Boating With Your Pets 101

Tips for Boating with Your Dog

Dogs usually like water. Som­e breeds, like Labrador retrievers, are traditional boat dogs. But that doesn't mean you can take them on boats without considering their safety and well-being.

Many dog owners assume their pets can swim, but a short doggy paddle in the pond is a far cry from swimming through strong currents in open waters. Your dog may not be strong enough or fast enough to swim alongside your boat. Leaner dogs may struggle more, since fat is more buoyant than muscle [source: NRS]. Short-legged breeds can also have problems swimming.

Some dogs can't wait to get into the water. That makes them great boating companions, but those waterlogged pups can also pose safety risks. Make sure your dog is securely leashed when you first get on board [source: Animal Planet]. The other end of the leash should be in your hand, not tied to the boat. The dog should know you're in control and that you're close by. Once you've made all the necessary preparations for departure from the dock, you can reward your dog with a swim.

What else do you need?

  • Food and water. Bring more water than you think you'll need, just in case. Chances are that you and your dog will be out in the sun more than either one of you is used to.
  • Newspapers or a doggie toilet. This clearly represents hours of training, frustration and mess. Your dog probably won't get it right every time. You already know your dog's warning signs, so accompany it as you would on a walk and clean up any messes.
  • Doggie snacks. You should always have treats handy to reward your dog's good behavior.
  • A carrier, harness or leash. Even at a dock, you have to comply with local leash laws.
  • Transportation. You'll need an easy way to help your dog get out of the water and on board -- either a dog ladder or a dog ramp. A dog ramp is a collapsible floating ramp that you attach to the deck; it creates a slope that mimics the shoreline. Older or overweight dogs may prefer ramps.
  • Proper paperwork. You'll need up-to-date papers and vaccination records, especially if you plan to cross state or national borders.

Boating with dogs can be a great time. Boating with cats? Now, that sounds crazy. But some people do it -- and some cats actually like it. Read all about it on the next page.