If you have an energetic canine companion in your life, you’re likely familiar with the joys of taking them for walks, playing fetch, or even going on outdoor adventures. It becomes even more exciting if your furry friend happens to love the water, as you can share special moments together on the waves and learn more about each other in a new environment.

However, when it comes to kayaking with your canine, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind. Dogs are naturally curious and might jump into the water without a second thought. While most dogs can swim, not all are strong swimmers. To ensure their safety, it’s crucial to provide them with proper flotation devices. Fortunately, there are innovative solutions available that can help you keep your four-legged friend safe while enjoying water activities.

A Unique Solution: David Bahnson’s Custom Kayak for Canines

David Bahnson, a retired orthopedic surgeon, has a passion for kayaking and his golden retrievers. However, he became increasingly concerned about the safety of his dogs while they accompanied him on kayaking trips. Recognizing the need for a safer way to bring his dogs along on his water adventures, Bahnson came up with a creative and effective solution.

The inspiration for Bahnson’s custom kayak struck when his first golden retriever, Susie, managed to climb into the storage compartment of the kayak back in 2015. This incident sparked the idea to modify the kayak by adding a second storage compartment designed specifically for his furry companions. The dogs fit comfortably into the compartments, and Bahnson designed the kayak in a way that would keep them dry and secure.

Designing a Canine-Friendly Kayak

Bahnson’s innovative design involved adding a second storage area to his kayak, creating a unique three-compartment watercraft. This kayak had space for Bahnson and two dogs. The first compartment was for Bahnson, the second for Susie, and the third for additional storage. The dogs sat securely in their designated compartments, and Bahnson ensured that the openings were designed to prevent water from entering.

When Bahnson’s family grew with the addition of another golden retriever named Ginger, he extended his kayak’s design to accommodate both dogs. With two separate compartments for his canine companions, Bahnson ensured that the dogs remained safe and comfortable throughout their kayaking journeys.

Safety and Training

Bahnson made sure his dogs were well-trained for kayaking adventures. The retrievers were taught to sit in their designated compartments and enter them without assistance. They understood the importance of staying within the designated areas and refrained from venturing into the water, even when tempted. While the kayak provided a secure environment, Bahnson took extra precautions by avoiding deep waters. Upon returning to the shore, the dogs patiently waited until they were instructed to leave the kayak.

A Tail-Wagging Experience

Bahnson’s efforts to create a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience for his dogs paid off. He noted that his furry companions were genuinely excited whenever he brought out the kayaks for a trip. While many kayakers might have their dogs in the cockpit with them, Bahnson’s custom design allowed his pets to have their own dedicated spaces. This arrangement proved to be more comfortable and enjoyable for both Bahnson and his dogs.

A Legacy of Adventure

Though Susie and Ginger have since passed away, they enjoyed numerous years of joyful water adventures alongside their loving owner. Bahnson and his spouse have continued their kayaking tradition with their new furry companions, who also share a love for water activities.

In Bahnson’s words, “I love my pets. I love sharing the experience with them, the companionship. We’ve paddled miles and miles with our dogs. They genuinely enjoy going places with us.”

With his ingenious custom kayak design, Bahnson has left a legacy that showcases the deep bond between humans and their animal companions, demonstrating that with a little creativity and care, even water activities can become unforgettable shared experiences.


  1. Is kayaking safe for dogs? Kayaking can be safe for dogs if proper safety measures are taken. Using a canine-specific flotation device and training your dog for kayaking can help ensure their safety.
  2. What kind of dogs can go kayaking? Most medium to large-sized dogs that enjoy water can go kayaking. Breeds with a natural affinity for water, like retrievers, tend to enjoy it more.
  3. Can small dogs go kayaking too? Small dogs can also go kayaking, but their safety should be a top priority. It’s important to choose a suitable flotation device and ensure their comfort.
  4. How can I train my dog for kayaking? Start by introducing your dog to the kayak on land, rewarding them for positive associations. Gradually move to calm waters, making sure your dog is comfortable before venturing further.
  5. Are there kayaking clubs for dog owners? Yes, there are kayaking clubs and groups that welcome dog owners. These clubs provide a supportive community and often organize dog-friendly kayaking outings.

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