Boating with Dogs: 5 Tips to Keep Your Pup Safe on the Water

Date: July 17, 2019
Lifestyle Health + Wellness

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There’s nothing quite like getting out on the water during the warmer months. And if you have the opportunity to bring your dog along, it only makes it that much more fun. That said, there are some things to keep in mind when bringing your dog out on the boat, especially for the first time. 

isabella-and-penelope-boating-1.pngJust like how you must teach any new passenger boat safety and offer guidance on what to bring for a boat excursion, it’s no different with your pup. You must teach your dog how to behave safely on the boat, and you’ll also have to pack extra gear to make sure your dog is prepared to cruise out on the water with you. 

Isabella and Penelope both love boating and it’s one of our favorite things to take them to do! No matter what time of year it is, they are always game for going on a boat ride, swimming and getting some fresh air. However, getting both pups comfortable with the boat and how they were to behave on it took some time. 

That’s why I’m sharing five tips to keep your pup safe while boating. 

1. Keep Your Dog on a Leash Until He Learns the Boat’s Boundaries 

First and foremost, don’t board the boat and immediately let your dog off the leash -- even if the passenger area is enclosed with gates keeping the dog on board. If your dog likes to swim and is used to jumping into pools or lakes, there’s a real possibility that you’ll let them loose on board and they’ll jump right off into the water. This can be incredibly dangerous as most marinas, and boat docks do not have a way for a dog to get out of the water easily, and the likelihood of other boats coming and going from the dock with their propellers going is high.

isabella-and-penelope-boating-6.pngAlways keep your dog leashed when you are coming and going so you have control over him. 

Also, it can be a bit nerve-wracking for a dog once the motor turns on and the boat starts moving. Remember, boats can tilt when turning, boats can be very bouncy when going over another boat’s wake, and boats are open air. It’s very different from riding in a car for a dog.

Keep your dog on a leash as he explores the boat while it’s in motion. Allow him to learn where the boundaries are and be sure to scold your dog if he gets too close to the edge. 

Only after your dog settles in on the seats or the deck floor and you feel 100 percent confident that he knows how to ride on the boat safely should you allow him off-leash. And if this doesn’t happen on your first boat ride, that’s okay.

2. Use a Dog Life Jacket

isabella-and-penelope-boating-3.pngWhile your dog is getting accustomed to the boat, keep a dog life jacket on him. Even if your dog is a great swimmer, the waves from the boat’s wake can be disorienting, especially if your dog is scared from falling overboard. 

Your dog’s life jacket will also come in handy if you decide to drop anchor or beach your boat to go swimming. If you’re in the ocean, some currents and waves could easily drag your dog down. And lakes offer the danger of other boats driving by. 

A life jacket offers a bit more safety and security for your dog. Plus, they come in bright colors so other boaters can easily spot your dog.

isabella-and-penelope-boating-7.pngBella and Penny both have this dog life jacket from Kurgo. Not only does the red color easily catch the eye, but the life jackets do a great job of helping the girls stay afloat. 

3. Have Shade and Fresh Water Available

Most boats come equipped with a bimini or some covered canopy, particularly boat rentals. If you own your boat and do not have one, it’s generally an attachment you can purchase.

isabella-and-penelope-boating-5.pngHaving a bimini or covered area is essential so your dog has a shady place to cool off. While boats bring a nice breeze while you’re cruising around, the sun is still beating down on your dog and heat is getting trapped inside his coat. It’s imperative to have a place for your dog to be able to escape the sun to ensure they do not overheat on your boating excursion. 

In addition, be sure to bring plenty of fresh water onboard the boat for your dog. Don’t just assume he can drink the lake or ocean water. 

Ocean water has a high salt content and can be incredibly dangerous for your dog to consume in large quantities. And lake water isn’t always the cleanest, especially if the lake is prone to high volumes of boat traffic.

4. Plan for Potty Breaks

Next, remember to plan potty breaks for your pup. Unlike being at home, there is no way for them to tell you when they need to go while you’re on the boat. Think about how long your dog can generally hold it at home, and then keep in mind the amount of water they’re consuming on the boat and also via swimming. Your dog will need potty stops pretty regularly. 

If you don't want to anchor or beach the boat regularly for your dog to take potty breaks, consider bringing a grass portable pet potty.

Whenever we take Bella and Penny out on the lake, we’ll beach the boat every hour or two so they can get off on the shore to swim and go potty. When we take them out in the ocean in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we’ll pull off on islands every couple of hours and do the same.

5. Don’t Allow Your Dog to Exit the Boat from Just Anywhere

The last tip: don’t allow your dog to exit the boat from anywhere. The last thing you want to do is let your dog think it’s okay to jump off the seats into the water when you stop, or any other place you don’t want him exiting from. 

isabella-and-penelope-boating-2.pngWhen it’s time to get off the boat to swim or go potty, make your dog wait for you to turn the boat off, make sure the propeller has stopped, and open the exit where the stairs are. It’s imperative your dog knows that to get on and off the boat, he needs to be patient and board/exit the boat in the same spot as the ladder. This way, if your dog ever has to get back on the boat while you’re anchored offshore, it’s easy for you to help him up the ladder. 

Not only will this help keep your dog safe, but it will keep you safe getting on and off the boat as well.

Have Questions?

I hope these suggestions on how to keep your dog safe on the boat are helpful. Each of these tips are guidelines we practice we each time we take Isabella and Penelope out on the boat to ensure their safety. 

Have any questions about any of the suggestions mentioned here? Do you have some boat safety tips for your dog that we missed? Leave a comment or send us a message; we’d love to hear from you!