How to keep your dog safe while boating

Black and white dog on a paddle board

Minnesota is known for its lakes, so it’s no surprise that during the summer people — and their pets — hit the water. While being on the water can be a fun pastime, it’s important to take safety precautions into consideration.

Prepare your pet

Before stepping on a boat, take time to desensitize your dog to water, understand their swimming abilities, and ensure they have a well-fitted lifejacket to help keep them afloat. Learn more about water safety for dogs.

Once your dog is comfortable around water, now it’s time to get them familiar with the boat. While still docked, allow your pet to explore the terrain and get used to their new surroundings. 

Create a designated spot on the boat for your dog where they can be out of the sun. Having a favorite toy, blanket, or towel that reminds them of home can help your furry boat mate feel more relaxed and comfortable. And don’t forget to bring snacks and plenty of water to keep them hydrated.

Once your dog is comfortable and adjusted to life on the water, it’s time to create a plan to keep everyone safe and prepare for the unexpected.

What to do if your dog goes overboard

Your dog should wear their lifejacket at all times when on the boat in case they accidentally go overboard. Practice overboard rescues with your dog before heading out on the open water and have a well-trained recall so you can call them back to the boat. 

Many lifejackets have handles on them to help lift a dog back into the boat. If your dog is big or heavy, having a portable swim ladder available for them to climb up is useful as well. 

Create a plan for keeping your pet safe

Before leaving the dock, it’s important for everyone on board to discuss what to do in case of emergency to keep all people and pets safe. Talk through what to do if your dog goes overboard, the weather changes, or someone gets injured.

Always carry a leash and first aid kit. For safety, keep your dog leashed when leaving or arriving at the dock and when traveling at high speeds, and make sure to always monitor them closely.

Boating etiquette

Be aware of your surroundings and any other people recreating near you. Maintain a respectful distance and be mindful of noise to ensure others can enjoy their time on the water too.

What if your dog has to go to the bathroom while onboard? Have pee pads or newspapers set up so your dog can do their business without creating too much cleanup hassle for you. If you let your dog out of the boat to go to the bathroom, clean up after them and pack out any waste.

Enjoying the outdoors is a fun getaway for you and your pet. Taking time to prepare your dog for time on the water and having a safety plan in place will help you — and your furry companion — have fun on the water all summer long.

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