All paws aboard! Tips for safe boating with your pet

With boating season ramping up, it’s a good time to talk about best practices for pet-friendly boating to ensure your little one is safe. Before hitting the lake, river or sea with your pet, it’s important to plan ahead and always keep the best interests of your four-legged first mate in mind.

Boating with your pet can be a wonderful and bonding experience with proper planning and preparation. Ensure your pet’s boat cruise is a happy and safe one with these tips.

Familiarization with the boat

It is best to gradually introduce your pet to your boat and the water. Let your pet explore the boat while it is docked before going out on the water. Turn on the engine and let him get used to its sound, smell, and feel while the boat is docked. Then, take your pet out on small cruises and gradually build up to longer cruises.

Safe & easy boat access

Provide a special pet ramp for your pet to get on and off the boat. This not only includes from the dock to the boat but also from the water to the boat. Pets weigh much more wet than dry and it can be very difficult to lift them back into your boat after a swim.

Personal flotation device

A personal flotation device (a.k.a. pet life jacket) can also ensure safety while on the water. Not all pets can swim (including some dogs). Even if your pet is a good swimmer, getting tossed overboard can put any animal into a panic. In addition, your pet could suffer from exhaustion or hypothermia.

Many pets also fall into the water from the dock or while trying to get from the dock to the boat. Having your pet equipped with a personal flotation device (PFD) with a lifting handle makes retrieving your pet much easier and safer.

Help your pet get used to the PFD by first practicing at home for short periods of time. Start by putting the PFD on your pet and let him walk around with it on. The next step is to let your pet swim with it on for a short period. It’s a new experience for your pet so it’s important for him to get used to it before the boat trip.

Proper hydration & staying cool

Pets do not sweat, so keep an eye out for heavy panting or drool and a rapid heart beat. Protect pets from heat by providing some shade on the boat, providing plenty of water and keeping the deck cool to protect paw pads. Bring along a pet travel bowl and fresh water. It is critical to hydrate pets before they get into the water. Otherwise, they will drink the natural water and may get ill.

Avoid full bellies

Even if your pet is well acclimated to boating, the rolling waves, choppy current, and diesel fuel odor can lead to dreaded sea sickness. It’s best to keep your pet’s feeding to a minimum. And when you do feed him, make sure you give him his regular kibble/treats – in small amounts. 

Going potty

A big challenge of boating with your pet is making provisions so that he can go to the bathroom. Bringing along your cat’s litter box and securing it inside the cabin is a good solution for your feline sailors. Dogs, however, are a bigger challenge. If your boat trip does not allow for regular land stops for your dog to do his business, then provisions must be made so that he can relieve himself on the boat. A few popular options are portable dog potties that simulate grass or wee pads.

Pet safety kit

Better safe than sorry. Pet injuries and emergencies are rare, but they can strike at any time. You are particularly vulnerable if you are out boating – away from the mainland to get immediate assistance. In the event your pet is injured, be prepared with a pet first-aid kit in addition to your human supplies that you regularly carry on the boat.

Sun protection

Pets are not immune to sunburn or skin cancers. Be sure to pack pet sunscreen and apply it regularly to protect your pet from the severe effects of the sun. 

Health records

If your boating destination is a marina or place that you’re not familiar with, be sure to bring along a copy of vaccination and health records. Some places may require proof of immunization before letting pets explore on land.

Call ahead

While most marinas and parks welcome pets, there are some that aren’t pet friendly. Be sure to call ahead before arriving on shore. 

Identification tag

As always, make sure your pet has an ID collar with your cell phone and contact info. In addition, including the marina address and slip may also be helpful. 

Wishing you and your pet safe and happy travels on the water this season!

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When planning a trip, pet parents go to TripsWithPets for all they need to find and book the perfect place to stay with their pet — including detailed, up-to-date information on hotel pet policies and pet amenities. Helping pet parents plan trips with their pets is what we do!

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