Cross Training

by Mike Stewart

The sun has set on yet another hunting season but this is no reason to allow your sporting dog to grow idle on the couch, living the lazy life.  Off-season dogs need to be mentally energized, physically challenged and their skills honed and even expanded.  The Wildrose Adventure Dog Program is the perfect solution.


Dogs of outside adventure complement the active lifestyles of so many people whether it’s hiking, mountain biking, fishing, or camping.  Destination canines, prepared to go anywhere, are trained in the etiquette of the trail:  patient, controllable, confident, the perfect complement to any journey into nature.

Among the most popular canine adventure activities involve canoes and kayaks.  People love the company of their dog on the water, drifting into the seclusion of the wild.  All that is necessary to prepare any dog for canoeing is a bit of specialized training and a proper introduction to the activity.

Essential Behaviors

It is unwise to place any dog in an unfamiliar situation without appropriate introductions.  This fact cannot be overstated when it comes to small watercraft.  To avoid an unnecessary fear factor, injury or just a miserable experience, pre-launch training is imperative.

First consideration:   Will the student sit still, patiently and quiet for a reasonable amount of time as you sit beside the dog?  Often this will result in a happy, playful response which will be unwelcomed afloat.


Provide a few distractions as you both sit on the ground.  Toss balls, have children run about, move the paddle side to side passing over the dog’s head.  Distractions will pop up while underway that must be ignored.  Dogs should never be tied to a watercraft or to a person to assure steadiness.  Stillness, without restraint, will take practice.


Approach all unfamiliar introductions from the dog’s perspective in logical progression.  Introduce the craft on land first before going to the water unless you are real fond of swimming.  Stabilize the canoe and teach the dog to confidently enter and exit on command.  Sit aboard mimicking the paddle action.  Shake the craft a bit side to side to simulate movement.  Exit the canoe and walk away insuring your canine pal will stay in place alone without movement.  The dog should not exit until told to do so.  Consider where the dog will sit to distribute weight properly with passengers and gear.  Teach the dog his “place” as it will be real time.

Water Work


Move the lessons to shallow water and repeat entry and exit etiquette.  Sit aboard rocking the canoe and crossing paddles overhead.  Add movement, step out and glide the canoe about in the shallows while providing control.  Dogs often react when the canoe hits a rock or the shore.  Practice the experience of pulling ashore encouraging the dog to remain still as everyone exits.

The Float

Now, take to the water with a confident dog.  Practice on calm, safe water before venturing too far from shore or too deep on a wild river.  On pullouts, be sure your dog will stay with your craft or tie him on the bank.  Don’t lose your dog in the wild.  Teach remote stay.

Final Considerations

Swim by:  Condition your dog to swim by the craft as if at heel.  In an emergency situation the dog should be accustomed to staying with the canoe even if swimming is required.

Floatation:  Some canines are not brilliant swimmers and even the best have limited endurance. A floatation vest may be advisable in some situations.

Collars:  Never leave a loose-fitting slip collar or a long lead on a dog underway.  A spill could result in the dog becoming entangled.


We love adventures with dogs; trekkers, trackers, overlanders and, of course, floaters.  Canines prepared to go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.  Training canoe dogs is fun and canoeing with a well-trained dog is even more enjoyable.

The skills acquired in so many of the activities of the Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification Program cross-pollinate to waterfowling and upland hunting.  Don’t miss the opportunity to get out there with family and friends and make your hunting dog a more versatile sporting companion.


Wildrose River Training Facility, Ozark Mountains

May 20 to 22, 2016

Register online at

We only have two positions remaining as of April 1.

Only a limited number of dogs/adventurers will be taken for this unique, outdoor experience.

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