by Melanie Monteiro
A day spent boating is exciting for many a water-loving canine. To make the planned outing both safe and successful, having the right gear is essential. For any sunny day near the water, you’ll need to pack a few basics:
- a travel dish
- a big jug of water
- pet-safe sunscreen (for light-skinned, thin-coated, or pink-nosed pooches)
- float coat
- waste bags
- water toys
Common sense is a big factor in boating safety. Often times these activities are so relaxing and enjoyable for some people, they tend to be lax in watching the dog to make sure she’s getting enough shade, rest, and water.
All dogs, regardless of how well they can swim, should wear a personal flotation device, or “float coat,” while on a boat. Dogs that fall overboard accidentally can grow fatigued very quickly, especially in strong current, and can drown before you even notice they’re missing.
Supervise your dog while on board. Make sure there is adequate shade for her, and ensure that the deck is not too slippery or hot for her to walk on (both common with fiberglass-bottom boats).
If you’re on a lake or calm ocean and you plan on letting the dog swim, a doggie boat ladder can be a very useful safety tool. These lightweight ladders can be purchased at marine supply stores and feature a slip-resistant design that makes exiting the water much easier. Combined with the dog’s float coat (which has a handle at the top) you’ll be able to help the dog out of the water more easily.
If the dog is not a swimmer and you feel you can’t supervise her properly, having a boat alarm is a good idea. These work the same way as some pool alarms, where the dog wears a remote collar that sounds an alarm at the base (which you’ve plugged in on the boat) if the dog falls overboard. They can also be purchased at marine and pool supply stores.
Be very cautious with any fishing gear on the boat. Dogs love to go after fishing tackle (you can hardly blame them—it smells like fish!) and often get fishhooks caught in their mouths, or worse, swallow them whole.
Keep your dog’s first boat outing short. Not all dogs like the unstable motion of boats, and you won’t know until you’re out on the water. It often helps to bring your dog to the boat an hour before you leave and let her walk around on it. If she’s never worn her float coat before, this is a good time to let her splash around with it on. (Finally, don’t forget to let your dog relieve herself prior to casting off!)
*This is an excerpt from The Safe Dog Handbook by Melanie Monteiro.
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Melanie Monteiro is a dog safety expert, pet first aid instructor, and author of The Safe Dog Handbook.