If you enjoy boating, there’s no reason not to take your dog with you. After all, dogs love going places with their owners. Safety is important on a boat and it is especially important if you take your dog along with you. Here are some tips for safe boating with dogs that will make your day on the water safe and enjoyable for everyone.
LIFE JACKETS / PFD
People are not the only ones who should wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life jacket while boating (also known as Dog Flotation Devices – DFD). Some breeds, like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, are traditional boat dogs. But that doesn’t mean you can take them on boats without considering their safety and well-being. Many dog owners assume their pets can swim, but a short paddle in the pool is a big difference to swimming through strong currents and in open waters. Your dog may not be strong enough or fast enough to swim alongside your boat. Short-legged breeds can also have problems swimming. Regardless of how good a swimmer your pet is, a sudden fall into water can cause panic.
Believe it or not there are life jackets that are made just for dogs. Make sure the DFD fits securely and allow your dog to practice swimming while wearing it. If your dog has never worn a DFD they may not warm to the idea at first. Give them time to get used to it before actually getting on the boat or into water. Tip: get a brightly coloured life jacket with a handle on top, this will make them much easier to see and retrieve.
FRESH DRINKING WATER
Always have plenty of fresh drinking water available for your dog. Dogs lose body fluid when they pant, so make sure you keep them hydrated.
Boats move and bounce around a lot so you will need your non spill water bowl on board so your dog has access to clean fresh water at all times.
SUN AND HEAT EXPOSURE
Excessive sun exposure can cause heat problems for dogs, including sun stroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion. Ensure your dog stays cool and prevents overheating by taking your Dog Cooling Coat on the boat with you, they are lightweight, comfortable and easy to activate by simply immersing in water.
Boat surfaces, such as fiberglass, can get extremely hot in the sun. Providing a shaded area for your pet is a good idea.
If your boat surface allows, try to train your dog to go to the bathroom in a specific spot, on some newspaper, square of astro turf or disposable doggy mats. Alternatively be sure to allow your dog to go ashore so they can do their business. Don’t forget to pick up behind your dog.
INTRODUCE BOATING TO YOUR DOG
If you’ve never brought your dog out on a boat, don’t assume they will enjoy it. They often prefer still and stable surfaces. Allow your dog to get acquainted with the boat while it is still on the trailer or at dock. This is also a good time to let them wear their DFD for the first time. Your next step is to turn on the engine as it may be an unfamiliar sound to your dog.
Make your first outing on the water is a short one just to allow your pet to get used to boat movement. Dogs can get seasick too!
Teaching your dog basic safety commands, such as stay, sit, on boat, off boat, or the all time favourite “do your business” will be invaluable.
Be extra alert at dock, this seems to be where most accidents happen. Make sure your cat or dog knows not to get off the boat without permission. Keep an eye on them and never leave them unattended.
If you tether your pet on the boat, do it in a secure area, on a short lead and never at the neck.
Consider your boats traction on deck. Is there anyplace your dog is slipping and sliding? Bath mats or outdoor carpet with rubber non-slip backings can help with your dogs footing.
Taking these simple tips into consideration can help you make the most of your boating trip. Your dog will enjoy the fresh air and time spent with you and exercising basic safety precautions should ensure a safe and pleasant day out on the lake or at sea.