Boating With Pets
What could be better than enjoying the fresh air and sunshine on your own boat? If you enjoy boating frequently and are a pet owner too, why not consider bringing your pet along with you? There are many benefits to taking your pet boating — for both you and your pet. But, it’s important to be properly prepared and know some basic safety tips before bringing your pet aboard.
In this guide, we’ve gathered all the best tips, so you can enjoy the great benefits of pet-friendly boating. Get ready to set sail with your favorite furry friends.
Benefits of Boating With Your Pets
Your pets are a part of your family, and if you’re frequently boating without them, you may be missing out. All sorts of animals have accompanied their human companions on all types of boats for hundreds of years, and you too can enjoy the company of your pets while boating. Many pets enjoy being on the water and will appreciate the extra time spent with their family.
Bringing dogs on a boat is usually easy, and some cats may also enjoy the experience. If you have birds, reptiles or other small pets, it may be possible to bring them boating as well, just be sure you can provide a safe, comfortable environment for them. If it’s not possible to provide this safe space, or if you have certain exotic species of pets, it may be best to leave them at home.
Cats are more easily adaptable to new environments than you might expect and may find boating adventures truly enjoyable. Your feline friends can also protect your boat from smaller invaders like mice and other unwanted pests.
If you decide to bring your pets boating with you, there are many benefits you and your pets can enjoy, like:
Dynamic outdoor play: When you bring your pets on boating adventures, you may find you have even more fun playing with them in and around the water. Dogs often love to swim and enjoy running around beaches when the boat is docked. Bring along a frisbee, or just find some sticks to play fetch with. You can also find all sorts of specialized toys and dog boating accessories designed for water play, including floating fetch toys and water loungers designed just for dogs.
New sights and sounds: Both dogs and cats, as well as some other types of pets, enjoy feeling the breeze and fresh air and love basking in the warm sunshine. You’ll be enriching your pet’s life with outdoor exposure and a sense of adventure. Your pets may also greatly enjoy the sights and sounds of interesting wildlife or meeting pets of other boaters in the area.
More quality time: Most pets — dogs especially — thrive on attention and human interaction. Taking your dog boating with you means you won’t have to leave them alone all day. You won’t have to worry about the dog not being let out while you’re gone or have to pay for expensive dog walkers or pet sitters to take care of your pets for you.
Connections with other boaters: Beyond just pure fun, another benefit of boating with pets is that they can be a great conversation starter with other boaters and travelers. Having an animal with you is a fantastic ice breaker and an easy way to make new friends with like-minded folks. If you use your boat to travel far from home, just be sure to check for any local regulations on companion animals, as well as any cultural differences that may make traveling with animals in these areas more difficult.
Security: Pets that serve as guard dogs at home can also protect your boat, belongings and family out on the water. These protective pets can help keep would-be thieves at bay and may have a sixth sense for other dangers you may encounter while traveling. Your pet could become a valuable member of your boating crew.
Tips for Boating With Pets
Once you’ve prepared for taking your pet along with you on your boating adventure, you and the whole family — furry members included — can experience many benefits. However, before you bring any pets on board your boat, there are some safety issues and other things to be aware of to ensure everyone has the best experience possible.
Consider the following safety tips for boating with pets, as well as several other considerations you should know about:
ACCLIMATE YOUR PET TO YOUR BOAT
Before planning a big day on the water or a longer boating trip, prepare your pets for adventure by allowing them to explore your boat while it is safely docked or on land on a trailer. This way, your pet can get used to this new environment in a more controlled, safe way.
Watch your pets while they explore for any adverse reactions to being on a boat, and discuss any concerns you have with your vet. The first time you take your pet out boating on the water, keep the trip short, gradually acclimating them to longer times on the boat.
BE MINDFUL OF HYDRATION
Just as humans need to stay hydrated, your pets need plenty of fresh water. So be sure to have an ample supply on your boat. Set out a bowl of water in a safe location on the boat, so your pet can drink freely. If you’re boating in salt water, be sure your pet isn’t drinking too much of the salty water.
Even in fresh water, algae, bacteria and other parasites could be present, and drinking the water could make your pet sick. Also, make sure any other fluids on the boat are safely stored, and watch for spills of fuel, bilge water or other chemicals and contaminants, so your pet isn’t consuming these dangerous liquids.
To keep dogs cool on a boat, make sure they have access to a shaded or cooler area of the boat or find ways to take breaks from direct sunlight if possible. Also, remember to bring enough pet food and treats to keep your pet satisfied for the duration of your boating trip.
PREPARE A METHOD FOR GETTING YOUR PET ONTO THE BOAT
Figuring out how to get a dog on a boat can be relatively easy, as some dogs will happily bound on and off of the boat on their own. But for some smaller dogs, it may be best to carry them onboard. However, you may prefer to obtain a boarding ramp to make getting on and off the boat easier and safer for your dog. These boarding ramps are ideal for docking but can sometimes also be used while in the water or on a sandy beach.
BRING FIRST AID SUPPLIES
Before your boating adventure, be sure to prepare a first aid kit to take with you on every trip. Your kit should include all the basics for tending to minor injuries and illnesses. For any boat-specific disasters, make sure your kit includes antibiotic ointment for scrapes, motion sickness medicine, saline wound flush and blood clotting powder. If your pet takes any regular medications, take a supply of them on any boating trips. Consider taking a class on pet first aid and CPR to be truly prepared.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT SUN PROTECTION
Even though your pet may be covered in thick fur, they still can be at risk for sunburn. It’s recommended that you bring a light sunscreen along to use on your pets. Unscented sprays are generally best, and easiest to apply. Avoid formulas with zinc oxide, which can be harmful to animals if licked.
Also, keep in mind that too much sun exposure can lead to heat exhaustion in pets, so make sure to provide cool, shaded areas and plenty of water. Some surfaces on the boat can become extremely hot in bright sunshine, so protect your pets’ feet as well.
PREPARE FOR SEASICKNESS
Just like humans, some animals — especially cats — are prone to motion sickness when on a boat. If your pet has previously experienced any motion sickness in cars, they may be more prone to symptoms of seasickness as well. Check in with your vet before traveling and ask about medications for your pet and appropriate dosages.
Be sure to include these treatments in your first aid kit. Certain natural remedies may also help, like flower essences and treats made with ginger. Always check ingredients to make sure these options are safe for your pet. If your pet has long fur, trimming excess fur around the pads of the feet can help the animal feel more stable and less prone to slipping on the boat, which may ease some motion sickness too.
HAVE AN EMERGENCY OVERBOARD PLAN
Even with the most well-behaved pets, accidents of all sorts can happen on a boat. It’s best to plan ahead before a disaster like an overboard pet and discuss exactly how you should handle it. For safety, you should plan to cut the motor immediately in the event of an overboard animal. Go to the location of the boat where the animal jumped off and call its name.
You should outfit your pet with an appropriate life jacket, with handles for lifting them out of the water, and have a large net on the boat for scooping smaller breeds. If you have a cat onboard, bring a strip of carpet to hang over the edge of the boat — the cat may be able to claw at the carpet and climb back aboard.
PREPARE FOR WHEN NATURE CALLS
Potty training on the boat may take a little practice, even for pets that have good habits at home, so be patient. Both dogs and cats can be trained to go on pee pads, on squares of carpet or artificial turf or in litter boxes while on the boat. With a little practice, they’ll learn the new routine. Keep litter boxes and pee pads in shaded, covered areas, and don’t throw any solid waste into the water — wait to dispose of it properly on land.
HAVE PROPER IDENTIFICATION AND PAPERWORK
It’s a good idea to have identification on your pet’s collar with their name, as well as your name and phone number. Microchipping is another easy way to protect your pet. Before you travel, check for any local ordinances regarding animals on boats — or on land if you plan on docking somewhere else. There are no federal laws on this matter, but local laws can vary, so it’s best to know ahead of time.
If you plan on traveling across international borders with your boat, be sure to have all the right documentation, identification and any required veterinary paperwork with you. Check on the laws and customs of the country you are visiting to ensure a smooth, enjoyable visit.
Choosing a Life Jacket for Your Pet
Many dogs love swimming, but having a special life jacket designed for pets is absolutely essential for water safety. Even strong swimmers can be challenged by adverse weather, waves or currents. Shop around for a dog life jacket well before your intended boating trip. Relying on human life jackets or life preservers is not enough because they won’t fit correctly on an animal and won’t provide the same level of protection.
When choosing a life jacket for your pet, you should look for:
Bright colors: Look for a jacket with vibrant colors that are easy to spot, even in dim lighting or churning waters. Reflective trim is also a great feature to have on a life jacket.
A handle: You may need to lift your pet out of the water, and a handle on the back makes this quick and easy. Never grab your pet by the collar, as this can cause injury.
The right fit: Ensure that the life jacket fits your pet properly and that all straps and buckles are in the right places for maximum safety and comfort.
Before you travel, have your pet try on the life jacket and maybe go for a short swim with the new life jacket on to make sure they are used to wearing it.