Boating with your dog...what could be better? If you are like many dog owners, you have a hard time leaving your best friend behind while you head out on the water for the day. So it is ideal to bring your pup along for the ride. However, it isn’t that simple. Not all dogs are made for the boating way of life. Here are a few tips to “test the waters” to see if your dog can be your first mate:
Before you throw your dog on board and say “let’s go!” there're some things you need to check off your must-have list:
Collapsible bowls for food and water can be found online or at the majority of pet stores. They take up zero space and some even have a clip on them to make them easier to carry around. Make sure you bring along plenty of drinking water for them.
Planning on taking your four-legged friend to the bar or restaurant with you? Grab a collar and leash. Most establishments want you to keep your dog on a leash to keep your dog and those around you safe. (If you are visiting Lake of the Ozarks, check out our list of pet-friendly waterfront restaurants here.)
Just in case, make sure you have a name tag complete with your phone number to keep on your dog’s collar. Many boaters also suggest looking into micro-chipping. Either option just ensures that, if for some reason you and your pup get separated, you can be reunited.
Dogs will be dogs and puppies will be puppies. Nature will call at inconvenient times. To keep your boat clean, we suggest designating a spot they can go if need be. Puppy pads or anything similar will make sure your boat stays clean and your dog will be comfortable.
Accidents happen. Just in case your dog gets injured in some way or gets sunburned, it is smart to have a just-for-dogs first aid kit on board. Throw in some motion sickness pills for pets while you’re at it.
If your dog isn’t exactly on the smaller side, you might want to look into a boarding ramp. For larger dogs that can’t easily be lifted into your boat, this makes it easy on you and them.
Last on the must-purchase list, but certainly not least, is a pet flotation device (PFD). Find a PFD that fits correctly, is comfortable for your dog, and is brightly colored to make them easy to spot. These doggy life jackets serve multiple purposes, but there are things to keep in mind:
First, yes it is a life jacket, but that doesn’t mean it will save your dog's life. Be aware of your dog while in the water and on your boat. These PFDs are designed to keep your dog horizontal so they stay in the swimming position. However, not all dogs are strong swimmers or can swim at all. Low body fat breeds, older dogs, and dogs with joint issues probably won’t be stellar in the water.
With that being said, the next thing to be aware of is most PFDs come with a handle located on the top of the life jacket. These serve a couple purposes: 1) Makes your dog easier to carry and lift if the dog is small and 2) Makes retrieval easier if your dog were to fall overboard.
Speaking of overboard: once all these things are in your possession, don’t jump the gun and think your dog is ready to go for a boat ride. Come up with a dog overboard plan and make it known among your passengers. It is never a bad thing to be prepared.
Your dog needs to be prepared as well. When taking your dog on board, exposure is important. Get your pup used to your boat while it is docked first. Let them get to know it and then work your way to starting your engine so they can get used to the noises.
Ready to Ride
Once they seem comfortable and ready to try a ride, keep the rides short at first. Just like long boat rides in the sun affect us, they affect your four-legged friend as well. If your dog seems comfortable, you’re good to go! Just make sure they have a spot with some shade. Dog’s pads on the bottom of their feet soak up heat and could hurt them. Besides, they need to cool off just like we do at times.
If you are consistently trying and your dog has zero interest or seems nervous, do not force them to go. Forcing them will heighten their anxiety. Not all dogs are made to be your first mate.
We hope this helps! And we hope Fido can tag along for the ride. What’s your favorite thing about boating with your pet? Any additional tips to share? Let us know!