Share these safety tips for boating with dogs

Boating season is upon us! 

The sun is shining, the water is glistening, and boating enthusiasts everywhere—along with their furry sidekicks—are being beckoned out to the open sea (or lake, or river).

In honor of National Safe Boating Week, we’re taking a moment to reflect on safety tips for all those onboard for you to share with your dog-owning marine insurance clients.

12 boating with dogs safety tips

1. Handle their business. Walk your dog before heading out to make sure they do their business before boarding. If your pet needs to use the facilities onboard, set up a designated bathroom area with AstroTurf or plastic puppy pads, since most dogs won’t go on the deck itself. Also—take our word for it—less clean-up will be involved this way. Some dogs are only willing to relieve themselves on terra firma, in which case you’ll need to make frequent shoreline visits for bathroom breaks! 

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Like humans, dogs also need plenty of water, especially during long days spent out having fun in the sun. Make sure your furry first mate has more than enough water onboard—pups are going to get extra thirsty with all that water adventure!  

3. Throw some shade. Animals can’t regulate their own body temperature as well as we can, so it’s important to ensure your furry family member doesn’t overheat. Set up a cool shady spot onboard where your dog can get out of the heat and rest whenever needed. We suspect multiple humans will be vying for a spot in this area, too.

4. Protect the paws. Dogs absorb heat through their paws, and like anyone that’s ever been on a boat can attest to, those surfaces can get hot! Hose down the decks frequently in order to spare your pup’s sensitive paw pads. A good rule of thumb when determining whether a deck is too hot for your pup is that if it’s too for humans to walk on barefoot, it’s too hot for your furry friends, too! 

Related: Boat theft prevention: How to thwart thieves and enjoy the water in your boat

5. Slather the SPF. Doggy sunscreen—yes, it’s a thing! Like humans, pups need sun protection, too, especially dogs with thin or light-colored fur, which makes them especially vulnerable to the sun. If you’re having trouble finding a dog-friendly sunscreen, look for one that’s safe for babies or sensitive skin as an alternative. As an important side note, do NOT use any sunscreen containing any zinc oxide—while effective on humans, it’s toxic to dogs. 

6. Suit them up. It’s just as vital for pets to wear lifejackets as it is for humans! Even if your dog is a water-loving breed and a strong swimmer, these are by no means reasons to have them forgo wearing a lifejacket, especially since dogs can panic and quickly become fatigued in the water. Have your dog fitted for a personal flotation device and choose one with a handle so you can easily pull your canine co-captain back onboard. Give your dog a chance to get used to the feel of swimming in the lifejacket beforehand.

7. Prepare for sickness. Like humans, animals also can get seasick, especially during their first time out on a boat. Ask your vet about the best motion sick medicine for your pup and have some on hand just in case. If you’re able, keep your dog’s first outing brief so they can get used to the boat’s movement. 

8. Get swimming lessons. The sooner you can start water training your pup, the better, when it comes to making them feel comfortable and safe out on the water. Whether you own a young puppy or an older rescue, the sooner you train them to respond to your commands and get them accustomed to being onboard a boat, the better they’ll do. 

9. Pet-proof everything. If your dog needs extra traction or steps on deck, make sure you provide them so that they can easily get on the boat and not slip when you get underway. These additional aids will help your canine co-captain stay onboard, not go overboard!

Related: Checklist for Getting Boats Ready for the Season

10. Hide the bait. If you have any fishing gear anywhere on your vessel, keep all bait, lures and hooks safely stored and out of reach where your playful pup can’t get to them thinking they’re chew toys…and quickly finding out they’re not. 

11. Use bribery aplenty. To keep your pup’s curiosity at bay, have plenty of treats and toys onboard, not only to provide your furry friend with the creature comforts of dry land, but also to serve as a much-needed distraction when necessary. 

12. Have their papers. Different states and cities have different rules about dogs on boats, so make sure you understand the local laws and ensure whatever marina or beach you’re traveling to allows pets. Keep a copy of all your dog’s vaccination records on hand just in case. 

Last but not certainly not least, grab a camera, take plenty of pictures and have FUN!