According to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, about 65% of residents in the United States own a pet, and of that 65%, 68% own dogs. If you fall into that percentage and live on or near the water and/or own a boat, we’d like you to listen up! While most dogs can swim, it is important to understand how to keep your pet safe around large bodies of water, especially if you plan on taking them on the boat all day. Below are some tips to help keep your four legged friends safe and sound on the water.
- Familiarize your dog with the boat before the first trip. If your dog has never been on a boat before, give him or her the chance to get used to it before heading out on the water. Take your dog on the boat while it’s still on a trailer or dock and let them become familiar with their surroundings. Having familiarity with the boat will help your dog feel more comfortable and decrease the stress they might experience from being in a new place and out on the water for the first time.
- Invest in a pet life jacket. While most dogs can swim, conditions such as weather, visibility and current might make it hard for your pooch to maneuver through the water easily and safely. Having them wear a life jacket the entire time they are on the boat will ensure they are more likely to be able keep their head up and swim back to the boat in the event they go overboard. The brightly-colored life jacket will also help you find them if they end up in the water, and because pet lifejackets typically have a handle attached, it’ll be easier for you to pull them out of the water if they have one on.
- Keep your dog hydrated. One of the first things you should pack for your boating trip is enough water for everyone on board, and this goes for the pets, too! Even if your boating trip is meant to be a short one, the time spent outside in the hot sun, especially with that lifejacket on, could be enough to overheat or dehydrate your dog. Keeping enough cool water, (and a bowl to drink it out of) on board is a good way to make sure your dog doesn’t get too hot or dehydrated.
- Provide some shade. Your dog should have the option to get out of the sun at some point during the trip. If your boat does not have a top that provides some shade, you might want to consider leaving your dog at home. If you absolutely want to bring them along on the trip, you can create some shade by draping a towel or boogey board over two larger objects (like a cooler and a bench). This will provide some temporary relief from the glaring sun, but even so, it might be a good idea to make that trip on the water a shorter one to reduce the risk of your dog overheating.
Many pet owners treat their dogs like family, and we couldn’t agree more! So, naturally you’d want to include your pet in as many fun activities as you can, but it is your responsibility to make sure your dog is having fun and staying safe. If you’re not prepared to take your dog out on the boat with you, then don’t. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and we promise they’ll still be happy to see you when you get home after your trip!