A light brown and white dog sitting on a boat on the water.

Nothing says summer quite like a boating adventure! And for many pet owners, taking your best pal on that boating adventure is what summers are for. But before you visualize Fido on a boat, there are certain pet boating safety precautions you should take and some equipment you need. Pets on boats can present various hazards if they (and you) are unprepared, so it’s imperative that you take the right precautions.

Behavior and Attitude Matter More for Pets on Boats

Prior to introducing your pet to a boat, make sure they are well-behaved, accustomed to a harness or collar, and trained to listen to your commands. Take a look at our past blogs on training if Mittens or Fido could use some extra preparation.

Untrained pets or pets prone to bouts of anxiety are more likely to be unpredictable, and unpredictable pets are not a good mix with boats or deep waters. Go with your pet-parent gut to tell you if your furry companion has the right behavior and attitude before proceeding.

If you’re in doubt, evaluate how comfortable your pet is with water during bath time, or in a kiddie or pet pool. Make sure your furry friend is okay getting their paws wet before taking them out on the boat. If they seem unsure of water, do not force them; this will only scare them more. Instead, try letting your pet approach a bath or kiddie pool on their own terms — encourage them with food or treats, and use your calm, positive voice to let them know everything is alright.

Pets who are leery of water can develop a positive relationship with it over time. However, it’s also understandable if an animal never likes getting wet or emerged. They each have their own personalities, preferences and needs just like humans do. Something to keep in mind before that visualization of Fido on a boat begins again.

Meet the Boat

Once your pet is comfortable with water and you trust them enough to listen, introduce them to the boat while safely on land. Let them sniff and explore the boat, but train them to steer clear of the motor. Speaking of the motor, the engine can be quite noisy so you’ll want to ensure your furry friend can handle loud noises.

After your dog or cat are comfortable with the boat, make sure they are fitted with a pet life jacket and are comfortable wearing one around the house — just like training them to wear a harness. You can pick up a pet life jacket at your local pet store or online.

Pack the Essentials for Pet Boating Safety

  • Pet life jacket — Your pet should always wear one near or in the water.
  • Favorite treats — To praise them for being the well-behaved pet they are.
  • Food bowl and food — If you’re going to be out on the water for a while, bring along Fido’s food so they can stick with their normal chow schedule.
  • Water bowl and clean water — To keep them hydrated and to help discourage them from drinking lake, river or ocean water which can contain bacteria or other harmful substances.
  • Pet first aid kit — Typically includes a tick remover, gauze, antiseptic wipes, ice packs and more! Bonus: some communities offer pet CPR and safety classes to up your game.
  • Poop bags, a litter box and/or artificial turf — You know, for when nature calls.
  • Leash — Even if you are near shore, you’ll want to make sure your pet doesn’t wander off.
  • Collar with updated tags — Just in case Mittens or Fido does get loose, you want to make sure someone can help them find their way back to you.
  • Pet sunscreen — Yes, animals can get sunburned, too! Pick up pet-approved sunscreen at your local pet store or online. Do NOT use human sunscreen on your pet.
  • Toys that float — If your pet loves to play in the water, be sure to bring along some floating toys for added fun in the sun!
  • Non-slip mats — To prevent you and your pet from slipping and sliding across the deck.
  • Shade options — For Fido or Mittens to keep cool and out of the summer sun when needed.

Anchors Away

Now that your pet is packed and ready to ride on a boat, here are some final safety measures to keep in mind during the big day.

Ease your pet into boating life. Limit your time on the water during your first few boating adventures to help get them comfortable with riding the waves.

When the boat is in motion or when the waters get rough, keep your pet in the main cabin or on the deck of the boat.

Keep fishing gear and other hazardous objects at home. You don’t want your pet to accidentally get ahold of a fishing hook.

We know we said this before, but make sure your pet has a shaded area to retreat to. In addition to sunburns, boat decks can get toasty and burn your furry companion’s paw pads if you’re not careful.

Know where your pet is at all times and be mindful of your boating speed.

Most importantly, have fun in the sun (and shade)! Fido and Mittens are going to love the breeze in their fur, water below their paws and the extra adventure with their favorite humans.


RELATED POST: Taking the Plunge: Water Safety Tips for Dogs

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.