All Aboard! 8 Tips for Safe Boating with your Pup
Boating Safely with Your Dog by Lauren R. Tharp
Summer is here, even if the calendar still reads spring. With temperatures in 90’s, this is summer! Chances are, you’re going to hear, at least once, the phrase “Come on in; the water’s fine!” But does that invitation extend to dogs? Sure! Even on boats? That’s a yes too—but you’ve got to take a few safety precautions!
1. Lifejackets. You know they’re important for you and your children—why not your dog? Putting a doggie lifejacket on your pooch could save their life if they’re thrown overboard. Yes, that probably won’t…but do you really want to take that chance? You and/or your child have probably never had to put that lifejacket to the test; but don’t you feel better knowing it’s there if you need it?
2. “Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink!” Even if you’re boating in fresh water, you shouldn’t let your doggie pal drink it. Why not? There’s a good chance that the water you’re in contains microorganisms that could be harmful to your dog. To avoid these potential pollutants and parasites, bring your own—fresh!—water.
3. Offer Water Often. Related to the above, offer your doggie pal that fresh water often. We recommend the Handi-Drink Dog Water Bottle.
4. Take Potty Breaks. Anyone who’s had to “just hold it” while on an outing knows how uncomfortable it is to have a full bladder and no place to “go.” Don’t do that to your dog. Be sure to take time out for potty breaks. Some people have even been able to train their dogs to do their business over the side of the boat or in a tray in the corner. Whatever works!
5. Be Aware of the Weather. Dogs cannot sweat (they rely solely on panting and their paw pads to cool them down) and therefore are perfect candidates for heat stroke in the hot weather.
6. Start Slowly. Your dog is, most likely, used to walking on stable ground. Even on calm waters, boats have a lot of movement. Don’t be surprised if your dog is freaked out. Start out slow. Give your dog a chance to get used to the boat while it’s still at the docks. Let him go in and out of the boat as much as he needs to until he feels comfortable and knows that the boat isn’t going to hurt him. Then, when he’s ready, start inching out further and further from the dock. It might take a while, but you’ll be in the water in no time!
7. “You Can’t Teach an Old Dog…” You know the rest. Point being: the younger the dog, the more likely they’ll adapt to new experiences (and enjoy them!). I’m not saying that it’s “impossible” to get your elderly dog onto a boat—just expect it to be a tad more difficult.
8. Don’t Force It. If your friend really, really hated boating, you wouldn’t keep insisting that they go with you, right? So why would you force the issue with your best friend? If you’ve tried and tried to get your doggie to enjoy boating and they still can’t stand it: Leave them at home! Agree to disagree. (You don’t do everything your dog enjoys, right? Butt-licking, chasing squirrels…). You’ll both have a better time.
If you are boating around Sarasota, several restaurants welcome dogs to their marina’s and outdoor dining facilities, we like The Bearded Clam, Spanish Pointe Marina and Pub in Osprey and The Old Salty Dog.