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Top 7 Safety Tips for Boating with Your Dog

Dogs on a boat

Hello, summer, it’s time for Mother Nature to bring on the sunshine and warm weather. For many people, a favorite way to spend a sunny day is on a boat. Letting your canine companion play captain and join you on board is a great way to spend time together, but it's also potentially dangerous if you don't take the proper precautions.

Before you go boating with your dog, know what to do to keep you and your pup safe on the water.

Should You Bring Your Dog on a Boat?

Before you start imagining yourself and your dog embarking on an epic adventure sailing the ocean or spending a day on the lake, think about your pup’s personality. Does your dog enjoy water, or do they go into panic mode as soon as you start the bath or it rains?

If your pooch runs for cover at the slightest drop of H2O, putting them in a boat and surrounding them with water doesn’t seem like a good time. Therefore, if your dog gets nervous around water or flat-out despises it, make other arrangements for them during your boating trip.

Also, consider if your dog gets motion sickness. If car rides make your pup woozy, a boat ride could do the same. Seasickness isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, since there are medications that could help. 

However, consider the big picture. If your dog doesn’t seem thrilled with going on a boat, there’s no point making them. But if your pup wants to be by your side, loves playing in the water, or enjoys swimming, discuss their motion sickness with your vet. In this scenario, giving your dog medication to ease their troubles could make sense.

Check Your Local Laws Before Bringing Your Dog on a Boat

If your dog loves the water and motion sickness isn’t an issue, you still may not be free and clear to sail with Fido. Check your local laws for any restrictions regarding bringing your pet with you on a boat. For example, some states require your dog to stay on a leash their entire time onboard, while others have more relaxed rules.

Bringing your dog onboard a public boat typically requires proof of current vaccinations. It’s worth checking for these guidelines before you try to board so you’re not left standing on the dock.

7 Tips to Stay Safe When Boating with Your Dog

Assuming your dog is ready and willing to go boating with you, there are a few things you need to do to ensure your pet stays safe on the water.

1. Make Sure Your Dog Can Swim

Humans and dogs should know how to swim before they spend time on a boat. Although life jackets add a layer of safety, they aren’t foolproof. If your pup has no clue what to do in the water, your first priority is to teach your dog to swim.

2. Get Your Dog a Life Jacket That Fits

Teaching your dog to swim doesn’t replace their need for a life jacket. Even the strongest swimmers can face challenges in the water due to dangerous currents, tricky undertows, tiredness, or cramping. 

A few weeks before your boating adventure, get a life jacket for your dog and make sure it fits correctly. Allow your pup to wear the jacket out of the water to get used to it before the day of your trip. Doggy life vests come in many different styles. If the first one you try doesn’t fit well, try another until you find one that keeps your dog comfortable and secure.

3. Bring the Right Supplies

Spending a day in the sun and on the water calls for additional supplies, like doggy sunscreen and paw protection for hot boat decks. Hosing off the deck ahead of time can help cool things down, but if your dog tolerates things on their feet, socks or dog booties are a good option.

Booties with a non-slip bottom are superior to help your dog maintain their footing on a slippery boat deck. If your pup won’t keep things on their feet, bring a few non-slip mats to prevent your pup from slipping and sliding.

Pack doggy waste bags to keep things tidy when nature calls and bring pee pads or artificial grass to make a potty spot for your pup. Remember to bring fresh drinking water. Saltwater isn’t safe for dogs, and your pet risks ingesting parasites or bacteria if they drink water from the lake or ocean.

Boating with Your Dog Packing List

  • Sunscreen
  • Paw protection
  • Freshwater
  • Dog food, treats
  • Bowls
  • Leash
  • Dog poop bags
  • Dog first-aid kit
  • Pee pads or astroturf
  • Shade, comfortable place to rest (blanket, towel, etc.)
  • Dog Life jacket
  • Non-slip mats

4. Create a Safe Space on the Boat for Your Dog

Set up a designated area for your dog aboard the boat, preferably with shade, so they have a safe space to rest. Choose a spot out of the way so your dog isn’t underfoot when you’re trying to operate the vessel.

If there aren’t any shady spots on the boat, make one so your dog always has opportunities to escape the sun. A large umbrella works or if space allows, set up your dog’s kennel and put a cover on top.

5. Train Your Dog to Board a Boat

If your pup is small, you likely plan to carry them on and off the boat, but it’s still wise to teach them to do it on their own. Practice boarding and disembarking with your pup for several weeks before bringing them on a boat. Stay patient and consistent, which are qualities that should go with any kind of training.

Use treats to motivate and lavish your pup with praise when they achieve small victories. A dog ramp is another way to make the process easier, but don’t let it be a substitute for training.

6. Secure Dangerous Items

Tie down anything that could go rocking and rolling when you’re out on the waves. Secure bait and hooks if you’re bringing your furry friend fishing, and have a safe place to stow any fish you catch.

7. Have a Plan if Your Dog Goes Overboard

Go over a rescue plan with everyone who plans to be on the boat. Even if your dog wears a life jacket and knows how to swim, there needs to be a solid plan to help your dog if they end up in the water unexpectedly.

Most dog life jackets have a handle or loop on top making it easy to grab and pull your pup back to safety. If your dog is out of reach, use a grab pole or similar item (add this to your packing list if your boat doesn’t have one on board). Stay calm if your dog goes overboard so that you maintain a clear head, and your dog doesn’t pick up on your panic.

Stay Safe and Enjoy Boating with Your Dog

Boating with your dog is a fun way to spend time together and enjoy a gorgeous summer day. But if you don’t make things safe, your boating trip can go from fun to fail quickly. Bring the right supplies, train your dog, make sure they can swim, and make the boat safe and secure for your pup.

For more helpful tips on keeping your pet safe and sound check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. You’ll also find ideas about summer activities with your dog and how you can be the best pet parent all year long.


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