For many people and their canines, the arrival of summer is synonymous with beaches, lakeside cottages, swimming and boating.
Whether you have a canoe, motorboat or yacht, if you’re taking your best friend on board, be sure to factor boat safety (and his comfort) into the equation.
1. Get him a lifejacket
Many dogs are extremely agile, and can scale down a steep, treacherous trail like a mountain goat, only to look back at you as if to say, “What’s taking you so long?” Yet that same spirited climber will rattle around in the car and fall haplessly off the seat at the slightest gear change (one of the many reasons for doggie seatbelts).
The same goes for dogs and boats. The swells and chops that thrill us can be stressful and even dangerous for your pooch. He could lose his balance and footing and slide overboard before you know what’s happened.
Even if your dog is a good swimmer, it’s a good idea for him to wear a lifejacket when he’s on a boat of any size, especially if you’re going to be on deep or rough water far from shore. Do not use a lifejacket designed for people – many pet supply retailers and dog outfitters offer lifejackets and vests made especially for dogs. Be sure you get one that fits your canine properly and comfortably. A lifejacket won’t help him much if it doesn’t fit right or slips off easily.
2. Keep an eye on him
Even when he has his lifejacket on, keep an eye on your furry nautical friend. A lifejacket does not mean it is safe to stop monitoring him when he’s onboard a vessel. “Pay attention to your dog,” advises BluePearl Veterinary Partners. “The movement of the boat can be quite a workout for them and could cause them to become fatigued or injured due to the constant movement and balancing they have to do”.
Preventing slippage for her pooch is especially important to Negin. Shiba is not only elderly but also has a limp. Negin makes sure her wobbly pup is safe onboard by keeping her in a restricted area away from all ledges. It’s a good idea to provide your dog with a safe, sheltered and comfortable spot someplace on board where he can lie down and rest if he needs to.
3. Provide him with shade and water
Because boating is associated with lakes, oceans and rivers, we typically have water safety at the forefront of our minds. But it’s equally important to respect the other natural elements – including the sun – while onboard a boat. Just as we can easily become dehydrated by spending long periods in the sun, so too can our dogs.
“There are not many trees for shade out there in the ocean,” quips veteran boater L.J. Mismas. He and his pals typically have one or more dogs onboard with them and he always ensures the animals have shelter from the elements. “The dogs have their own space out of the sun under the seats both on the deck and inside, where they have full water bowls and comfy beds to lay down and cool off on.”
Negin also makes sure Shiba has shade and never sets sail without food, water, and a dog bed. The veterinarians at BluePearl Veterinary Partners acknowledge the importance of giving dogs “an area onboard the vessel where they can get out of the sun so they don’t overheat, and ensuring they have access to plenty of fresh drinking water.”
4. Think safety when swimming
While it may seem obvious to not have anyone swimming near the boat’s motor when it is running, many deaths occur each year when distracted boaters forget to turn off their engines during swim time. People usually know not to swim near a running engine, so they are safer from this tragic occurrence, but a dog that fancies a swim might just jump into the water on a whim, and of course won’t pay any regard as to whether or not the engine is on. If your dog is an unpredictable jumper, keep him inside while the motors are turned on. If your boat doesn’t have a cabin, keep him on a lead. Only let him out for a dip once the engines are disengaged.
Watch your dog while he’s in the water, so that he doesn’t swim too far from the boat or get overtired. “If your dog is going to go swimming, ensure there is an easy access point for him to get on and off the boat to prevent fatigue and injuries,” advises BluePearl Veterinary Partners.
Boating with your canine co-captain is one of the greatest natural highs summer has to offer. As long as you outfit him with a life jacket, give him plenty of shade and water, and keep a close eye on him, there’s no reason the fun has to end!