When you’re thinking of boat safety, don’t forget your dog!
You probably take your furry four-legged best friend with you as often as you can, and there is really no reason not to bring him on your boating excursions. Before you let Fido hop aboard, consider these tips for smooth, safe sailing.
Know Boating Rules and Regulations
Before you and your pet head out onto the water, be sure that you’re familiar with all the ins and outs about boat safety for everyone, including Fido. Just like studying to get your driver’s license, it’s essential to be aware of all boating information and certifications required to be a safe boater. Many states actually require some type of boater education course, and/or a license. If you haven’t done so already, it’s necessary to take an online boating safety course that is recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard and can help keep both two-legged and four-legged creatures out of harm’s way.
Make Sure He or She is Comfortable
Getting your dog acclimated to the boat before actually going out on the water is important for reducing the potential stress and anxiety of not having his paws on solid ground. Placing a nonslip pad in the bottom of the boat and allowing him to walk around and sniff it out can help him get comfortable. Get in and out of the boat, then have your dog do the same; entice him with a treat if necessary.
Assuming your dog is already well-trained in basic commands, ask him to sit or lie down in a designated, secure spot. Once out on the water if he starts to get too close and lean over the side, you can tell him to go to his designated place to prevent him from going overboard.
Basic Safety First
Be sure that your pup is wearing a life jacket whenever you’re near the water or on the boat. Even if he’s a good swimmer, he could get caught in a rip tide, become overtired, or get cramps. There are special life jacket-type flotation devices made especially for dogs that have a lift-handle on the top, which will allow you to easily grab him out of the water. It’s also important to have a first-aid kit including specific supplies for your dog, including any medications he may be taking.
Expect the Unexpected Emergency
If for some reason your dog does go overboard, putting a plan into place ahead of time can help ensure that you’ll know just what to do to get him back on the boat safely without panicking. If you see him fall, be sure to keep a direct eye on him by pointing at him in the water so you don’t lose his position. As large dogs that panic in the water can drown a human, don’t jump in yourself, but instead use a calm voice to guide him to a location where you can get a hold of him.
Being out in a boat in the sun means that you need to be extra cautious about keeping your furry skipper—and yourself!—hydrated. Don’t let him drink water from a lake as it can often be contaminated from boats or nearby factories in addition to containing harmful organisms. Bring lots of fresh drinking water and make sure it’s available to him at all times.
Remembering these simple boat safety tips will ensure that your dog has an enjoyable, safe boat trip!
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This article was previously published July 21, 2014, and was updated on September 20, 2022