Updated: May 7, 2020
The ocean or nearby lake are tempting you to take a boat trip this weekend. Your family is experienced on the water, but Fido is brand new to the adventure.
Bringing along man’s best friend is possible when you prepare for the boating trip from a dog’s perspective.
Follow these tips so that your dog’s first boat trip is a successful one.
#1 – Know Basic Commands
Before your dog sets foot on the boat, teach it basic commands. Ideally, your dog should already have a good grasp of sitting, staying and fetching.
The commands are critically important on a boat. If the dog gets too close to the edge, a “heel” command brings them back over to a safe position.
Practice the commands on land, and then graduate to a docked boat. If the dog is too distracted by the water or moving vessel to listen for the commands, it may not be ready for the journey. Continue to work with the pooch so that the commands are deeply ingrained in its mind.
#2 – Test Out the Environment
Your dog responds to commands without fail. It’s ready to explore the boat. Give the dog some space as it sniffs around every area.
For large boats, keep the dog isolated to the top deck at first. Allow it to get a sense of the terrain. The boat may be rocking while it’s docked too. This familiarizing period gives the pooch a chance to gain its sea legs.
Guide the dog down any stairwells for additional exploration. Knowing its way around is part of a solid, safety plan.
#3 – Be Aware of Slippery Areas
Most vessels have textured floors so that visitors don’t slip. They’re designed for human feet and shoes, however.
Experiment with the vessel when it comes to your dog’s walking style. It may have problems with some textures. Don’t use booties or other covers on the dog’s paws either. They need to feel the vessel’s deck so that they can stay firmly upright.
When you notice that moving around the deck will be a slippery adventure, be prepared with the proper, dog boating accessories. Bring a leash. Always have it ready in case the pooch wants to follow you around the boat.
#4 – Designate a Bathroom Spot
Your pet will need to go potty at some point. Avoid any messy situations by preparing a doggy bathroom. Select a quiet corner of the deck. Purchase a grassy patch that has a canine-attraction spray.
Guide your dog to this location several times a day so that it understands its purpose. Their natural instinct will kick in, and the pooch will seek it out in the future.
Clean the patch as often as possible because dogs will look for cleaner areas otherwise. Spray it clean and remove any larger items. Your dog will appreciate this special area as a result.
#5 – Consider Dog Life Jackets
If you’re wondering “should my dog wear a life jacket?“, the simple answer is “probably”. The best dog for boating is a breed with a swimmer’s body. Long legs and necks allow the dog to stretch in the water as it happily paddles to shore.
However, certain breeds aren’t designed to swim. Short, squat and tiny breeds will struggle if they fall into the water.
Invest in a dog life vest for your pooch. They’re brightly colored with secure buckles around the dog’s torso. Some vests even have insulation so that the dog remains warm during the watery adventure.
If the pet does fall into the water, it’ll simply float until you can jump in after it. Even if they’re a good swimmer, sometimes getting a dog back on-board isn’t the easiest thing to do. The life jacket will allow them to not have to use up energy to stay afloat.
#6 – Try a Dip
The water shouldn’t be a shock to your dog. Before you head out to deep water, take a dip with your pooch. Carefully guide it into the water. Observe its reaction to the environment.
Even better, teach your dog to swim before heading out. They’ll most likely love it.
Some dogs love to paddle, whereas others are completely uncomfortable. This test run tells you how the pooch will react if it enters the water during the trip. If being uncomfortable is the reigning emotion, you’ll know to keep the dog on-board at all times.
#7 – Bring Emergency Contact Information
You may be diligent about your care for the dog on the water, but emergencies can occur. Don’t be caught off guard by forgetting your veterinarian’s phone number. Bring the vet’s business card and input the information into your cellphone.
Regardless of the location, you’ll have the number to call if the dog is in distress. Be aware that calling out on the water may not be possible. Create an emergency plan that includes a trip to shore so that cellphone calls are possible.
#8 – Be Observant
Sailing with dogs requires extra attention on your part. Although your pet is pleased with the boating experience, this fact doesn’t mean that it’s always safe. Know where the dog is at all times. Ideally, always have a visual of the pooch as you enjoy the sailing adventure.
Be ready with a leash so that any issues, such as high waves, don’t negatively affect the pooch. Your observations keep the dog safe along with reducing any problems out on the water. Emergencies take the fun out of the frolicking on the water.
When it comes to any dog boating trip, use your best judgment about the pet’s comfort level. Whimpering and nervous behavior indicates that the pooch isn’t happy with the situation. It may prefer an at-home environment.
Every pet is different so you’ll need to be observant about any behaviors that might be negatively impacting the pooch.