8th April 2019

Most dogs take to boating easily, while some require a little coaxing. Here are a few tips and tricks to make boating with your pup the best experience possible.


Swimming Lessons
Long before you embark on a boating trip with your pooch you should know if she or he can swim and whether they swim poorly or well. Some smaller dogs can’t swim two feet and should always be in their life jackets. Other dogs can’t get enough of swimming and are at risk for jumping ship when you’re not looking. It’s important to know your dog’s abilities in the water before you consider a boat ride.

Welcome Aboard
Dogs need to acclimate, not only to being in a new and small space, but also to the feeling of the boat on the water. It’s always best practice to bring the dog to the marina if possible and let him or her get a feeling for the boat without it being underway. If you are trailering and don’t have the luxury of a slow introduction, allow a little extra time once you launch to make sure the dog is comfortable on board. Dogs will be just like kids about new experiences. If they have a bad first impression of an activity they will likely resist it indefinitely. So whether its treats, playtime or affection go big on rewards in order make it a happy experience for the long term.

Life Jackets
Flipper won’t be there to save your pup, so for every dog onboard there should be an appropriate life jacket. Even if your lab is a champion swimmer, it’s nice to have the extra floatation in case he or she goes overboard and has to spend some time in the water before rescue. The best feature of these dog-specific life jackets is the sturdy handle that allows you to hoist the dog out of the drink. Click here for a very comprehensive comparison of life jackets for dogs, with reviews categorized for small, medium, large and extra-large breeds.

If you’re boating on the ocean make sure there is plenty of fresh water onboard for Fido, especially if you’re on a smaller boat with a limited supply. That ice chest of adult beverages won’t do your dog any good on a hot day, and dehydration can happen quickly in the heat of a summer day spent playing fetch in the water. We really like this handy.

Consider a Dog Ladder
If your dogs a swimmer or you’d like him to be, consider buying a floating ladder for your transom. There is an excellent plank-style one made by Doggy Docks and a ladder-style from Pet Loader. You’ll see there are numerous options when you simply search for dog ladder for boating” on the internet.

Game Plan
There should be someone assigned to keep an eye on the dog whether underway or on the dock. If that person needs to a break they should verbally ask someone else to watch the dog. You should also have a plan for rescue. Typically, you’ll just turn around and as you approach the dog cut the engines just as you would when retrieving a skier or wakeboarder. However, we recently heard an account of a dog being rescued by a stranger in middle of Indian Arm after going overboard without anyone noticing. Luckily, this dog had a life jacket and also a tag with the owners’ phone number.

First Aid
Dogs get seasick too. Did you know they can take over-the-counter Dramamine? Check with your vet before boating and have the appropriate supply onboard. A doggie first aid kit isn’t a bad idea either. These can be found in any well-stocked pet store or online.

Sunburn Protection
As we all know, sun on the water is different from sun in your backyard. For an extended day on the boat all dogs should have sunscreen applied to their bellies and insides of their legs. Some short-haired breeds will need sunscreen all over. Epi-Pet makes a great, easy-to-apply sunscreen. If you have trouble locating a dog-specific product use something made for babies.

Nature’s Call
If you have smaller dogs you be familiar with pet pads for peeing, which are easy to place on the boat if your dogs are used to using them. Typically, a house-trained dog will not want to relieve himself on your boat, so be kind and make sure you make some stops in the amount of time you’d allow your dog outside of your home for a potty break. Make sure you bring a leash and baggies for those stops.
If you have any tips you’d like to add, or experiences you’d like to share, please email us at and we’ll add them to this list, which can also be found on our website.