boating with pets

How to Ensure Safety When Boating With Pets

Many pets love the water and enjoy boating with their owners. There are common boating dangers and safety tips when boating with pets. Some dogs are good “boat dogs” and others are not. They prefer land.

Below, we will share some of the best boat dogs, review boating with dog dangers, followed by dog boating safety tips.

Good Boat Dogs

Just as there are some dogs that are excellent swimmers, some dogs truly love to boat. Some boat shows support competitions for the best boat dog that features skills such as fetching a personal flotation device from a jumbled stack of boating equipment; swimming out to dinghies and dragging them back to a boat and hauling a bucket of nautical supplies to the owner.

But which breeds are the best for boats? Naturally, breeds specifically bred for the water work best. These breeds are generally medium-sized, have water-resistant coats and webbing between their toes.

The most popular boat dogs include:

  [Labrador retrievers](/article/dogs/selecting-a-dog/choosing-a-breed/labrador-retrievers---choosing-a-labrador-retriever)
  [Golden retrievers](/article/dogs/selecting-a-dog/choosing-a-breed/golden-retrievers---choosing-a-golden-retriever)
  [Portuguese water dog](/article/dogs/selecting-a-dog/choosing-a-breed/choosing-a-portuguese-water-dog)
  American Water Spaniel
  Irish Water Spaniel
  Spanish Water Dog

Dangers and Safety Problems of Boating with Pets

Just because you have a dog does not mean he will make a good boat dog or actually wants to go. Several problems can occur when boating with pets.

Some Dogs Can’t Swim

Not all dogs can swim. Some dogs are very good and bred to swim and others cannot swim or would have much difficulty. For example, brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs are not natural swimmers and can have a very hard time. Dogs that are obese, have underlying medical problems and mobility problems may have problems.

If your dog doesn’t swim, it is possible to get your dog swimming lessons. Here are tips on Teaching Your Dog to Swim. If you have a dog that can’t swim and you have a pool or pond, it is very important to prevent access and have a pool ladder or ramp made for dogs to make it possible for him to get out.

Near Drowning

Dogs can drown. The term “near drowning” refers to a non-fatal water event where the dog lives. It can include severe signs that include inhalation of water and cessation of breathing. When breathing stops, the brain does not get oxygen and carbon dioxide levels begin to increase in the blood. Without treatment, death can occur.

Drowning can occur in oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, bathtubs, sinks and even dishwater. There are hundreds of circumstances all of which can lead to drowning or near-drowning. Some you can prevent while others are freak accidents.

Motion Sickness

Just as some people have motion sickness, some dogs have difficulty boating due to motion sickness. Motion sickness is caused by stimulation of the vestibular apparatus located within the inner ear. When this apparatus is stimulated, your pet feels dizzy and nausea may develop.

Signs of motion sickness including drooling, vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea. Some dogs become anxious as they feel nauseated. The signs of motion sickness often stop when the boat stops moving or they are on land. If your dog is known to experience motion sickness, a boat ride may not be the best “treat” for your dog.

Medications that can help symptoms of motion sickness include antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), meclizine (Bonine®) and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®). A newer prescription drug on the market Maropitant Citrate (Cerenia®) for Dogs has been very effective for treating vomiting in dogs and when used in higher doses can prevent motion sickness. Learn more about Motion Sickness in Dogs.


Some dogs are cool and calm on a boat. Others are anxious. Some dogs pace, are restless and may fall or be injured. This can be especially true when dogs are thrown when in rough waters.

12 Water and Boating Safety Tips for Pets

There are some very important boating safety tips that you should use when boating with your dog.

  1. Ensure your dog has a properly fitting good quality flotation device or doggie life vest. Even dogs that are good swimmers can tire. Dogs that are not strong swimmers or have underlying health issues can fall in the water and not be able to easily get out. The ideal life vest should fit your dog well, be comfortable, be a bright easy-to-see color, and have a handle over his back that can help you get him out of the water if necessary.
  2. Consider that the sun and heat can be dangerous. Dogs can overheat and suffer from heatstroke. They can also get sunburned. To learn how to prevent heat stroke or sunburns, see Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Summer.
  3. Ensure your dog has plenty of opportunities to rest and has plenty of fresh clean water to drink.
  4. Ensure your dog has access to the shade while on the boat.
  5. Provide opportunities every few hours for your dog to get to land and have a chance to urinate and defecate. Don’t forget about his habits.
  6. Ensure you have a ramp on your boat made for dogs so if your dog loves to swim or falls in it is easy for them to get out. Practice this before your boating trip.
  7. If you are boating on the ocean or river, make sure you consider the danger of currents and tides. Even dogs that are strong swimmers can drown.
  8. Don’t let your dog in the water if you know of algae warnings. In fact, it is best to discourage your dog from drinking any water except the fresh clean water that you offer.
  9. Never leave your dog alone in the water.
  10. Dry your dog’s ears after being in the water. Ear infections can be common in dogs with long floppy ears where the water cannot dry.
  11. Remove any collars, especially flea or tick collars, if they are not water safe. Also, this can help ensure they do not get caught on anything while swimming.
  12. If your dog has been swimming, when back home, wash your dog with a dog-safe shampoo to remove any bacteria, algae, and/or dirt. Dry the ears well.

We hope this provides you with some helpful tips about boating with pets.

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