Dogs and the River Lifestyle

When you concentrate on the perfect river canine, you in all probability take into consideration a retriever breed that may swim very well and is hooked on being in and round water.

So, when my spouse got here residence from Kansas with a Miniature Australian Shepherd pet, I wasn’t actually positive what to anticipate…

Hazel is now 2 years outdated and has develop into the final word river canine.  Whether or not she’s perched on thwarts in a paddleraft or hunkered down between passengers on massive water oar rigs, there isn’t a lot the river throws her manner that phases this seasoned river pup!

Lately, we put Hazel to her greatest take a look at but: a 7-Day Wilderness River Journey on the Snake River by way of Hell’s Canyon on the Idaho/Oregon border. This journey featured flows of over 15,000CFS and several other massive Class IV rapids, in addition to many miles of floating in near 100 diploma temperatures. 

How’d little Hazel do?

She crushed it! She had a blast and dealt with the rigorous expedition life-style with ease. We knew she was bodily and mentally prepared for the expertise; We’ve got been working as much as a visit like this together with her since she was the dimensions of a potato.

How We Received Hazel into the River Way of life

Hazel’s first river expertise was when she was solely 9-weeks-old, on an in a single day journey on the Inexperienced River in Flaming Gorge.

By the point she was a 12 months outdated, she was working steady class III sections on paddle rafts with us on the Arkansas River, in addition to coming alongside on numerous float journeys on the Higher Colorado.

When life says an journey is simply too massive for her, she says “Maintain my water bowl” and proves us improper!

There have been a number of expertise we wanted to work together with her intently on earlier than we had been snug taking her on a visit like this.


At the beginning is obedience

Success along with your animal on the river comes from an understanding that you are in charge of the scenario always. Greater than the rest, this implies you must actually work along with your canine on impulse management.

A part of the explanation that Hazel is such a superb river canine is that she isn’t “uncontrollably obsessed” with water. She enjoys being round it, however she’s not so instinct-driven that obedience goes out the window inside 100 ft of water like many lab breeds I’ve seen.

She likes to swim, however her first intuition is to not hearth off the boat like a furpedo when she sees a goose 100 yards away; she retains her impulses in examine as a result of she’s labored very laborious on it.

Obedience Half 2: Off Leash Habits and Management

The second a part of the obedience skillset is that your canine must be snug with being off-leash. In spite of everything, you wouldn’t tie your self to your rig, so that you shouldn’t tie your canine to it both.

Being off-leash is a large accountability for each you and your canine. You relinquish management of the scenario to your canine’s security, and your canine wants to grasp that they need to behave. Not each canine can deal with this accountability. That you must begin whereas they’re younger and work laborious at growing the privilege to your canine to be off leash because of cautious coaching.

This is not an excuse to not comply with rules at put-ins and take-outs that require your canine to be on leash. It is in all probability the perfect plan to maintain them on leash till you might be about to launch, so they are not wandering round whereas persons are backing trailers to boat ramps and such.

Obedience Half 3: Management Extreme Barking

Barking is one thing that we will solely management a lot. Some canine simply can’t assist however bark to specific their pleasure round water actions. That stated, others on the river shouldn’t need to tolerate your canine’s extreme barking for hours on finish.

We’re VERY fortunate that Hazel is pretty quiet in her demeanor and calms down on command 98% of the time she’s barking. Her breed isn’t recognized for this. We haven’t needed to work very laborious on this together with her, she is aware of we don’t prefer it when she barks rather a lot so she does not do it typically.

Swimming in Shifting Water

One other apparent and tremendous necessary ability you must ensure your canine is rock-solid on is swimming in transferring water. A canine that may be a champ swimming within the lake could be overwhelmed within the river in the event that they haven’t grown up navigating present and eddies whereas swimming.

We made positive Hazel realized to swim within the river first, watching different canine on a riverbank and splashing round in shallow eddies.

She innately understands that she must:

  • account for present when swimming between factors in a river
  • naturally maintain a ferry angle when swimming
  • swims to eddies if she’s going for the riverbank

I’ve discovered the perfect coaching method for this was making her chase sticks and tennis balls into gradual present from eddies.

She realized find out how to regulate her swimming when attempting to hit a floating goal and have become extra snug with transferring water over time.

Know Your Canine’s Limits

We all know there’s a accountable restrict to together with Hazel in our river experiences. There are occasions that we pushed the envelope and regretted it a bit.

We as soon as had a bizarre pin in a Class III fast on the Arkansas River. I needed to set Hazel on the rock we had been pinned on, un-pin the raft, and whip again round to seize her as we began to drift away … She wasn’t thrilled however took the expertise like a champ.

Wanting again the part wasn’t over her head, however nonetheless not essentially the most accountable second as a fur-daddy. It proved to me that something can occur along with your pet on the river; you must be ready for the whole lot when your pet is concerned.

We don’t take her on steady Class IV sections or Class V for apparent causes.

If it is significantly harmful for us, there’s no good motive to throw a canine into the combination, too.

Keep in mind that each canine has a restrict, even if you’re pushing your personal restrict.

Nice Ok-9 Gear

We’ve at all times made positive Hazel has a superb PFD that matches her properly. Since we began her so younger on the water, her first pfd was one rated for canine lower than 10 kilos!

She’s now on her third PFD that’s made by Ruffwear, and now that she’s topped out round 35 kilos and we have now lent the PFDs that used to suit her to different buddies getting their pups into the game.

We advocate the NRS CFD or the Astral Fowl Canine PFD to our buddies, as they characteristic the identical high-quality flotation used on PFDs for people, and are available all kinds of sizes to best-fit your canine.

Additionally, you will at all times wish to begin touring with a medical equipment on the river. With the ability to bandage sliced pads, torn toenails, or different accidents is necessary to retaining your canine snug.

Professional Tip: All the time carry tweezers and scissors. There are loads of burrs on the riverbank and typically the easiest way to get them out is to chop the clump of hair that’s caught up in them.


Your canine won’t pop your raft. Lots of people take a look at me humorous when I’m loading Hazel onto a raft like she’s going to pop it together with her nails. I wouldn’t be trusting my life and security to one thing that might be popped by a canine’s toenails, belief me.

When you’ve got a PVC boat and your canine’s toenails haven’t been trimmed in awhile, it would depart a mark on uncommon events however that is actually it.

Remaining (however necessary) tip for the journey

Your canine is at all times barefoot and surfaces warmth up far more than you suppose. From the sand on a seaside, to the diamond-plate decking in your body, to the blacktop on the take out, she’s going to be strolling on sizzling surfaces all day.

Be cognizant of this and ‘hand take a look at’ the surfaces they’re strolling on typically. If it’s too sizzling to maintain your hand there for five seconds, make a more sensible choice to your canine.

Soak it down with water, or attempt to stroll within the shade!

Professional Tip: Moist down a towel or tapestry to place over the cooler pad in order that it does not warmth up an excessive amount of within the solar!

If floating along with your furry finest pal is what you wish to do, be certain that to work with them to get them to a degree the place they’re snug and accountable with the exercise. The excited squeals as you load as much as launch are greater than value it!

Written by Jake Fort. All Pictures by Amanda Fort

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