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Boating with Dogs or Cats Aboard: Safety Tips & Precautions

Are you thinking about inviting your pets onto the boat to come along for the ride? Having your furry friends by your side on your fishing trip or a relaxing day out on the water can be a lot of fun, but boating with dogs or cats on board requires a little extra prep. With some pre-planning and safety precautions, you can keep your cat or dog safe while making the whole family happy!

It may be a while before the weather starts warming up, but it’s never too early to start preparing for the perfect boating weather (especially if your warm weather plans involve boating dogs or cats onboard!)

Are you thinking about inviting your pets onto the boat to come along for the ride? Having your furry friends by your side on your fishing trip or a relaxing day out on the water can be a lot of fun, but boating with dogs or cats on board requires a little extra prep. With some pre-planning and safety precautions, you can keep your cat or dog safe while making the whole family happy!

Here are some safety tips to enjoy boating with your pets:

Focus on Teaching Your Dog or Cat to Swim (Even If You Think They Already Know How)

A lot of pet owners—particularly dog owners—will assume that their pet is a boat dog at heart, with an instinctive ability to swim. However, this is simply not true. It is a good idea to bring your wannabe boat dog or cat to a swimming pool, a lake, a beach, or any body of water where they are comfortable and where you can monitor them closely and safely.

Getting your pet comfortable swimming in these relaxed environments before you take them out on open and fresh water is a way to ensure your cat and dog’s safety when you’re out on adventures together.

This is true even if you have a type of dog that you’d consider a “natural swimmer.” Because you never truly know how your pet will act in a situation until they’re in it, teaching your dog how to be comfortable around water can make a big impact if they fall overboard or unexpectedly end up in the waves.

Focus on Training Your Dog or Cat to Get On and Off the Boat

If you have a small pet, the easiest and possibly the safest way to get your dog or cat onto the boat is to pick them up and place them into the vessel.

However, if your pet is too large for you to easily lift them, it would be wise to invest in a pet-friendly boarding ramp or ladder that can be used from both the dock and from in the water. By training your dog or cat to use this ramp, you don’t have to worry about them acting out in the moments it’s time to board. 

In order to teach your pet how to board and ensure your cat’s and dog’s safety, you should practice with your boat on dry land if possible. That way the ground is stable and your pet will feel more secure while they’re practicing. Getting in and out of the boat is perhaps one of the most dangerous parts of boating with your dog or cat, which is why it’s important to spend time training your dog and cat for these moments.

Pet Safety Gear and Equipment Safety Tips for Boating with Dogs & Cats

We’ve already established that not all pets know how to swim. But even if your pet is a type of dog known for being a strong swimmer, they still need to be wearing life jackets that are pet friendly. When boating with your dog or cat, there are far too many unpredictable situations where your pet could be put in danger—the water could be too rough, they could accidentally fall overboard, they could get pulled into a current, or they could swallow too much water and begin choking (just to name a few). 

Life jackets for pets come in different sizes, colors, and buoyancy. It is recommended that you buy one that is a bright color and features reflective trimming so it is easier to see. Some pet friendly options for life vests even have handles, which make it easier to lift your dogs or cats from the water.

Regardless of the available life vests you choose, you should test it in calm and shallow water. Ideally, the life jacket you choose should keep your pet’s head above the water, allow them to lie down, go to the bathroom, and move around with ease.

Tips for Boating with Pets: Have a Plan If They Fall Overboard

Even if you are careful, there is still always a chance that your pet might fall overboard. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you have a plan (and practice it) so that you can enjoy boating without stress or fear of what could happen: 

Step One: Cut the engine.

Step Two: Have a designated spot and call your dog to come.

Step Three: Help them back into the boat (their life jacket will most likely have handles that will make this easier).

Pet First Aid Kit, Sunscreen & Insect Repellant

In the event that your pet gets injured, it is always a good idea to be prepared with a pet first aid kit.

Most pets are susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer, so it is important that you bring along sunscreen specifically formulated for your type of pet. There are also different types of balms that can be rubbed on their noses (contact your veterinarian to obtain these).

Your pet may also get bitten by mosquitoes or other disease-carrying insects, but you can protect them with bug repellent sprays formulated for their breed.

As a reminder: DO NOT use sunscreen or bug repellent sprays formulated for humans on your pets!

Water and Shade: An Important Part of Boating with a Dog or Cat

While you’re out enjoying the water and warm weather, make sure your furry friend has enough fresh water and shade to cool down. Making sure your pet has access to drinking water will not only keep them cool and hydrated but also keep them from having a heat stroke.

It is important to note that pouring water on your pet to cool them down may actually make them hotter! So steer clear of this method of cooling them down. 

Boat decks can be slippery for your pets, so it may also be a good idea to bring with you a non-slip mat to make them feel more stable. Having a designated spot for your pet will keep them safe during your excursion and ensure that they have a shaded area where they can find relief from the heat. 

Enjoying boating and the outdoors with your furry friends can be a fun and rewarding experience, and making sure they are safe and comfortable will ensure that your days out together go as smoothly as possible! That’s why these tips for boating with your furry friends should be an important part of your pre-adventure checklist to keep your cat or dog safe. 

If you’re in the market for a new boat, go to our Boat for Sale page to check out our selection and meet our talented crew of experienced brokers!