Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. For some of us, boating is a pleasurable pastime when the weather warms up and the days lengthen. But, what to do with your dog if your are going to be gone all day, or overnight – or several nights? Taking your pooch along to enjoy your boating adventure is perfectly viable, but several things need to be done in preparation to ensure that your canine friend enjoys himself and stays safe.
Here are 8 Tips for Boating with Your Dog
1. Ensure You Dog Knows How to Swim
Although many dogs take to the water naturally and are efficient swimmers without any coaching, others are a little more reticent. A dog that is confident in the water will be more comfortable on the water. If your pooch isn’t a natural swimmer take the time to start him off in shallow water or at a doggie swimming pool until he is swimming well and independently.
2. Consider How Your Dog Will Access the Boat
Never allow your dog to jump on or off the boat – a slip or miscalculation could spell disaster. There are a number of possible methods of helping your pet access the boat, including stairs or a ramp. Or, if your dog is small enough, you can carry him aboard. Keep your dog leashed while accessing the boat or the dock to ensure a helping hand if it is required.
3. Don’t Rush Things
It’s always a good idea to allow time to orient your buddy to the marine environment without actually taking him out on the water too soon.
Make a few short trips to the marina and work on getting your dog on and off the boat safely and efficiently.
If you just hang out on the boat together for a while without actually going anywhere your canine friend will grow comfortable with the environment and its new sounds and sensations. Your first few voyages should be short in duration to allow your dog to become accustomed to the sensation of being on the water. Start out with a trip of just a few minutes, then gradually increase the length of your adventures.
4. Invest in a Good Life Jacket
Even if your dog is a strong swimmer it’s a good idea to put a life jacket on him when you take him out on the water. Choose a flotation device that is a comfortable, secure fit and get him used to wearing it prior to actually taking him boating. Life jackets for dogs often come with handles along the back, which can be a good assist if you ever have to help your dog out of the water. Purchase a flotation device that is a bright colour to ensure that your dog can be seen in the water.
5. How Will Your Dog Eliminate?
Give some thought to how your pooch will be able to go to the bathroom if you are going to take him boating. Plan to either go ashore at regular intervals, or if that is impossible be sure to pack puppy pads or poop bags to use on the boat.
6. What to Pack for Your Dog
Be sure to pack fresh water and a water bowl for your dog. A comfortable mat for him to lie on out of the sun will help him settle and give him better footing. For light-coloured dogs, an SPF 30 (or higher) sunscreen will need to be applied to bridge of nose, ears and any other exposed skin areas. Ensure that the sunscreen you choose has no zinc oxide in it, as it is toxic to dogs. Sunscreen for babies is often a good bet.
If you are going to be on the water for many hours or overnight, be sure to pack food for your dog, as well as any medications he may require.
7. If Your Dog Goes Overboard….
What are you going to do? Develop a plan for this contingency before it happens. All it takes is a rogue wave or sudden rough water to throw your dog off balance and, potentially, into a dangerous situation. Teach your pooch how to get back on board using either a swim platform or ladder. In the case of small dogs, a net may be enough to fish them out.
8. Ensure Proper Identification
Make sure that the identification information on your dog’s collar or harness (or in his microchip) includes not only your phone number, but the name of the marina and the berth number where your boat is normally moored.
With a little thoughtful preparation boating with your canine friend can be a fun and rewarding experience. Bon voyage!
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