Boat Safety For Dogs

Boat Safety

Summer is here and boaters are heading out on the water. It can be a lot of fun to have your furry buddy by your side while you enjoy the surf and sun. Please note that as the wind blows through your hair, it’s important to make sure your canine companion is safe.

Have A ‘Dog Overboard’ Plan

Taking your dog on a boat is really no different than taking a friend or family member for a cruise on the water. Keep safety in mind and follow these tips to ensure your dog does not get hurt while on the water.

Dog swimming in ocean
(Picture Credit: meaghanbrowning/Getty Images)

Even if you’re very careful, there is a chance that your dog might fall overboard so you need to have a plan in place to get them back to safety. Make sure everyone who comes onto your boat knows what to do if it happens.

The first step is, of course, to circle back to your dog and cut the motor when you get close enough. Do NOT jump in to get your dog.

Animals, like humans, can panic and drag you down with them when they are struggling to stay above water. Instead, call your dog over to the boat and lift them out of the water. Most dog life jackets have handles to pull dogs up.

Get The Right Kind Of Life Jacket

Dog swimming with life vest
A Corgi goes for a swim wearing a life vest
(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Even strong swimmers need a doggy life jacket. There are just too many situations where your dog might not be able to swim. The water could be too rough. Your pup could be pulled under by a current. They could be knocked unconscious or injured or swallow too much water and choke.

All dogs should have life jackets when on the water. Also, remember dogs with short snouts–are especially at risk.

Not all life jackets are the same. They come in different sizes and buoyancy, and no matter which one you get, you should always test them with your dog in calm, shallow water before you rely on them during a boating trip.

Get one that’s brightly colored and has some reflective trim so it’s easy to see. Many life jackets have a handle in case you need to lift your dog out of the water.

The life jacket you choose should ideally keep your dog’s head above water and be comfortable enough for them to move, lie down, and go potty.

Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, And A First-Aid Kit

Dog on a boat
(Picture Credit: Vasuta Thitayarak / EyeEm/Getty Images)

Dogs are susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer, so it is very important that you use sunscreen that is formulated for dogs.

Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate sunscreen for your individual pup. Dogs with light-colored or short fur are at greater risk. Make sure to pay particular attention to any areas where fur is thin, like around the armpits or on the ears and nose.


Dogs can also be bitten by mosquitoes and other insects that carry diseases. There are bug sprays specifically for dogs.

Do NOT use bug spray for humans on your pup. Some dog owners rely on natural insect repellents. Whatever you choose, don’t leave your dog unprotected.

Boat + Water = Fun

Dogs can be a lot of fun on a boat but remember first-aid kits are necessary in case something goes wrong. Make sure your first aid kit has bandages, antibacterial ointment, Dramamine or other medication for seasickness, and any other regular medication your dog might need while you’re on the water.

Fresh Water And Shade

Dog on a boat with a life vest


Bring an ample supply of fresh water and a doggy bowl that won’t spill too much. Fresh water is important to bring anytime when traveling with your dog and is especially true when out on the water for an extended time.

Water will help them keep cool, avoid heatstroke, and stay hydrated. Dehydration can creep up, so make sure you know the symptoms, as well.


Your dog should have a shady spot to rest where they can get out of the sun. This can be a below-deck area, under an awning, or even beneath a console or seat. Always make sure your dog can find relief from the heat. Note: Pouring water on your dog to keep them cool may actually make them hotter, so don’t rely on that.

Acclimate Your Dog To The Boat

Dog on a sail boat
(Picture Credit: Gary S Chapman/Getty Images)

Give them a chance to get on the boat while you’re docked so they can get used to their surroundings. If they’re nervous, keep an eye on them when you start the motor so they don’t bolt.

Take your dog for a slow ride at first to see how they do. Anxiety can be a big safety issue on the boat, and your dog might get hurt. It’s not worth it if that happens, so make the right decision.

If they are too nervous, try a mild relaxant like these CBD dog treats!

Bring A Leash

Dog on a leash

You should always have a leash handy when you’re on the boat for many reasons. If you have an unplanned stop, an emergency, or an encounter with other boaters and dogs, your pup will be a lot safer on a leash.

Potty Breaks

Dog in water

Plan ahead for potty breaks. Some boaters use puppy pads or astroturf to let their dogs go potty on the boat, but some pups need to be on land before they feel comfortable enough to do their business.

If your dog prefers dry land, plan where you’re going to stop, and make sure your dog is on a leash before you approach the dock or shore. You don’t want your dog jumping off the boat early and running off.

Pay Attention To Your Dog

Dog in a boat on the water

Like not swimming alone, it is also a safe practice to never go boating alone, especially with a dog. Having someone else keep an eye out for fido can be a big help.

If you can’t pay enough attention to both your boat and your dog, it would seem better to leave your dog at home.

You should always know where your dog is and what they are doing while still paying attention to what the boat is doing. Losing focus on either can be disastrous.

Originally posted on “Jupe’s Treats” August 1, 2021

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