Sécurité des animaux

The Complete Guide To Boating With Dogs

Written by aslmad.yaz

dog in lifejacket on boat guide to boating with dogs

(Photo credit: Sarah8000 / Getty Images)

Summer is coming, and everyone and their dog is jonesing to get out on the water! But before you go boating with dogs, make sure you know how to keep yourself and your beloved fur baby safe. The experts at Rightboat are sharing their expertise on essential supplies you’ll need, plus important training tips before you start planning days out with your pet. 

Teaching your dog to board a boat

If you have a small pup, the safest way to board a boat is to pick them up and carry them onto the boat. Larger dogs, however, will need some training and possible encouragement to step onto a moving platform. Initially, it is an unusual feeling for them, so using the treat training method is a good distraction and reward-based way of getting them to board without fear.

Be sure you go at your dog’s pace, and start on a calm day in the marina. Some dogs will take to it immediately, but others (often older dogs) might take a few weeks to build confidence. Go at your dog’s pace, and don’t rush the process. 

Never push or pull your dog onto the boat. Doing so could create negative associations. And in the worst-case scenario, your pup might point-blank refuse to go boating in the future. Boating is a fun adventure; your dog should see it as that. 

Signs of distress to watch out for

Boating can be stressful for some dogs. Signs of stress or anxiety to look out for include: 

  • excessive panting
  • refusing to get on the boat
  • being rigid
  • excessive yawning
  • excessive licking of lips
  • showing the whites of their eyes 

If you notice any of these signs, be extra gentle and patient. Also, keep a pocket full of your pup’s favorite treats. Together, you can conquer fear!

Choosing a life jacket for your dog 

Before you head out on a boat with your dog, ensure they have a life jacket. While many dogs are good swimmers, fatigue, cold temperatures, and adverse water conditions can quickly exhaust or disorientate a dog, especially older dogs. Some dogs love the water and jump off for a swim at any opportunity. But even if your dog prefers to stay on dry footing, accidents can happen, and if your dog slips in the water, you want them to stay afloat until you rescue them.

Doggy life jackets come in all shapes and sizes; getting one that fits well is essential. Life jackets keep your dog in a horizontal position, so they can keep swimming. The best life jackets will come with a handle to help you lift them from the water. 

When buying a life jacket, make sure it fits comfortably, with no handles or buckles causing the dog discomfort. It will take some time to get used to wearing a life jacket. Start practicing ahead of time at home so your canine gets used to wearing it. 

Essentials for boating with dogs

You’ll need a selection of items to ensure your dog is comfortable, whether you’re going out for a couple of hours, a whole weekend, or sailing around the world. It’s always best to over-plan and over-pack in case your trip lasts longer than expected.

  1. Water and food: Take a good supply of their usual fare, plenty of fresh water, and remember the bowls too. Dogs need to drink plenty, especially in hot conditions, and you want to discourage them from drinking out of lakes or the sea as there are bacteria that can make them sick. Also, you’ll need a good stock of treats to reward good behavior.
  2. First-aid kit: Add some items to your first-aid kit that you can use if your dog has an accident. Bandages and tape, disinfectant wipes, a butterfly suture kit, and a cone are all good things to have on board.
  3. Toys: Take a selection of your dog’s favorite chew toys to keep them happy and prevent them from wandering around the boat.
  4. Floatable leash: A leash with a float on one end allows you to let your dog go swimming without the worry of the leash dangling underwater and getting tangled in something. Of course, dogs can swim without their leash, but if you’re concerned about their swimming abilities, a floating leash lets you get to them quickly. Try this one from Amazon.
  5. Towels and a dog bed: Bring a stack of old towels to dry your dog off. You don’t want soggy dog smell all over your upholstery and carpets. A few blankets will ensure your dog doesn’t get cold in cooler conditions. Also, bring a dog bed so your pup has a safe, comfortable resting place.
  6. Non-slip mat: This is especially useful on fiberglass boats where the decks can be slippery to dogs. They will feel more secure and relaxed if they aren’t slipping about when they walk. Also, there’s less chance of accidents. A piece of carpet or rubber matting in the cockpit near their bed will work perfectly.
  7. Doggy pee pads: Your dog will need to relieve themselves during the day, which is easier said than done on a boat. Firstly, ensure your dog gets a potty break before boarding the boat. Secondly, bring a puppy pad or piece of astroturf and train your dog to use it. You can easily clean the astroturf at the end of the day or throw the puppy pads away, saving a distressed dog from peeing all over your decks. Try these affordable, disposable pee pads from Amazon. You’ll also want to bring an odor neutralizer, poop bags, and some disinfectant.

Make safety a number-one priority

Boating with dogs is fun, but proper preparation beforehand is crucial. You know your dog best and how they will react when on board. Be patient and take things at your pup’s pace. Make sure you train your dog long before the boating season, emphasizing how to board a boat and obey the command “stay.” You should also read up on how to introduce your pup to water before you embark on your journey.

Be prepared to abandon a day out if the weather changes or turn back if your dog isn’t comfortable (some dogs can get seasick). Boating should be fun for all the family, and your dog will more likely be enthusiastic about the next trip if he enjoys himself. 

Rightboat assisted in the creation of this article.


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