I once read a survey that stated about 90% of people who own boats also have at least one dog. Out of that 90%, nearly 50% of those people regularly take their dogs along with them on the water. I fall into that category as well. All my dogs have been ‘boat dogs’, and all of them have loved being out on the water.
But before you leave the dock with Fido, there are a few things to consider prior to putting your pooch on the pontoon.
Just like us two-legged animals, dogs need clean, fresh water to keep them hydrated and happy. Regardless of what kind of beverages you take for yourself, be sure to have plenty of cool (not ice cold) fresh water for your dog. That can be in the form of several bottles of water, or even a thoroughly cleaned gallon milk jug with tap water in it. You should know how much water your dog needs during the day…so take 1 ½ times that much along. Carry a plastic or rubber-based metal bowl that won’t spill if the boat is rolling a little.
And take them something to munch on too. You wouldn’t go out for a day of fishing without a few snacks. Take some doggie snacks for your pup. Something that isn’t affected by heat, and can be kept in a watertight container. If you plan to be away from home all day, then you need to take a real meal along.
Now the aforementioned items will ultimately result in your pup’s need to relieve themselves at some point during the day. Let’s presume that you’ve fed him his morning meal, and he’s had time to digest and eliminate breakfast, so you’re not immediately facing a bathroom break as soon as you get on the boat. But, as a responsible pet owner, you are providing him enough water during the day, he will eventually have to go pee. And just like us humans, they can only “hold it” for so long.
Don’t make your pet miserable, and induce a mentally bad experience on the boat by expecting them to “hold it” forever. So, what do you do? Well, you plan your day and your destinations such that you have easily accessible pit stops during the day. Even if it means pulling up to an island, a beach, or a marina to let your pup relieve itself. And of course, remember all the things you need to do to clean up after your pet. Be aware of leash laws, etc. wherever you stop. On a normal day, given the conditions described above, I wouldn’t expect my pup to go more than four hours without a pit stop. Neither should you.
Something else we can tend to forget is shade for your pup, and keeping your pup cool in hot weather. Find someplace on the boat that offers a cool shaded place for your dog to lay down comfortably. That hot deck that burns your bare feet is doing the same to his paw pads. Put down a towel, soaked in cool fresh water, for them to lay on.
All my four-legged best friends have been retrievers, and they have all absolutely loved being in, and around, the water. In fact, Buck, The Wonder Dog’s been on the boat with me since he was 12 weeks old.
But remember, you’re bringing the dog along so everyone can have fun. They should not be treated like an inconvenience. If that’s the case…leave them at home or at the pet spa. And while they’re on the boat, they need to be constantly in sight, and under your supervision.
If you decide to stop for a swim, and you choose to let your pup go in the water, then I would suggest getting them a Puppy PFD, which is a comfortable, wearable flotation device that fits your dog’s build. You want them to enjoy having this PFD on.
Here’s a simple fact. It’s fun to throw the tennis ball and have your pup chase it in the water. However, because they’re having fun, they will actually swim to the point of exhaustion and could drown. So be aware of when they are getting tired and get them out of the water before they get into trouble.
For most of us, our dogs are members of the family; whether they’re a duck dog, a show dog or just a loveable companion. And just like any other member of the family, it’s our responsibility to make sure they are safe and comfortable on the water. So before you take your best four-legged friend out on the boat, give some serious thought to the things they’ll need out there too. Make it a part of your Pre-Launch Checklist. Your pup will definitely thank you for it.
Tight Lines and Calm Seas
Capt. Cefus McRae and Buck, The Wonder Dog.