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Doggy Paddling

Doggy Paddling

At TVA we love pets. So why not bring them out to enjoy #TVAfun on our lakes and streams? Paddling with your pooch is great fun, and with a little preparation and know-how, safe for everyone.

At #TVAFun we want you to enjoy the water. And we realize that might mean taking your four-legged friends with you. Paddling with your pooch can make spectacular memories, but it does require some special preparations as John Mattox, at Paddle Dog Adventures in Franklin, Tenn., explains.

Size Matters

Be realistic. Don’t try to put a 150-pound Newfoundland on a paddle board or in a canoe. A large, excited dog can capsize it. A pooch that is in the 30- to 50-pound range is ideal for a canoe or board. Water breeds such as Labradors, Chesapeakes, poodles or Portugueses would be obvious companions. Don’t worry if you don’t have a water dog. Just follow the next tip—socialization.


Water can be terrifying to some pets. Water is unforgiving and it can be deadly if your pooch freaks out. If you’re not sure about how your dog will react to water, take them to a lake or stream to see how they will respond before you set afloat in a boat. That way you can make certain paddling will be a fun experience for you and your pet.  


We’ve seen it: pets running loose, not responding to their owners. As pet owners it’s our responsibility to safely manage our pets and ensure good behavior in public. Your pet must be able to sit, stay and come to you on command. If your pet can’t follow basic commands, then it’s not ready to hit the water.


Pets are like people. Whenever you do something new you have to become familiar with it. If paddling is new to your pet, get your dog used to the board, kayak or canoe. Bring it into the house. Make it fun. A simple trick is to place treats on it to get your pet use to standing or sitting on it. To make things easy, train your pet to follow a special command for getting on and off the board.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once your dog is familiar with the board and command you can graduate to the water. Go slow at first; remember positive reinforcement. Take it easy, and go a little further into the water each time.


Don’t make your dog… paddle. Every dog on the water should have a lifejacket. Remember: If something bad happens, you don’t know how long it may take for help to arrive. If you going on an overnighter, bring pet food, bowls, medications and something soft for your dog to sleep on. There is no need for your pet to “ruff-it.”


Many states have leash laws, so you’ll want to bring a one. Plus, you may see something cool and want to get off the water, so you will need a leash. Never hook/leash your dog to the board, kayak or canoe while on the water. If you capsize or if your dog accidentally ends up in the water, the leash could strangle it.  


It’s always a good time for fun on the Tennessee Valley’s lands and waters. Not sure where to start? We have you covered! Check out some of the best recreational activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your own stories and photos on Instagram using #TVAfun.

River Neighbors Newsletter

Get the all the latest news and inside information about recreation on TVA public lands and lakes.

Paddle Pointers

Want to get the most out of your rafting, kayaking or canoeing adventure? Be prepared before you go. We make it easy with our paddle pointers checklist, which covers everything from safety basics to relevant U.S. Coast Guard law.