a dachshund in a pink and lifejacket with white polka dots, resting her chin on a green kayak.

Dog-Friendly Kayaking Adventures in Florida

A woman in a yellow bikini with a black-and-tan dachshund, both in a green kayak. Dog-friendly kayaking adventures in Florida on the horizon!
Calypso learned early how to kayak and we’ve had almost 18 years of dog-friendly kayaking adventures in Florida!
Photo by Barry Loper

One of the first things I did when I brought home Calypso some 15 years ago was take her kayaking on the Weeki Wachee. Still puppy-sized, she curled up on the bow of my kayak and took a nap. That is, until she saw a mullet swim past the kayak – then she jumped in and tried to catch it. When she realized she couldn’t, she swam to the side of my kayak and put her paw on it, asking to get back in the boat.

Thus began the start of a great adventure for her – and for me. I didn’t take my last dog, a wonderful liver-spot Dalmatian named Madison, kayaking with me, for a couple of reasons. One, she was exceptionally high strung, and two, I didn’t get a kayak until she was seven, and I didn’t think she’d easily take to it.

I didn’t make that same mistake with Calypso: From day one, she’s gone pretty much everywhere with me, including kayaking and boating. That whole “paw on the side of the ‘yak to get back in” thing? Yeah, she mastered that. One of my many part-time jobs was as a kayak guide, and one day, my boss and I were scouting different locations on our paddle boards. Calypso got bored with me, jumped off, swam over to him, and put her paw on his board. I guess she wanted a change of pace.

Dog-Friendly Kayaking Adventures: Mostly Salt

We have paddling rules: After a near-disaster on the Hillsborough (she saw gator hatchlings and tried to go after them, which resulted in my yanking her back in the kayak by her tail and stuffing her under the bow), Calypso doesn’t kayak on many freshwater rivers unless they’re crystal-clear (Chassahowitzka, yes; Hillsborough, no). She doesn’t sleep on the bow anymore. And, if we’re in saltwater, I always let her jump out and swim the last 15 feet to shore – and then roll in the sand. It’s tradition.

Dog-Friendly Kayaking Adventures in Florida: Bigger Dogs

When we adopted Banyan, neither Barry nor I knew how a 2-year-old dog who had spent almost the whole of her life in a shelter would handle being on the water, so we didn’t push her – it took enough effort to get her to not get physically ill when we had people over for dinner.

But during the pandemic, we tried her on a kayak while holed up in a cottage in Islamorada. Turns out, as long as her person – that’d be Barry, not me – goes with, she’s fine.

a man in a sit-on-top kayak, with a coonhound also in the kayak. The kayak is green.
Banyan wasn’t sure at first, but in no time at all she got the hang of letting Barry do all the work while she enjoyed the ride!
Cathy Salustri

For Banyan’s first paddle, we used a resort sit-on-top, so when we tried her in our cockpit-style kayak, we weren’t sure how it would work.

Turns out it worked just fine. Fine, that is, as long as Barry is there with her. She climbs in, waits for him, and off they go, like she was born for it. She’s living her best life.

A dog sleeping in an orange kayak. A man is at the helm
Banyan and Barry paddle the Chassahowitzka. Well, Barry paddles. Banyan naps and soaks up some sun.
Cathy Salustri

Dog-Friendly Kayaking Adventures in Florida: Not These Places

Bottom line? There are some places you don’t bring a dog in Florida: gator-infested waters, Mar-a-Lago, beaches with active seabird nests. But there are plenty of places where your furry BFF will love to go: Saltwater paddles, beaches without specific dog exclusions (be reasonable and don’t let them trounce nests, please), bike rides… you get the idea.

My point is, don’t assume that your dog won’t love it just because she’s never done it. In my experience, the important thing to your dog is that she gets to do it with you.

Want To Learn More about Traveling Dogs in Florida?

Find Cathy  on Instagram (@cathysalustri) or Facebook (@salustricathy), or Twitter (@cathysalustri). You can also subscribe Cathy Salustri’s monthly (well, monthly-ish) newsletter, The Florida Spectacular.