Tips for Safe Boating with Your Dog


By Lara Jackson

With summertime fast approaching, many Chicago area residents are out on their boats every available minute (gotta enjoy the warm weather while it lasts!). And, many of these boaters have dogs whom they’d love to take on board. But, not all dogs love water, nor do all dogs know how to swim or enjoy swimming.

According to J.B. Bruederle, DVM, of the Burnham Park Animal Hospital in Chicago: “When deciding whether or not to take your dog boating, you must first find out if he can swim. To determine this, introduce your dog to water gradually, first by placing him in shallow water.”

If it’s clear that your dog enjoys swimming then you can slowly introduce him to deeper waters, becoming acclimated to swimming in these conditions. But, if your pooch shirks away frowater, then it’s probably a good idea to leave Fido at home while spending a day on the lake.

If you do decide to bring your furry friend along with you on your boat this summer, here are some important tips to follow:

Get a canine life preserver. Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, it’s a good idea to provide him with a life preserver. According to Northwest River Supplies’ (NRS), “…many dogs are not good swimmers. Even those that are can get tired in a long swim, get injured in an upset, [or] be overwhelmed by current or rapids.

Some important features to look for in a life preserver for your dog include:

  • Sufficient flotation
  • Adjustability
  • Rugged attachment hardware
  • Durable covering material
  • Leash attachment point
  • Sturdy grab handle

Have your dog wear booties. Bruederle suggests also investing in a pair of booties for your pooch. “The deck of a boat is usually a very slippery surface, so a pair of booties may be a good idea to provide some traction for your dog.” She recommends balloon booties (like these from BaxterBoo).

He further explains that booties used in the winter to protect a dog’s paw from snow and salt and provide stability may serve a dual purpose in the summer by providing stability on the boat. So if you already have a pair of booties that your dog wears in cold weather, don’t feel like you have to buy a new pair for the boat.

Bring lots of fresh water and allow time for exercise on land. On the boat, your dog should also have easy accessibility to water (no salt water). Make sure to stop a few times during your boating trip to allow your dog to relieve himself and stretch his legs. He may feel a little bit cooped up, depending on the size of your boat.

Protect against sunburn. Dogs can sunburn just like people – especially shorthair breeds or those with lighter skin.

“To protect your dog against sunburn, use a mild children’s sun protection lotion and apply the lotion to the pink areas,” explains Bruederle, “Make sure your dog has access to coolness too.”

The NRS suggests using a lotion with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Bring along your pet first-aid kit. Always be prepared in the event of an emergency. Click here for instructions on how to make your own pet first-aid kit.

Follow these suggestions and you may just have a new First Mate for life!

Image: LiveaboardLiving.com

Lara Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area. She writes articles on the environment, animal issues, local interests, health care, aviation, and other subjects. Visit her website at lrjwriteedit.wordpress.com or her “green blog” at laraj71.wordpress.com.

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