Some dogs are great swimmers; others never will be because of fear of the water or because they are just not anatomically built for swimming (like long dogs with short legs)
But boating enthusiasts who are dog lovers find ways to take both swimmers and non-swimmers on their boats – to enjoy the water or enjoy the weather.
If your dog has never been swimming before, take him to the beach or a pool or some place where he can feel safe for his first few times in the water and go with him. When you feel confident he can swim in a life jacket (see below) and he feels confident and enjoys it, then take him to your boat. While your boat is anchored, let him get used to it for a few visits. Then, gradually go out a little further each time from the dock, and let him swim in the lake, river, or bay. (Check out VetLive here for more information and see more training references below.)
Depending on how long you will be ‘at sea’ with your dog, you’ll need enough food, bottled water, bedding and and medication she might take. Your dog should be crated at night, or kept in a closed compartment with you, so she does not wander off. A basic first aid training book and a first aid kit for your dog should be packed.
Here are 9 additional must have items to bring along for your dog before you pick up anchor.
1. Must Have A Dog Life Jacket: Kygen Outward Hound Life Jacket
No matter how good a swimmer you have, you must have a life jacket for your dog on board your boat. And just think of how important a life jacket is if your dog can’t swim! I have taken my dogs swimming frequently in the ocean and always use the nylon Kygen Outward Hound Life Jacket for them; it’s lightweight but provides a secure fit and I can easily haul the dogs around from the top handle if they get tired. But I also see a lot of dogs that use the neoprene Paws Aboard Life Jacket too.
Whichever you buy, make sure the size is correct (there are sizing charts at the links above) and make sure you get a BRIGHT color that contrasts with the water and your dog’s coloring. (Here’s a great review of different life vests.)
2. Must Have A Dog Ramp: Paws Aboard Boat Ladder And Ramp
Unless you have a hydraulic dog ramp, which costs some mighty big bucks, you will need a strong and steady means of getting your dog back into the boat. You will need to train your dog to use the Paws Aboard Boat Ladder and Ramp, on land and/or in shallow water, but once she learns, climbing it from deeper water will come naturally to her. Go with her into the water and lead her up the plank. She might want to go into the water using the plank, but most importantly, she needs to learn to walk up the plank to get out of the water. As you get into slightly deeper water, you can guide her with your body or by using her life jacket or a leash attached to a harness to guide her. Do not use a neck collar to pull your dog while in the water.
3. Must Have A Dog Harness: Puppia Soft Dog Harness
I’ve been a big fan of Puppia Harnesses since they first came out. They’re great for small to medium dogs who pull because the Puppia’s have a soft front that doesn’t dig into their chests, but they come in sizes all the way up to XXLarge for the big guys too. Honestly though, any harness that will restrain your dog without hurting him will do while he’s lounging around on your boat.
4. Must Have A Tether: Tether Plus Harness
You should have your dog tethered at all times when he’s boating with you, so that there are no ‘dogs overboard.’ Attach a tether like this one to an immovable object at one end and your dog’s leash or harness (see Puppia above) at the other end. (I was looking for a tether that would do really well in water and this is the best I could find. If anyone has a better suggestion, please let me know?)
5. Must Have A Cool Bed: K&H Cool Bed III Cooling Dog Bed
Just because you’re on the water, doesn’t mean you’re cool. Well, you’re cool, but your not cool enough! And when your dog can’t jump in the water to cool off, she’s going to need the K&H Cool Bed III to keep her cool, because there are few shade trees on the water. I like the K&H Cool Bed because it doesn’t require refrigeration. You just poor some cool water through the spout and it will stay cool for hours! K&H Cool Bed III comes in small, medium, and large.(I also think this PupChiller looks like a winner but have not tried it.)
6. Must Have A Sun Visor: PlayaPup Sun Protective Dog Visors
Dogs get cataracts in their eyes, just like people do. Small to medium size dogs are especially vulnerable to cataracts, and cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in dogs. With that in mind you should do whatever you can to prevent them or minimize the harmful impact of the sun on your dog’s eyes. The PlayaPup Sun Protective Dog Visors, with a UPF of 50, help to protect your dog’s eyes from sun damage, and will be useful not only when all paws are on deck, but when they’re on land as well. The PlayaPups come in several sizes and in many great colors and patterns.
7. Must Have Dog Sun Glasses: Doggles Sun Glasses For Dogs
Doggles are another step you can take to protect your dog’s eyes. Doggles smoke colored lenses block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. I have trained all my dogs to wear Doggles – you have to start little by little, day by day, outside of your home, maybe on a walk. On a boat dogs can wear their Doggles on deck and, in the water, they are great to protect them from glare as well as from foreign bodies entering their eyes. Dogs can see fine through the lenses, which are polycarbonate, just like most of ours. Doggles are pretty much water tight too, so I use them on my dogs in chlorinated pools and salt water. The Doggle frames comes in different colors, but make sure that for eye protection you choose the smoke colored lenses.
8. Must Have Dog Sunscreen: Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray For Pets
Epi-Pet is an FDA approved sunscreen for dogs and horses. It should be applied to the skin and especially used on dogs with light colored fur and/or skin and thin fur, short fur, or shaved fur. Though Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray is waterproof, you should apply it every few times your dog gets wet. It should be applied daily when your dog is in the sun – dogs with light-skinned or light-colored fur can get sunburned easily, just like light-skinned people! Do not used human sunscreen on your dogs! They might lick up harmful chemicals.
9. Must Have A Dog Potty: Pee Wee Dog Potty
Dogs don’t tend to pee or poop while in the water. I have been swimming with my dogs for years, and the first thing they want to do when they get out of the water is poop and then pee. So, unless you want to clean up messes on your boat, it’s better if you train your dog to use a dog potty (again, best to start at home). I like the Pee Wee Dog Potty because it’s in a container, it has (artificial) grass, which you can odorize with your dog’s favorite scent, and it also has a grate through which the tinkle can go. This one is for small and medium dogs. (Here’s my review of 8 portable dog potties if you’d like to see what else may work for you.)
Enjoy boating with your dogs, but keep them safe and cool!