Boating with Four-Legged Friends: Tips for Dogs on the Water

If going boating is your favourite way to relax on the weekends, you’ve probably wondered about bringing your dog on the boat with you. Most dogs are excellent boating companions as long as you take some safety precautions before you set off together. Follow these tips to make sure your day on the water with your dog is both fun and safe!

Test out your furry friend’s swimming prowess beforehand

Take your dog to a pool or to another safe location with shallow water before you venture out on the boat together. It’s helpful to know beforehand how good your pet is at swimming, but a life vest is still an absolutely essential piece of safety equipment to keep your friend safe. Keep in mind that even the strongest swimmer can have difficulty in the waves or if he ends up in the water suddenly, and a life vest will give you ample time to reach your pet and bring him back onto the boat.


Find a dog life jacket

Get a life jacket that fits your dog well and that he can move around in comfortably; have him wear it at all times on the boat. This will ensure that your dog is kept safe, even if he’s not the strongest swimmer or ends up in the water unexpectedly.

This guide to fitting dog life vests by the American Kennel Club has a wealth of information on the topic.

Dog Life Jacket: 4 of the Best Options for Your Dog


Plan for the worst, hope for the best

What will you do if your dog does fall off the boat? Make sure you have a plan in case of an issue; if your boat has a swim ladder and your dog is wearing a life vest, he’ll be able to swim over to the ladder or float safely until you can grab the handle on his vest to bring him back aboard.

Don’t forget to have a plan for dealing with your pet’s waste on the boat. If your dog will “go” on the swim platform, you can bag any solids and rinse any liquids right off the platform. A piece of old carpet or a square of sod can also be effective doggy toilets onboard to boat.

You should also take a fresh look at your first aid kit to make sure you’re stocked for any issues like snagged doggie toenails and scrapes.


Be sure your dog is well trained

Your dog should know ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ as a bare minimum before you venture out on the boat. If your dog is off-leash and he attempts to jump off the boat while you’re docking, he could easily become lost, end up in the water, or injure himself.


Bring a bath mat, towel, or bed for your dog

Something to stand on will prevent your pet’s feet from becoming burned and will also give him traction so he’s not sliding around on the deck if the waves get choppy.


Keep your dog cool and hydrated

Make sure that provide your pet with a place he can get out of the sun to cool off and lots of cool water to stay hydrated. Consider buying sunscreen for dogs to protect his skin if you’ll be out all day or if the shade is limited. Dogs need a lot more water while playing in the sun than they normally need lounging around in the air conditioning at home.

Don’t encourage your companion to drink lake or ocean water. Drinking lots of seawater can lead to an upset stomach, and pathogens in the water can make your dog severely ill.


Get your pet used to the boat before you get going

Many dogs are anxious about the new experience of boating and may need time to adjust to the motion of a boat or the noise of the boat’s engine. You may get lucky and not experience any of these issues with your furry friend, but in most cases, these fears are easily remedied with the following tips.

Try taking your dog onto the boat when it’s docked so he can feel the motion of the boat and practice getting on and off. This will also give you an idea of whether he might experience seasickness. Next, turn on the engine so he can get used to the sound. If your dog is anxious about his life jacket, let him wear it at home or in the yard a couple of times to get used to the way it feels.

For your dog’s first real outing on the boat, consider keeping the trip short in case it doesn’t go as expected.


Although bringing your four-legged friend boating with you requires some extra planning and thought, you really can’t beat the simple happiness of enjoying a day on the water with your dog. As long as you follow the safety tips above, you should have a stress-free day of fun and a great new companion to go boating with. We love dogs at 321Boat and we’re always happy to let your furry friend come aboard with you for your next adventure. Check out our available boats here and reserve yours now!

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