For some people their dogs are their family members, they go with them everywhere and do everything together. And if your pup loves water and adventure as much as you do, you may be considering a rafting trip with your furry best friend? Whether it be a short day trip or a longer multi-day it’s just a matter of doing your research.  Prioritizing whitewater rafting safety is essential for everyone involved—whether they have two legs or four! And while rafting down the Ocoee with a pet is unfortunately not recommended, that doesn’t mean that your fur baby can’t enjoy some rafting fun of their own elsewhere.

Not All Rivers And Boats Are The Same

While some rivers may be suitable for Fido to tag along, it’s important to keep in mind that doesn’t automatically mean that rafting with a dog is possible on all rafting trips. There are many factors that contribute to this, including the intensity of the rapids and the length of the trip. Start by researching the particular river you’d like to visit and make sure you understand whitewater classification. It’s one thing if you’re heading out in your own raft, but if it belongs to someone you know, or if it’s a rental, make sure that person or the company are comfortable with a pet being in their boat. If you’re heading downriver with other people, consider that a small group of people is likely a better choice as your pup won’t feel overwhelmed by the crowd and will have ample space. Another factor to consider is the time of year. While in the summer a day out on the water is a great way to beat the heat, when the weather is cooler then the water will be as well. In that case, you’ll need to consider the size of your dog and its ability to retain heat especially after getting wet.

Water Dog

Before anything, ask yourself if your dog is really a water dog—and not just okay with water, but actually fond of it. Even when it comes to dogs that like water, it may be a good idea to build them up to it so that the sensation is not so foreign. See how they react on a pool floaty for example, and then test how they react in a more tranquil boat setting such as a motorboat or in a canoe. Build up confidence in your dog and their level of trust so that when they’re making their way downriver it won’t be nearly as foreign an experience. They’ll definitely be getting wet so it’s important that they’re comfortable with that. If you know your dog is indeed fond of water, the next thing to consider is how they act in new situations as well as with possible sudden movements. If your dog is not a fan of car trips, take this as a strong indicator that rafting is very unlikely to be a good fit. If your dog is also prone to running off on its own, this comes with an additional risk if they were to jump off the raft suddenly or run off into the woods.

Treat Your Pet Exactly Like Another Person

Most importantly, make sure everybody including your dog is wearing a life vest or personal flotation device. As with getting them used to water and boats, make sure your dog is used to and comfortable wearing a life vest. It is also extremely important that under no circumstances you tie or fasten your dog to the raft. In the event of the raft flipping over, your dog (just like you) needs to be free to swim out from underneath. Ultimately, if you’d be comfortable swimming in it, your dog will likely be as well.

What about snacks and meal planning? If you’re going to be hungry from all that adrenaline pumping, so will your dog! Consider the reality of bathroom breaks as well. Additionally, if you’re not drinking the freshwater because of health concerns, keep that in mind with your pet as well. And in the same way that you need to care for your feet, keep in mind that your pet may also be exposed to walking on rocks and gravel as well.

There are of course a few things that don’t necessarily apply to pet parents. Consider whether you need some kind of doormat or surface that your dog can stand on without slipping. Be sure to have tweezers handy in order to check your pet for ticks. If you’re taking a longer trip or a multi-day trip, bring along some of their favorite toys so that they can take a break and also have some familiar fun on dry land.

Sometimes It’s Best For Them To Sit This One Out

Whitewater river rafting is a great way to spend some time connecting with nature, but as safety is the main priority, the circumstances need to be considered with proper measures taken in order to bring your pup along. As tough as it may be, for the sake of their safety, as well as any human passengers, there are times where it may be best for them to sit this one out. If you’re near Chattanooga we invite you to join us on our human-only half-day or full-day rafting trips and enjoy your own outdoor fun.