Are you thinking of going boating this summer? Having the opportunity to get out on the water is fun for the whole family–even your four-legged family members! Dogs and boats can be a fun combo but bringing dogs on a boat requires special precautions and preparations to ensure your canine friend is happy and safe.
Prior to setting sail, you’ll need to ensure you teach your dog safety precautions and be prepared for all circumstances, just as you would with humans. But don't be overwhelmed! Here are some tips on how to safely boat with your canine companion.
Make sure your dog knows how to swim
Believe it or not, not all dogs are natural swimmers. Some don’t even like the water. That’s why it’s best to teach your dog how to swim before you take them boating. Even if you aren’t planning to get in the water, accidents can happen. It’s important to know that if your dog accidentally falls (or jumps) overboard, they can keep themselves afloat until you can get them back into the boat or safely to shore.
There are some places that do offer doggie swimming lessons, or if you have a pool at home, teach them yourself. At the end of the day, ensuring they are confident and comfortable in the water is going to be vital.
Read more: Teaching Your Dog How to Swim Blog
Getting on and off the boat
Getting on and off the boat can be the hardest part of the day for dogs to handle, as their anxieties or hesitance to move from the dock to the boat (and vice versa) over rushing water may make them uncomfortable and uneasy and you pose a risk of having them slip.
If you own a small breed, simply picking them up and carrying them aboard is likely best. If you own a larger breed dog, a boarding ramp or stairs is a perfect solution.
Don’t rush things
Before you set sail, make sure your dog knows what to expect and is comfortable on your vessel. Give them a chance to get on and off the boat while you’re docked so they can get used to their surroundings and spend some time simply at the dock. Then take your dog for a slow ride at first to see how they do. If they’re too nervous, try again another day. The more consistent you are, and at ease, they will be too.
Keeping your dog afloat in the water by making him wear a personal floatation device (PFD) whenever he’s on the boat (or near water) is a great way to keep him safe in case of an accident. A life jacket that gives a dog extra buoyancy should have "lifting handles" that enable you to haul the dog back aboard. It's also important for your pup to try on a life jacket before you buy it. They come in many shapes and sizes based on their breed and size.
Let them wear it on dry land first so they become comfortable with the way it feels. If possible, conduct a few practice sessions before boating so that they can get the feel of being buoyant when wearing the PFD in the water.
Solutions for Your Pet's Unique Dietary Needs
If your dog is a picky eater, has a dull coat, or food sensitivities, feeding them a solutions-based food may be the answer to many issues.
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Just like humans, when you gotta go you gotta go. Give some thought as to how bathroom breaks for your pooch will work. Oftentimes when you’re on the water, you won’t be able to get ashore at regular intervals. It’s best to train them to use a puppy pad or fake grass mat for longer sails.
What to pack
It’s always better to be over prepared than underprepared!
Here are some supplies you should always pack when bringing dogs on a boat:
- Fresh water
- Life jacket
- Mat for dog to lie in sun
- ID tag with information
- Leash and collar
If your dog goes overboard
Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there is a chance that your dog might fall overboard, and you need to have a plan to get them back to safety. Make sure everyone who comes onto your boat knows what to do if this happens. The first step is to have a plan! Do NOT jump in to get your dog. Animals, like humans, can panic and drag you down with them when they’re struggling to stay above water. Instead, call your dog over to the boat and lift them out of the water. Most dog life jackets have handles to pull dogs up. Or direct them to a swim platform or ladder. In some cases, if the conditions aren’t ideal, and you have a small dog, a net may be able to scoop them out.
You need to consider many things if you want to take your dog boating. By following and taking into consideration these specific boating safety tips, you can look forward to loads of fun on the open water with your dog.
We hope these tips will help keep you and your dog safe while boating this summer!