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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Boating with Your Dog

Discover essential tips for boating with your furry friend. From life jackets to potty breaks, ensure your dog's safety and enjoyment on the water.

Taking most dogs on a boat ride is a welcoming and enjoyable experience. There is nothing quite like sharing the open water with your best friend while they happily sniffs the air and wag their tail at the passing birds.

However, without proper dog boating safety tips, you could be placing your four-legged friend in a bit of danger. You want them to feel comfortable on your own boat while also respecting the potential harm the warm can cause if they aren’t good swimmers – or worse – happen to tip overboard on a choppy day.

Here are some crucial steps to keeping your furry friend safe so they can earn sea legs and enjoy boating all year round.

#1 – Acclimatize Your Dog to the Water

Boating with your dog begins and ends with the comfort they feel around the water. Some breeds, like goldens, are strong swimmers who can naturally pick up the abilities they need as a pup. Other breeds, like pugs, don’t want anything to do with boat rides.

Take your time and introduce your dog to the water and your boat a little at a time. Many dogs will be able to pick up that this is a safe and secure journey. Give them time to get comfortable with the equipment you’ll be using and the sounds, feel, and smells they’ll experience, and you should be good to go.

#2 – Time to Gear Your Dog Up

First things first, a dog life jacket is essential, even for strong swimmers. Ensure the life jacket fits well, has lifting handles, is made of comfortable material, and comes in bright colors to keep your dog visible.

Exploring various dog life jackets and ensuring optimal fit can significantly improve safety and comfort during your boating adventures. Don’t purchase life jackets that make it hard for the dog’s head to remain above the waterline. Also, watch the waist straps. Make sure you can fit two fingers between the strap and your dog’s skin so there is room to maneuver. 

If it helps, have a boat ladder or ramp specifically for your pup to use so they can get acquainted with onboarding/offboarding with their life jacket on.

#3 – Keep Your Pup Hydrated

While on the boat, ensure your pup has access to plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated. Keep a portable, non-spill water bowl in a shaded area, offering regular drinks to prevent overheating and dehydration.

This is something easy to forget. A dog on a boat gets just as thirsty as your friends and family. You want to discourage them from drinking sea or lake water, as they are not used to the microbes and could get sick. Always have fresh water available for your furry friend.

#4 – Watch Out for the Sun

Dogs, like humans, need protection from the sun. Use light SPF sunscreen specifically designed for pets, and consider dog-friendly hats and sunglasses. Ensure ample shade on the boat provides relief from the hot sun, keeping your dog safe and cool.

It may look funny to see a dog on the deck wearing sunglasses, but keeping your dog safe under a bright afternoon sun is way more important. Plus, you can have fun with different fashions that match your pup’s personality.

#5 – Don’t Forget the Leash

Keep a leash handy to control your pup when needed, especially during docking or when other boats are nearby. Ensure it’s a comfortable length to provide some freedom while maintaining control.

A leash is also essential for other dogs. Many boaters love bringing their dog on a boat, and you will likely encounter other animals your pup isn’t used to. Boating should be fun for you and your dog, so strategically place a few leashes around your vessel – just in case.

#6 – Schedule Frequent Potty Breaks

Puppy pads or a designated potty area on the boat can manage bathroom breaks at sea. However, planning stops for on-land potty breaks will be much appreciated by your canine companion.

Always, always, always have a roll of doggy bags handy. Not only is this good for your pets, but also for any other accidents that may happen around the boat with food or bait.

#7 – Have Toys/Treats for Control

Bring along some familiar toys and treats to entertain and reward your dog during the boat trip. This can help maintain control and ensure that your pup associates boating with positive experiences.

Consider when you’re fishing or pausing for a swim. Not all dogs want to partake in these activities. Having a stuffed animal they can nap with or a Kong filled with peanut butter goes a long way to helping them enjoy boating as much as you.

#8 – Make Your Pup Comfortable

Ensure your pup has a designated, comfortable spot on the boat with non-slip pads to prevent sliding. Providing a familiar blanket or bed will help them feel secure amidst the rocking of the boat.

It helps if you let your family know of these locations as well. Your pet should feel like they can immediately walk to a specific spot and sit or lie down while you manage to disembark safely from docks or moorings.

#9 – Always Bring a Dog First Aid Kit

Prepare for unexpected situations by keeping a first aid kit tailored for dogs on board. This should include basic medical supplies, any required medications, and emergency vet contact information.

A good starting point for this first aid kit would be:

- Bandages

- Gauze Pads and Rolls

- Adhesive Tape

- Cotton Balls or Swabs

- Tweezers

- Scissors

- Disposable Gloves

- Antiseptic Wipes or Solution

- Hydrogen Peroxide

- Antibiotic Ointment

- Sterile Saline Solution

- Anti-diarrhea Medicine

- Muzzle

- Emergency Blanket

- Cold Pack

- Thermometer

- Pet ID and Photos

- Emergency Contacts

- Eyedropper or Syringe

- Splint Materials

- Tick Removal Tool

Wrapping it Up

Boating with dogs is a relaxing and enjoyable experience. It is also a great time to reinforce good behavior and proper training.

With a bit of patience and many incentives for the dog, you can quickly find a way to toss on the doggy life jacket, prep a few snacks, and hit the water for a long trip.


Will my dog be OK on a boat? 

Most dogs can adapt to and enjoy boating, but it's crucial to introduce them gradually, ensuring they are always comfortable and safe. You want them to have happy memories of your boating experiences, not stressful ones that make them uncomfortable while you’re trying to steer.

How do you take a dog on a boat for the first time? 

Begin with short trips on local waterways that are close to shore. Ensure your dog always has a well-fitted life jacket and has a chance to familiarize itself with the boat's environment before venturing into longer journeys.

How do I keep my dog safe on a boat? 

Prioritize a good life jacket, provide plenty of fresh water and shade, and ensure they have a secure, comfortable spot to relax while onboard.

Use positive reinforcement and take breaks to sit and relax with your dog as the water gently rocks them to a nap.

Do dogs get seasick on boats? 

Some dogs can experience seasickness. Different breeds and strong swimmers will vary based on how you introduce the boating experience.

Take your time. This cannot be stressed enough. If you are worried, ask your vet for any safe anti-nausea medication that will help your dog along the way.

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