Posted on: October 9, 2019 at 6:15 pm
Last updated: September 15, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Running, walking, and playing fetch aren’t the only activities your dog can enjoy with you. If your pet loves water, kayaking could be a really fun way to bond with them and have a good time outdoors. However, dogs are curious creatures, and if they so much as spot a frog in the water, they may dive in without a second thought. This could be bad if the animal doesn’t know how to swim (just because  they ‘dog paddle’, when put in water, doesn’t mean they can do it safely). Even a wave or a sharp turn could cause a pet to go overboard. Putting a Personal Floatation Device on your pet is one way to go about it. If they somehow find themselves in the water, the PFD would prevent them from drowning. And yes, Personal Floatation Devices for dogs are a real thing.  


However, a retired orthopedic surgeon, David Bahnson, figured out a safer way to take his beloved golden retrievers on his kayaking trips and not worry about drowning [1]. He spends most of his time kayaking, and with his unique boat design, he gets to take his water-loving pooches out with him. 

His first dog fit just right in the baggage pouch

Bahnson got the idea to customize his boat in 2015 when his first retriever, Susie got into the baggage compartment of his kayak. He modified the boat with a second pouch for any extra items he wanted to bring along. The dog happened to fit perfectly in there. He then fit the top of the opening with a raised vertical border to help keep the water out so his pet could stay dry.


When his wife got another golden retriever, Bahnson modified the kayak again with another pouch for the new pup.

When we got Ginger, I just put in another hole,” Bahnson told The Dodo [2]. “It’s like a triple kayak, only there isn’t enough room for the paddlers to put their feet — but it’s perfect for a dog… They never hopped out into the water, actually.”

Well-trained puppies out on the row

Bahnson trained his dogs to handle themselves efficiently when it’s time for kayaking. They can get into kayak themselves and sit in their pouches. They know never to jump into the water no matter how tempted they are to chase a frog or a fish. Although the dogs are powerful swimmers, Bahnson doesn’t row out into deep waters. When they get back to the shore after a row, the dogs do not get off the kayak until they are told to.

“They seem to love it,” he said. “They get excited when we’d pull the kayaks out and see that we were going. We’ve seen other people kayaking with their dogs, but they usually have them in the cockpit with them. That’s kind of awkward, so this just worked out better. They each have a little dedicated space, and they just sit and enjoy the ride.”

After many happy years of water-life adventures with their loving owner, Susie and Ginger have passed away. Bahnson and his wife now have new canine companions who are continuing the kayaking legacies of Susie and Ginger.

“I love my dogs. I love training them, the companionship. We’ve gone miles and miles of paddling with our dogs,” said Bahnson. “They just really enjoy going places.” 

  1. Andrea A. This Man Built A Custom Kayak So His Dogs Could Share His Passion. Holidog Times. Retrieved 07-10-19
  2. Stephen Messenger. Man Builds A Special Kayak To Take His Dogs On Little Adventures. The Dodo. Retrieved 07-10-19
  3. Image Credit:
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