Tips for Boating with Your Dog

Dogs are man’s best friend. So why would you leave your best friend at home on a beautiful boating day? If you want to bring your dog onboard, here are a few tips to help your pooch make a smooth transition to boating life.

  • Get your dog a lifejacket. Your dog might be a good swimmer when you take him for a walk around a local lake. But in challenging conditions that you might encounter off your boat, like currents or rough surf, it can be a different story. Be safe and purchase a good lifejacket for your dog.
  • Introduce your dog to your boat slowly. Being in a new environment like a boat can be an intimidating experience for your dog. Slowly introduce your dog to boating life, first by visiting your boat but not leaving the dock, and then by taking short trips. Dogs can get seasick just like humans, and short trips will help them get used to being on the water. 
  • Have a plan to get your dog onboard. Whether he is chasing something he sees or simply falls off the boat, there’s a good chance your canine will fall overboard at some point. Don’t wait until that happens to figure out how to get him back onboard. Come up with a plan ahead of time for how to get your dog back on your boat.
  • Bring lots of water. Dogs drink a lot of water. That’s especially true if they’re on a boat under the hot sun. If you’re offshore, they’re obviously not going to drink saltwater. Even if you’re a freshwater boater, lakes are often contaminated and have bacteria that is harmful when ingested. Be safe and carry plenty of clean water for your dog. 
  • Be prepared for “potty issues.” Unless your dog is amazingly well-trained, it won’t be using your boat’s head. And dogs aren’t great at holding it when they’re outside. Figure out a plan for how to have your dog go to the bathroom. Will you make lots of stops, or will you just clean up after your dog on your boat? Your dog won’t necessarily understand the difference between being outdoors on a boat and being outdoors at a park near a fire hydrant. Be prepared to clean up messes. Also, bring bags to clean up your dog’s waste and dispose of them properly. 
  • Have sun protection. Short-haired dogs can get sunburns just like humans. You may need to apply sunscreen to your dog. If you do, use unscented sunscreen so it doesn’t bother your pooch.