With Labor Day just a few weeks away many families are planning their last big trip before its time to pack away everything that symbolizes the carefree days of summer and get back to tight schedules and not enough hours in the day.

While for most of us this might include a visit to an amusement park, a simple celebration in the backyard or maybe at a local park, there are some lucky dogs that get to say goodbye to summer with their families from the deck of a boat.

This sounds simple enough; after all, dogs are natural swimmers; they love the water, right? What could possibly go wrong? If you don’t plan ahead a lot can go wrong. Here are some tips to help keep your trip incident free.

Dog Boating Safety Tips

  1. Do a Test Run – Your dog should get acclimated to any boat before heading out on the water. Allowing them to get their bearings while docked will reduce any distress caused by not being firmly planted on solid ground. Consider keeping your dogs’ first boat outing short so they can adjust to the ship’s movement. It’s also the time for you to evaluate whether they are prone to seasickness. If seasickness becomes severe, ask your veterinarian about possible medication for future outings.
  2. Don’t Forget About Basic Needs – If you plan to be out on the water for an extended period of time, make sure you pack all the basic needs for your pet as well as yourself. A few things to remember: puppy pads for bathroom breaks, if your pet isn’t paper trained, plan to make stops so he can get to a place where he can relieve himself, familiar toys, treats/food, a water bowl, and health records in case of an emergency, especially if your trip exceeds a day.
  3. Check Local Laws – While there are no national legal restrictions or requirements pertaining to having animals on your boat, double-check local laws, since regulations can vary by state.
  4. The water may look clean enough and be clean enough to swim in, but you should not encourage your dog to drink it. Freshwater lakes are often contaminated from factories and boats and contain harmful organisms, so never allow your dog to drink water from a lake. Take fresh drinking water with you on your trip and give that to your dog. As the atmosphere out on sea can be hot and dry, your dog is at risk of getting dehydrated so make sure there is ample drinking water available to him at all times.
  5. Just as we need sunscreen to protect ourselves from harmful rays, so do some dogs. Short haired dog breeds can get easily sunburned and you should use a light SPF sunscreen such as SPF-15 on your dog. On unusually hot and sunny days a higher SPF factor may be warranted. Make sure you choose a neutrally scented sunscreen so it doesn’t irritate your dog.
  6. Let’s face it some dogs will never feel comfortable in the water.  Dogs with large bodies and small legs will never swim for fun… they swim to survive. American bulldogs are a good example.  Compare them to standard poodles; originally bred as duck hunters that can swim all day long and ask for more. If you have a dog that is not a good swimmer, or even if your dog swims like a fish, he should be fitted with a doggie life vest when he or she is on a boat.
  7. Dogs, just like humans, can get hypothermia in cold water. However, they won’t know they are getting cold because their instincts to please you in the water are stronger than their understanding of cold water.  The ground rule is that if you need to get out of the water because you are getting cold, your dog is getting cold. The exception is dogs with very thick fur that trap air in their fur that acts as insulation. If your dog comes out of the water and begins to shake uncontrollably, put them in a hot shower or warm them up with blankets or towels.
  8. Beware of fireworks. Pet owners should also take into consideration that there may be fireworks. Is there a place on the boat to secure the dog so he won’t get frightened and run away? Or it may be wise to end the boat trip and head indoors before the fireworks start.W-boating-with-your-pet-1
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