8 Tips for Boating Safely with Your Dog

If you’re lucky, you’ll be soaking in the sun on a boat with a cool beverage in your hand at least once this summer.


There’s just one very important thing that will be missing: your pet.


If you’ve thought about about bringing your fur buddy out on the water, you’ve definitely got some preparing to do before either of you leaves land. 


“Just as there are precautions to ensure human safety while on the water, there are important considerations for your pet, such as being sure they are comfortable on a boat before you leave the dock,” says Emi Saito VMD, MSPH, MBA, DACVPM for Banfield Pet Hospital. “As the motto goes, be prepared! This helps to make sure both you and your pet have a fun time on the water.”


Read on for more tips from Banfield on how to safely go boating with your dog.



1. Make sure your pet is easily identifiable. It should go without saying that your cat or dog needs an ID tag with his or her name, phone number and address clearly marked on it, so they can be easily identified should they ever be separated from you.


2. Never take your dog out in rough conditions. Rough conditions or rough terrain on land are two things that could potentially put your pup in danger, so it’s best to avoid both. White water rafting, says Banfield, is not the type of boating you should be doing with your dog — can you imagine Rover on a raging river? No way!


3. Take time to acclimate your dog to the boat. Don’t make boating a big surprise for your dog, take time to acclimate him or her to the boating experience by allowing them to step inside the boat (a kayak, canoe or raft) while it’s still on land or still docked. “Boating can be stressful for both dogs and cats, especially given the rocking ‘ground’ may not feel stable or safe to them,” says Saito. “Like humans, pets are also susceptible to motion sickness. As such, it’s important to acclimate them to the boat while still docked and be certain before you depart that they enjoy boating as much as you do; otherwise, it may not be the hobby to share with them.”



4. A good boating buddy knows basic commands. Sit, down and stay are all things your dog should know in order to go boating with you — so, in general, your dog should be well-trained before embarking on this adventure with you. “Just as you would with a small child, start small, take it slow, and exercise caution with your unpredictable dog or new puppy,” Saito says. “Unpredictable dogs and puppies should generally stay on shore until they are appropriately trained to join you for outings on the boat.”


5. Remember that boating is very different than swimming in a pool. Pool play is one thing — boating with your dog is definitely another. “Don’t assume that because your dog can swim in a pool that it will take to being on a boat or in open water. While we may find the gentle rocking of a boat relaxing, your dog may not,” Saito says. “Uncontrollable factors like extreme temperatures, strong currents and the possibility of separation may also make swimming in a pool preferable to an open body of water for many dogs. Additionally, a dog in open water can over-exert themselves, or in rare cases, may over-consume water, which could lead to water intoxication.”


6. Consider leaving your cat at home. Most cat owners will know right away whether boating is an activity that their kitty can get on board with. “Though also applicable to some dogs, the change of scenery for cats especially may not be appreciated or as exciting for the cat as it is for you,” she says. “And if the worst case scenario occurred – your cat goes overboard – they may not be capable of swimming (particularly while wearing a floatation device) to safety. If your cat is among the rare cases that enjoys being on the boat with you, they should be harnessed and leashed at all times.”



7. Remember your pet’s basic needs and pack accordingly. Make sure they’re wearing a collar or harness that fits, pack snacks, plenty of extra water and a bowl so your pup can stay hydrated (drinking water in hot temperatures is very important). A non-slip pad for the bottom of the boat is recommended, as well as puppy pads or a small litter box so your pet has a place to relieve himself. Bring your pet’s health records if you’re planning an extended trip, Banfield suggests. 


8. Wear lifejackets for safety. Note: not all dogs can swim! Keep them safe out there, especially near deep water, by having your pet wear a lifejacket. Banfield says seniors, small breeds, puppies and several other types of dogs often lack swimming skills, click here to learn more. 


To see more tips for water safety, visit Banfield’s website. 


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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for People.com, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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