Furry First Mates! Tips for Safe Boating with Your Pet

Tips for Safe Boating with Your Pet

Nothing like boating with your furry first mate by your side! A time for escaping the world for a bit and bonding with your pet. Some boaters are old pros at "cruising" with pets, while others are just getting started. No matter where YOU land,  it's always a good idea to review best practices for pet-friendly boating to ensure your little one is safe. 

Before you hit the lake, river or sea be sure to follow these common sense tips to ensure your pet's boating adventure is a safe one.

Familiarization with 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 them get used to its sound and smell 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 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.

Pet Life Jacket
A personal floatation device (PFD) 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 floatation device 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 them 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 him 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 travel water bowl and fresh water.  It is critical to hydrate pets before they get into the water. Otherwise, they will drink the natural water and could get sick.

Allow for Potty Breaks
A big challenge of boating with your pet is making provisions so that they can go to the bathroom. Bringing along your cat's litter box and securing it inside the cabin is good solution for your feline friends.  Dogs, however, are a bigger challenge. If your boat trip does not allow for regular land stops for your dog to do their business, then provisions must be made so that they can relieve themselves on the boat. A portable dog potty that simulates grass is an excellent solution. Also, pet wee pads are frequently used.

Feeding Your Pet
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.

Protection from Sun
Be sure to pack suncreeen -- made specifically for pets. They too can get sun burn and skin cancer. It's important to apply pet sunscreen regularly to protect them from the harmful rays of the sun while boating.

Pet Safety Kit
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. Pet sun screen is also a "must have" when boating with your pet.

Collar with ID Tag
Before heading out on the water, make sure your pet has a collar with an identification tag. Include contact information, marina address and slip number.

Medical Records
When it is time to go ashore, there are just a few things to remember if your boating destination is a marina or place that you're not familiar with. Always keep a copy of vaccination and health records. Some places may require proof of immunization before letting pets explore on land.

Safe cruising!