Before you go:
• Get a good fitting life jacket and have the dog wear it a few times around the home before they get on a boat. Any pet life jacket should have a handle to easily lift the animal out of the water. Here’s a buying guide for dogs of all sizes: www.BoatUS.com/doglifejacket.
• Have a special ID tag with the name of the boat, marina, slip number and cellphone number on it just in case. If the dog gets lost, it’s a lot easier for the person who finds them to get them back to you quickly
*If there is any chance you’ll be going to Canada and Mexico, make sure you have current rabies vaccine and other shot documentation with you as dog tags are not acceptable proof of immunizations. It is also a good idea to check with customs because the rules and requirements often change.
• Familiarize the dog with the boat slowly - don’t just get on the boat and leave the dock right away. Ideally, bring the dog to the boat for the first time without leaving the dock, and let give them a chance to sniff around and get their sea legs. It may help to start the engine so they are used the sound.
• Plan for falls overboard, either from the boat or dock. If the dog falls overboard underway – or jumps in – you may be able to circle back and retrieve Fido just like a fallen water skiier, pulling up slowly, cutting the engine and luring the dog to the swim platform with a treat. If you don’t have swim platform, smaller dogs may be lifted over the side by their life jacket handle, but bigger dogs may require a different solution. If a dog falls off a dock, know that seawall bulkheads may prevent the animal from a self-rescue.
• Bring plenty of water and make sure there’s some place the dog can get out of the sun and stay as cool as possible. Know the symptoms of dog heat stroke. While seasick dogs may vomit, that’s also one sign of heat stroke. Rapid, loud or difficulty breathing, extreme thirst, thick saliva, disorientation and a bright red tongue and pale gums are a few of the others.
• If you’re going to be out on the boat for more than a few hours, plan on how your dog will relieve themselves, and pick up after your dog, no matter where they go. If you see where someone else didn’t pick up after their dog, pick it up for them. You don’t want to give any opportunity to show why dogs shouldn’t be allowed in your marina, and your boating friends will love you for it.
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its over half-million members with government representation, services such as 24-hour on the water boat towing as well as roadside assistance for boat trailers and tow vehicles, feature-packed boat insurance programs, money-saving benefits that include marina and West Marine shopping discounts, and vital information that improves the boating, fishing and sailing lifestyle. Its member-funded BoatUS Foundation is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating.