strong and after taking a massive amount of tension, it will still easily untie. (For when you have to pull that car out of the mud/snow and still want your rope back!)

-Start by taking a bight of rope and then making a half hitch (or overhand knot).

-Then make it look like Mick Jagger by holding it so that the bight looks like a tongue resting on a bottom lip.  (What? You don’t know who Mick Jagger is?  Fine.  So it looks like Michael Jordan…  WHAT?!!! You’ve never seen… FINE!!, so it looks like ME after listening to Justin Bieber.)

-Next put your pincher fingers through the bight, going from underneath.

-And pinch the rope that is making the top lip.

-Next, without letting go of the top lip, flip the tongue over everything.

-This next part is a little difficult; you want to hold the middle of the knot loosely, while pulling the loops of the top lip in order to make the tongue up to meet the rest of the knot.

-Great knot!!  Test it by holding both the working end and the live end of the rope and the knot (not the loops.) and pulling them apart.  If your loop disappears you tied a slip knot (Bummer), if it hold, you have the beautiful Bowline on a Bight (Bomber!)

#5 The Butterfly Knot (more specifically an Alpine Butterfly)

This knot can be tied anywhere in the middle of a rope to provide a secure loop that can be pulled from both directions and will not come untied. There are many ways to tie this knot, here is one.

-Wrap a rope loosely around your hand so that you are holding 3 strands in your palm.  (I know, this is the only time I would tell you to wrap a rope around any part of your body.)

-Now you are going to move the strand closest to your fingers over the other two ropes and place it by your thumb.

-Repeat!  Take the strand now closest to your fingers and place it by your thumb.

-Now the strand that you just moved by your thumb should go under the two ropes to make your bight,

-Pull the bight out a little

-take out your hand and then pull the two ends of your rope apart to finish the knot.

These are the 5 knots I think everyone should know!  If you would like more practice, or want to learn some additional knots, visit one of my favorite sites,

It is an informative site, with much better pictures and a great resource.  (Yes, their pictures are better than mine. Can you believe it?)  If you want to talk knots with me, stop by the River House, I am sure I have some extra practice rope knotted up around here somewhere.

“It’s better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it!”

-Robert Brack


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Trailer Backing Rodeo 2011 (Tips from the Pros)

1 07 2011

Last week during the River House All Staff training we participated in what has become known as the “Trailer Rodeo.”  It was a “Corinthian” event, meaning we were participating and “encouraging” for the sport’s sake.  Not to mention, it is great practice using the skills necessary to back up a trailer.  The event features a sharpened pencil taped to the side of the trailer and in the parking lot is an egg placed on top of an orange cone.  The object is to get the tip of the pencil as close to the egg without knocking it off.  (Bonus points for drawing a line on the egg!)  Measurements this year were taken in miles, yds, ft, cm, and mm with the closest distance taking home bragging rights and being crowned the Trailer Rodeo Champion!

Here are some Tips from the Pros for those moments when YOU find yourself backing up a trailer to unload a raft or want to get really close to an egg…

Tip #1 – Get a spotter.  It is important to have someone watch your back.  Maintain visual connection with your spotter and if you cannot see them, STOP.

Tip #2 – Plan and Communicate.  Go over with your spotter where the trailer needs to be when you are done and confirm how you are going to communicate.  Agree on hand signals. 

Here are some hand signal demonstrations from some professional competitors.

Keep in mind, some people do not respond to visual cues!

Tip#3 – Master the art of The Setup.  When setting up the trailer, try to keep the trailer in the same path backing up as the vehicle or slightly cocked in the desired direction.  Grab the bottom of the wheel and turn the wheel in the direction you want your trailer to go.  If you want to turn the trailer start by cranking the wheel all the way to start, slowly back up, and then unwind back to straight.

Tip#4 – Understand “Jack-Knifing” and your limits of the vehicle’s turn radius. 

Jack-knifing is a situation where the trailer is perpendicular to the vehicle.  The trailer becomes positioned at such a severe angle that the vehicle is no longer steering the trailer. Rather, it is putting an enormous amount of stress at the junction and in this position something has to give.  Damages resulting from jack-knifing can be costly and preventable. 

The turning radius is the ability your vehicle can turn and corner.  It is different for every make and model of vehicle and not really felt and understood until you have experienced making a tight turn.  Having experience driving the vehicle is valuable information to know how much room you will need to “swing out,” “come around,” and prevent jack-knifing. 

Tip #5 – Practice, Practice, Practice!   People learn better by doing and thinking, doing and thinking, doing and thinking…  Check it out!


Our Congratulations go out to Clare Gordon, this year’s Trailer Rodeo Champion!, with a distance of 2mm!!

We would also like to thank all of the competitors, spotters, encouragers, and hecklers at this year’s rodeo!  Job Well Done!


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