Boat Safety

by: Angelia Oliverei, LVT

Summer time gives families the opportunity to engage in a variety of outdoor festivities and one of the more popular activities is boating. Boating with your dog can be a great way to get out and enjoy the summer weather especially for our water loving companions! Safety is essential when bringing our furry friends onto a boat and knowing what you should bring for your dog can help prevent any issues that could arise. Here are a few tips and tricks you should know before heading out on the open water.

Getting Used to the Boat, Boating Basics

  • Acclimating your dog to the boat:
    • Before heading out on the boat, it’s a good idea to get your dog used to being on a boat. Start with bringing your dog onto a docked boat and letting them spend some time on the boat to get them used to their “sea legs”. You can then turn the motor on to get them used to the sound. Start off with short boat rides and then progress to longer rides. You want to establish an area on the boat that your dog will be able to go if the water gets rough or to relax and feel safe. Always keep in mind that some dogs may just not like being on a boat and do not like water. For this reason, it might be best to keep these dogs at home.
  • Getting your dog in and out of the boat:
    • Set up a plan on how your dog will get in and out of the boat. Always keep in mind the size of your dog. A small dog could be easily picked up and placed back on the boat, a large dog however, could be more challenging. You can use ramps or floating devices that attach to the swim ladder, so your dog can get aboard.

Have a Dog Overboard Plan:

Everyone on board should know the dog overboard plan before heading out. If your dog goes overboard the first thing you want to do is turn off the motor. Turning off the motor will turn the propeller off to prevent injury. Plan ahead on how the dog will get back onto the boat. Developing a plan is important before an emergency happens!

Safety Supplies

  • First aid kit: Bringing a first aid kit could be important in case an emergency arises. The kit could include: Gauze, medical tape, Telfa pads, Neosporin, antiseptic wash, and bandage scissors.
  • Life preserver: Life preservers are an essential item that all dogs should wear at all times when on the boat to prevent possible drowning incidents due to water currents or fatigue, even for dogs with excellent swimming ability. Dog life preservers can be purchased at most pet supply stores.
    • In a recent PetMD interview, Dr. Kern recommended: “The jacket needs to allow full movement of the shoulder joint, and the front leg needs to be able to reach forward completely without restriction.”

Basic Supplies

  • Sunscreen and shade: Yes sunscreen, even our furry friends need protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Also ensuring proper shade so our dogs can cool off is important.
  • Fresh drinking water: Bringing fresh drinking water and a bowl will help prevent dehydration. You do not want to encourage your dogs to drink out of freshwater lakes due to potential contamination or harmful organisms.
  • Elimination: Most dogs will need to urinate or defecate during their time spent on the boat. Providing elimination breaks throughout your trip is important, because let’s face it, most dogs can’t be trained to use the marine toilet. You can either train your dog to use potty pads or take multiple trips docking on land to allow them to eliminate.


Boating with your dog can be an exciting activity. Remember to use common sense. If you are uncomfortable due to weather or water conditions it is likely your dog is too. Always provide a safe and comfortable area for your dog to take breaks. Remember safety first and have fun!