Do you bring your dog everywhere with you and specifically seek out activities and places that are dog-friendly? Your boat day shouldn’t be any different! When you rent a boat or book a boat charter, check with the captain or owner first if you want to bring your dog along. If pups fit into their rules and policies, then you’re ready to start preparing your doggy for their boating adventure. With a few precautions in mind, you and your best friend can have an unforgettable day on the water.

If you’re taking your dog boating for the first time, it’s a good idea to arrive at the dock earlier than your desired departure. It may take a few tries to get them comfortable boarding the boat. For some dogs, it’s natural and easy to get them on the boat, while others may be more hesitant or nervous. With calm reassurances and you by their side, your dog will get used to being on a boat and can settle in once you’re cruising.

Preparing for Boating with your Dog

When preparing your boat for a safe and fun day out with your dog, it’s important to examine the watercraft as you would if you were taking small children boating. Block off any access points that would make it easy for your dog to jump or fall over. Make sure you bring a bag of supplies like food, water, and treats for your dog too, these can be essential for coaxing them back onboard or helping them calm down if the loud noises and movement frightens them.

Taking safety precautions to prevent drowning is crucial when boating with your dog. Obtain a canine life jacket that is the appropriate size for your dog. Check out our Dog Lifejacket Guide for more information on selecting the right one.

Bring food and fresh water for your dog to drink. Even if you’re boating on a freshwater lake, the water can often be contaminated or of a lower quality than purified tap water that you can bring from home. It’s better to be safe than sorry and you definitely don’t want your dog to lap up a lot of saltwater.

Determine your dog’s swimming ability and take into consideration the water conditions before letting them jump in. The wind, size of waves, and temperature of the water are all factors to consider when determining if it's safe for your pup to swim. Even with a lifejacket, dangerous water conditions can easily overwhelm a dog and lead to a tragedy at sea. If conditions are safe for swimming, have a plan for getting your dog back on board the boat. If your dog is too heavy to lift back into the boat, products like a DoggyDock, a floating ramp for dogs will help them climb back up once it’s time.

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Tips for Smooth Sailing with your Pooch

Put your dog’s life jacket on BEFORE pushing off from the dock. Having it on and secured before you’re out on the waves makes it so much easier to manage the situation if they get anxious and try to wiggle away.

Have a designated spot for your dog to sit on the boat and make them settle in when in motion. If you are the drive and only human on the boat, this should be by your feet within reach. This is not only safer for the dog, but also prevents the boat driver from being distracted by a dog running around a boat deck.

Bring floaties! A giant floating lily pad or inflatable (make sure it’s durable so your pup’s claws don’t pop it right away) is a great addition to a boat day. Not only can your dog climb up and relax, but your fellow human boaters will appreciate the ability to float in the water and relax during your boat day.

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Another consideration when boating with your dog is to make sure you take care of them as you would a small child. Provide a shady spot for them to rest if it’s a hot and sunny day. If your dog has short hair, consider spraying them with unscented sunscreen to prevent burns. Always have their leash onboard and have a plan for potty breaks. A good way to do this is to stop off at a sandbar, island, or public beach and walk them a bit until they relieve themselves. Always have baggies to pick up any poop and properly dispose of it.

How to handle emergencies when boating with a dog

Having a “dog overboard” plan is essential. A few simple steps will help you to secure the situation and prevent any tragic accidents when boating with your dog.

  1. If your dog jumps overboard when the boat is in motion, cut the engine immediately.
  2. Do not jump in to grab your dog. This can cause them to panic and could put you at risk too. Instead, reach down and pull them back into the boat. This is where a dog life jacket with handles will be helpful.

Boating with your dog should be a fun and relaxing activity. Most dogs take to the water with joy and will love going out boating with you. If you take your dog boating and they do not react well to the experience, it might not be for them. Never force your pooch into situations that give them anxiety or upset them, as this can ruin your boat day in addition to stressing them out.

We love seeing pictures of our renters bringing their dogs out on the water! If you have some great shots with your pooch from your GetMyBoat rental or charter, please send them to pr@getmyboat.com!