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Safety Tips for Boating with Dogs

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A dog wearing a life vest rides a canoe on a lake

Are you eager to hit the open waters this summer with your furry friend by your side? Boating with dogs can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but ensuring their safety and well-being is important. From dog life jackets to navigating bathroom breaks, here's everything you need to know to make your next boating excursion a safe and fun one for you and your best friend. 

Is it Safe to Take My Dog on a Boat?

Before embarking on your boating journey, it's natural to wonder if boating is safe for your dog. The answer is yes, with proper precautions and preparation, many of which are similar to those for tailgating with dogs. 

Just like humans, dogs require safety measures while on board. Here's a checklist to ensure your dog's well-being: 

Ease Into It

Do dogs get seasick on boats? They can! Some dogs may experience motion sickness while on a boat. Watch for signs such as excessive drooling, vomiting, or lethargy. To prevent seasickness, gradually acclimate your dog to the boat by starting with short trips and offering plenty of fresh air and water.

Create a Safe, Shaded Space

Designate a cozy spot on the boat for your dog to relax and feel secure. Bring along their favorite blanket or bed to make them feel at home and provide shade from sun exposure.

Remove Potential Hazards

Ensure that any area your dog has access to is free of possible dangers including hooks, lines, and other fishing gear. Have a delicious picnic planned for human passengers? Keep it secure in a place where your dog won’t be tempted to dig in.

Provide Drinking Water

Prevent your dog from getting overheated or dehydrated while on the boat by providing them with plenty of clean drinking water. Make sure they don’t drink from dirty lake or ocean water which can be unsafe for consumption.

Prepare for Bathroom Breaks

How does a dog go potty on a boat? While the answer can vary, the fact that they’ll need to does not — and that depends on how frequently they’re used to going. Train your dog to relieve themselves on a designated spot on the boat (consider training pee pads for this!) or provide regular breaks onshore to avoid accidents and discomfort. 

Can all dogs swim? What is dry drowning? Brush up on water safety for dogs before your next adventure.

Supplies Checklist for Boating with Dogs

Chances are that if you’ve gone camping with your dog or on other fun adventures, you have some of the essentials already packed and ready to go. But have you considered the unique supplies required for safe boating? Check out this list to get started before you set sail: 

  • Dog Life Jacket: Invest in a high-quality dog life jacket and harness that fits your pup snugly. This essential safety gear provides buoyancy and visibility in case of an unexpected fall overboard. Look for one with clips for a leash attachment. 
  • Floating Dog Leash: Keep your dog securely tethered to you with a floating leash and life jacket to prevent them from wandering or falling overboard. Tethering them to the boat itself can be risky if it capsizes. 
  • Dog Boat Ladder or Ramp: Help your dog easily embark and disembark from the boat with a specially designed boat ramp or ladder, minimizing the risk of injury. Consider any slippery surfaces aboard the boat or when getting on or off the boat and prepare accordingly. 
  • Sunscreen for Dogs: Protect sensitive areas with sunscreen made just for dogs. Hairless breeds or those with short coats are more likely to experience sun exposure, though it’s a good idea to prepare any dog with sunscreen formulated just for pets. Human sunscreen contains ingredients that can be toxic to dogs when ingested, so stock up on their very own. 

Dogs can get skin cancer when unsafely exposed to the sun. If you have questions about preventing or treating possible sunburn, consult your veterinarian immediately. 

How hot is too hot for our pets? Keep cool with our guide to caring for pets in a heatwave.

Don't forget to pack the following essentials for your time on board:

  • Fresh water and portable bowls 
  • Dog food and treats 
  • Pet first aid kit 
  • Towels for drying off 
  • Identification tags and microchip information 
  • Poop bags for cleanups 

While you’re packing those bags, let’s make sure you have a plan in place in case of emergencies.

Infographic titled 'Safety Tips for Boating with Dogs'. It offers a guide to essential gear and safety practices for boating adventures with dogs. Key items listed include a pet first aid kit, life jacket with harness, floating dog leash, fresh water and portable bowls, sunscreen formulated for dogs, dog boat ladder or ramp, towels, poop bags, food and treats, and identification tags with microchip info. The tips advise creating a shaded relaxation space, removing hazards like fishing gear, ensuring ample fresh drinking water, and planning for bathroom breaks.

Emergency Measures and Regulations

Before you head out, familiarize yourself with local regulations and rules regarding boating with dogs, including leash laws and designated pet-friendly areas.

Check the news and your local public health department for the latest updates on fresh water tests in your area. Outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can be dangerous, especially in warmer temperatures. 

What should I do if my dog falls overboard?

Whether you’re driving the boat or someone else is, make sure that everyone aboard is familiar with safety practices and how to react if your dog unexpectedly goes overboard. This includes measures like immediately cutting the engine and knowing how to pull your dog back in safely.

Are there any specific breeds or health conditions that may make boating unsafe for my dog?

Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, Frenchies, and Bulldogs are not natural swimmers and can have an especially hard time in the water. They’re also much more sensitive to overheating in warm weather. The same goes for dogs that are overweight or have mobility issues. Every dog is unique, so play it safe and always consult your veterinarian for advice specific to your pup.

Are there any potential hazards or toxins on boats that could harm my dog?

If you’re on a fishing boat, there’s a good chance that supplies like lures and hooks are around, so make sure those are secured away from your dog. Boats require fuel and oil similar to those that keep cars running, so make sure those are also out of reach.

Should I limit my dog's food and water intake before and during the boat trip?

Especially in hot weather, it is unsafe to limit your dog’s access to clean drinking water. Avoid disrupting their routine by timing your trip around their normal feeding schedule and anticipate potty breaks throughout the trip.

In case of an accident or unforeseen event, have emergency measures in place, such as knowing the location of the nearest veterinary clinic or animal emergency services.

Boating with dogs can be a great time for both you and your dog. The fresh air, sunny weather, and sense of adventure make all the steps for water safety well worth the effort, all while keeping them safe and happy. So, leash up your first mate, fit check their life jacket, and set sail for an awesome boating experience together. 

Learn more about how pet insurance could help you cover your pet’s eligible veterinary care expenses.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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