Are you thinking about taking a day trip up the east or west coastline? Maybe you’re planning a long voyage on your yacht for a few months? What are you going to do with your dog while you’re away? If the thought of leaving your furry friend in a kennel for months breaks your heart, why not just take them along with you for the trip?
It might surprise you to learn that most dogs actually like spending time on a boat out on the ocean. Dogs can adapt to boat life, and many breeds, like Labradors, love the water. However, there are a few things pet owners need to know before taking their hound out on the water.
This post unpacks everything you need to know about transitioning your dog to the life-aquatic.
- Remember – Safety First!
- Transitioning Your Dog to the Life Aquatic
- The Hard Talk
- Wrapping Up
Remember – Safety First!
The first rule in boating is to understand the risks of the ocean and the safety protocols required to keep everyone on the boat. It might seem like a simple principle, but if someone, even the dog, goes overboard, you’ll suddenly understand the reason for the rule.
Dog Life Jackets and Other Safety Equipment
The reality is that all breeds don’t suit life on the water. While Labradors love it, you Maltese might not find it as appealing. Some dogs are excellent swimmers, while other breeds are hopeless if they land in the water.
Before you take your dog on board for a sail, you’ll need to understand if they have what it takes to make it out on the ocean. Old dogs will tire quickly, and even young dogs can fatigue fast and get disorientated if they fall overboard into the water.
It’s vital to get your dog a life jacket to prevent disaster from occurring. A dog lifejacket keeps your pet floating in an upright position, allowing them to swim back to the boat. You can connect a rope to the jacket and the boat, allowing easy retrieval if your furry friend falls overboard.
So, how do you choose the right life jacket for your dog? Follow these tips for a snug fit and plenty of protection.
- Fit – The jacket must fit your dog and not allow any wriggle room that could allow them to escape.
- Lifting handle – The handles make it easier to pull Fido from the water.
- Comfort – Your dog shouldn’t complain when you put on the lifejacket.
- Color – Choose a high-viz color like bright yellow or orange for easy identification in misty weather.
After you find the right life jacket, fit it to your dog and let them try it out in the pool, lake, or ocean before heading out to sea in your boat. Practice makes perfect, and most dogs will learn to swim with the jacket in a few sessions.
Medical and Veterinary Considerations
Before you head out onto the water, take Fido to the vet for a checkup. Tell the vet your plans and ask them for medication they think you might need when you’re out on the water.
Getting to a vet when you’re out at sea isn’t an option. It’s important to get a dog-specific first-aid kit for your dog.
Obtain a Travel Certificate of Health for Your Dog
Apply for a USDA International Travel Certificate of Health before taking your dog out on the water. Most countries, apart from Mexico, require this certificate.
Dealing with Heat Injuries
If you live in a cooler climate and you’re sailing to the Caribbean, your dog might have a harder time adjusting to the change in weather than you.
Dogs can’t sweat, and they are at risk of overheating in these scenarios. Make sure you take a spray bottle, ice packs, fans, and a shade for cooling off your dog in hot weather.
Like humans, some dogs experience seasickness out in the ocean. The last thing you need is your dog vomiting all over the deck.
Vomiting also leads to rapid dehydration, placing Fido in a life-threatening position. Make sure you get medication from the vet to control seasickness before you leave on your adventure.
Sure, dogs have fur, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sunburnt. If you have a short-hair breed, use a light SPF sunscreen. Use naturally scented sunscreen to avoid irritating the dog.
Transitioning Your Dog to the Life Aquatic
You won’t know how your dog responds to life on a boat until you get them on board. Before you launch the vessel, introduce your dog to the watercraft and let them spend a few hours onboard sniffing and inspecting the watercraft.
Set up living quarters for your hound in the cabin. Let her get used to her new surroundings before you head out for the trip.
Keep your dog in mind when purchasing your boat. It’s not only the size you need to consider. Design elements like low-angle steps for the stern give your dog easier access to the cabin when they feel like getting away from the noise of the ocean.
Understanding Your Dogs Behavior and Triggers
Many dogs get excited when they encounter wildlife out on the water. The last thing you want is Fido to jump in the water to chase a pod of dolphins. That occurrence could end up putting the crew at risk in an attempt to save your dog.
While you’re likely to understand your dog’s triggers, there are times when you might not intervene before they have a chance to react to the stimulus. Therefore, everyone on board needs to know how to handle the dog in a rescue.
Potty Training Your Pooch
Imagine waking up in the morning to find a steaming pile of dog mess on the cabin carpet or deck – what a lovely way to start the day, right? We recommend getting your dog a “potty mat” for the boat’s bow.
With the right training, most dogs will learn how to use the mat in a few days. We recommend using the mat at home for a few days before you head out to sea. Teach Fido to poop on the mat, and they’ll make an easier transition to it on the boat, with fewer accidents.
Transportation and Kennels
If you’re planning on visiting p[orts and marinas along your trip, make sure you have a well-trained dog, or you’ll have to lock them up in the cabin when you go out on the town.
So, give your dog time to adjust to its environment before you take her out on the water. Let her sleep in the cabin by herself for a few nights before you embark on your trip. If you’re planning an extended stay onshore, make sure you research kennels in the local area.
You can also look for dog sitters in the towns you’re visiting, but make sure you have a list and contact the sitter before you leave on your trip.
Food and Water
Pack enough food and water for your pup; there is nowhere to buy food when you’re out on the water.
Account for your dog’s nutritional requirements, and pack enough fresh water for your furry friend.
We recommend packing some treats; they help when your dog starts feeling anxiety or excitement, giving you a way to distract the dog and calm her down.
Exercise and Recreational Stimulus
Your dog will likely love the first few days at sea. They take some time to settle into their new surroundings, and it’s all fun and games until they realize the space they live in and the limitations of what they can do onboard the boat.
If you own a breed, like a Husky, you’re going to need to find a way to get them the exercise they need every day. Dogs get bored just like us, and while we might enjoy the thrill of being out on the ocean, your pet might not find it as exciting after a few days.
Remember to pull into marinas or ports and take Fido out for a walk on the beach or the tidepools. It’s important to keep an eye on them, as many dogs will attempt to drink salt water when they are feeling thirsty. The last thing you need is to take Fido back to the boat and have them vomit or spread diarrhea all over the cabin or deck.
National Parks and other Restricted Areas
Many national parks won’t allow you to bring your dog onshore. Check your destinations and make sure you’re pulling into ports and marinas where your dog can have fun on shore with you.
Check with local authorities on their pet policies, and make sure you pull into marinas and ports that are pet-friendly.
Encounters with Animals on the Beach and in the Ocean
One of the best parts of being out on the ocean is witnessing the amazing aquatic wildlife. Your dog will find your animal encounters as exciting as you.
As naturally curious animals, they won’t understand that dolphins and fish are not interested in playing with them, and some dogs might attempt to jump from the boat and swim after them to say hello.
Your dog also needs her leash and harness when walking on the beach. The last thing you want is for her to race ahead to try and eat a turtle laying its eggs on the beach. In destinations like Mexico, the beaches have all types of animals roaming the sand, from iguanas to cows.
If your dog doesn’t have any discipline or training, keep them on the leash at all times. If they are well-trained, you can take them off the leash. Mexico has plenty of dogs roaming the beaches without leashes, so make sure your pet has social skills and training before you let them off the leash.
Leaving your untrained dog off-leash may result in her running away with other dogs in all the excitement of meeting some new friends. Spending hours hunting down Fido will ruin your trip, and there’s the chance you might not find them if they wander too far away.
The Hard Talk
While we all want to have the best time possible out on the water, the reality is that the ocean is a dangerous place. There’s always the chance that your dog falls overboard in stormy seas. Therefore, you’ll need to prepare yourself, and your family, for the possibility of losing the animal.
If the dog does go overboard in bad weather, a rescue could put your life and your family at risk. Therefore, you have to prepare everyone on board for the possibility of leaving the animal if rescue is too dangerous.
It’s a hard conversation to have, especially with kids, but they need the preparation to avoid making a life-threatening mistake on the water. The last thing you want is your young son jumping into the sea to save the animal.
Your pup might seem frightening or nervous when you first introduce them to your boat. If that’s the case, we recommend purchasing a pet-friendly CBD product for your pup. CBD is a legal and non-toxic cannabinoid suitable for your dog.
The CBD has a calming effect on your dog, reducing their anxiety in the first few hours after launching the boat. Keep an eye on your dog and dose them if you notice them starting to feel anxious. Signs of anxiety include them wanting to sit right next to you all the time. Some dogs may also begin shaking or shivering as a sign of anxiety.
Don’t stress about it; most dogs behave this way when they experience a new environment. However, if your dog doesn’t look like she’s doing well after a few days, you might have to consider turning around.
However, your dog will eventually adapt to its new lifestyle, and they’ll find it less intimidating with every day they spend out on the water. After a week or so, your pup will be a salty sailor ready for your next ocean-going voyage!