Information courtesy of and Emily Smith. Original article can be viewed here.

“Dog people” are their own special breed of human. (I happen to be one of them!)

To us, dogs aren’t pets - they’re family - so it’s only natural that we want to take our furry children with us wherever we go, and that includes going on boat rides. Taking your dog out on your boat can add even more joy to an already fun experience. However, taking your dog on the water along with the rest of your pack requires some unique preparations and precautions.

  1. Buy him a life jacket:  Not only people need life jackets – your dog needs a life jacket too! Even dogs who are strong swimmers can end up drowning due to rough water or fatigue. Be sure that your dog’s life jacket fits properly (snug, but not too tight) and that you get him used to wearing it before your first boat ride. This one comes in a number of sizes.

  2. Boat/dock introduction: Before you take your dog on her first outing, introduce her to your dock and boat while docked. Teach her how and where to get on and off the boat and basic commands to keep her safe while on board. Boarding ramps and ladders are especially helpful to larger dogs and their owners, so be sure to teach her how to use it before setting sail. For smaller dogs, keep a fishing net on board to sweep your pet out of the water if necessary! Help her get used to the sound of your boat’s engine while sitting still to better ensure it won’t startle her while you’re out on the water. It’s also a good idea to keep several special toys and treats specifically on the boat to better reassure your dog that your boat is a fun, safe place.

  3. Identification: Make sure your dog is wearing a harness, as opposed to a collar, and that the ID tag is clipped directly to it. This helps ensure that the tag will not get caught on anything or scratch your boat. A harness is better to use than a collar while boating because it provides a safe way to grab and lift your dog out of the water. Never lift your dog directly by its collar. If you are boating while out of town, make a temporary ID tag that’s printed with your cell number and local information. It’s helpful to have your dog microchipped as well.

  4. Sunscreen and shade: Even man’s best friend is susceptible to sunburns, especially if he has short fur. Be sure to protect him with a sunscreen that is unscented or neutrally scented to avoid irritating his skin. SPF 15 is usually strong enough unless your dog has especially short fur/bare patches or if the day is unusually hot. Also, have a shaded area prepared for your dog to take shelter, if possible. If your boat does not have a cabin or another covered area, be sure to take him on frequent shade breaks to prevent him from overheating. Human sunscreen is toxic to dogs! So be sure you grab a formula that is approved by your vet, like this one. Protect your pup's eyes against debris in the wind and damaging UV light with sunglasses for dogs that are also extremely stylish!

  5. Water: Be sure to have plenty of fresh drinking water available for your dog at all times in a collapsible bowl that’s easy to store and transport. Salt water and contaminated fresh water can make your dog very sick, so do your best to prevent her from drinking it.

  6. Potty preparation: Be sure to have plenty of waste bags and paper towels on hand to clean up after your dog if nature calls while he’s on your boat. Or: teach him to use puppy pads while on board. To help keep him from needing to go while on board, be sure to periodically dock and walk him around a location that’s pet-friendly or has a pet “rest stop” and give him the chance to take a bathroom break.

  7. Small carpet/throw rug: Dogs absorb heat through the pads on their paws, so have a small carpet or throw rug available for her to stand on when the deck gets too hot. A carpet/rug also provides an area where your dog can lay comfortably or stand without slipping and sliding around. All the movement on a boat can make a dog a little nervous and they can be calmed by a safe place to lie down. This waterproof travel bed has a non-skid bottom that will help keep it in place will the boat is in motion so your dog can rest comfortable and enjoy the ride.

  8. Dog overboard!  Before it could even become an issue, create a rescue plan for your dog in case he goes overboard. Assign everyone a specific duty and location in case it happens. Most importantly, especially if your boat has an outboard motor, make sure everyone on board understands that if your dog unexpectedly ends up in the water, TURN OFF THE ENGINE IMMEDIATELY. Always keep a leash on board.

  9. Keep his first outing brief:  Make sure your dog’s first boating adventure is a short one to see how he likes it and to avoid overwhelming him. If all goes well, gradually increase the amount of time you’re out. A short maiden voyage will also help gauge whether or not your dog is prone to seasickness.

  10. Going fishing: If you plan on making your dog your new fishing buddy, take extra care to keep all fishing lures, bait, and hooks safely stored away.

  11. First aid kit: Your dog’s first aid kit should include information such as a photo in case he goes missing, the phone number for your vet and poison control and important medical documents such as shot records. Most medical items included in a pet’s kit are the same as you would find in a human’s kit as well. In addition to the basic first aid items, you’ll want to include are a muzzle, nylon leash, Dramamine in case of sea sickness, hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting if necessary, gauze, medical tape, Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in case of an allergic reaction, and either a glucose paste or corn syrup if your dog happens to be diabetic. Several towels or blankets are helpful to have on hand as well. There are lots to choose from on -- here's a basic one to get you started!               

  12. Check local laws in regards to boating with pets. Laws vary by state, and it is better safe than sorry to make sure your state/region doesn't have any specific laws about bringing pets on the boat.

You're ready to shove off! Bring your furry first mate aboard and have a great time! Here's a "shopping list" for your pup...