Boating can be a wonderful summer activity for you and your dog! But there are a few things to keep in mind before you go.
What’s more fun than taking your dog on a boat? The wind in their fur, interesting smells and dolphins splashing nearby … there are so many experiences that most pets love! To make sure you’re both having a good time, ask these questions before you go.
Questions to ask before taking your dog on a boat
1. Is your dog allowed?
Unless you are the owner of the boat, it is important to ask if your dog is welcome. Depending on the activities planned and the number of human guests invited, even your dog-loving friends may prefer to make alternative plans for your puppy.
If you are looking at crews, ferries, charter boats and local cruises, keep in mind that many of them are pets – but not all. And companies change their policies without notice, so even if you see a company listed as pet-friendly, it’s worth checking again.
Also keep in mind that some ferry companies consider themselves “pets” because they allow your pet to be left alone in your car during the crossing. Before booking your trip, ask for an explanation of the pet policy and any additional information that people traveling with pets need to know.
READ MORE ⇒ Renting a boat suitable for pets
2. Does your pet need a life jacket?
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This is actually a trick question, because ALL pets must have a life jacket when on a boat!
When riding small vessels such as canoes, kayaks and upright paddle boards (SUPs), pets should wear their vests at all times. I even know of two corgis who liked to ride on water jets. And you can bet they wear life jackets!
When traveling in a larger boat, you may not think that a life jacket is necessary for your dog. But even huge ships are required to have flotation devices for all their human passengers. There are many reasons why every pet should have a life jacket.
Cats or dogs that feel anxious about the new conditions may feel more comfortable in the rescue jacket. And dogs that are excitable around the water and likely to jump should wear a life jacket in any environment that is new to them. Even if they are strong swimmers, you will appreciate the sturdy handle built into the life jacket to get them back on board.
Special note for people traveling with cats: Most life jackets are still made for dogs, so you may need to experiment to find one that fits your cat. Paws Aboard makes a rescue jacket for dogs, which comes in a wide range of sizes (including XX-Small) and several Amazon reviewers claim that it worked for their cat.
Of course, if you’re resting in an unfamiliar place, you may not be aware of the dangers posed by swirling currents, alligators or other predators … or how your puppy will react to the temptation of playful dolphins or sea lions. In these cases, it is always better for your pet to wear a life jacket.
The experienced sailing dog wears his life jacket
Honey almost wears her life jacket when we’re on the move with our sailing boat. The only exception is when the life jacket poses a greater risk of falling into the water.
On a still hot day, when I’m moving in calm conditions, I don’t usually put on Honey’s life jacket. She never leaves the cockpit security and since she doesn’t like swimming, we don’t have to worry about her jumping overboard.
In those days, the possibility of her overheating was more of a concern than drowning. But if we sail, or when conditions are even a little rough or changeable, or if it’s cold (yes, we sailed at low temperatures), Honey always wears her life jacket.
Pets with special needs and those who cannot swim
I once saw an old Labrador fall off a dock because he couldn’t understand what his hind legs were doing. Fortunately, his men returned him quickly, but if the current was stronger, he would take advantage of the extra lifeboat sailing while his men figured out how to get him back on board.
If your pet has special needs or they are a breed that makes swimming difficult, he can take advantage of a life jacket even on a large ship as a ferry. The dock crew will also be wearing life jackets so your pet won’t feel stupid. And everyone thinks it’s fascinating when a dog on the boat is dressed for the occasion!
3. What is the forecast?
Both extreme weather conditions can be problematic for dogs on boats. Of course, stormy conditions are dangerous in personal vessels. And thunder, even if the storm stays away, is scary for many pets. But pets are often limited to the outer decks of ferries and cruise boats – and you’ll be there with them. So check the time before you make your plans to make sure it will be comfortable for the whole family.
Shade is also scarce on open water. If you expect hot, sunny weather, consider whether your dog will be comfortable in the cockpit all day. And keep in mind that many large boats, such as ferries and local cruise boats, have metal decks. On a hot day, your dog may burn his paws by walking a short distance. Protective boots (partnership) may be needed to protect your puppy’s paws.
No matter what the weather, be sure to bring plenty of fresh water and a bowl for your pet.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for canoeing or kayaking with dogs
4. What time of day should you go?
If you haven’t spent much time in the water, you may not be aware of how the tides affect the ramps that connect larger vessels to the docks.
At low tide the ramps will be much steeper than at low tide. And in places with high tides such as Georgia or Nova Scotia, the rocks at low tide can be extremely steep.
If your pet is not experienced in walking on metal ramps (some have open bars), a steep incline can make it even scarier. And a confident puppy who can’t wait to get to the water can end up.
An online search for tide forecasts will provide the information you need for the area you are visiting. Make your plans for the best time for everyone. You don’t want to buy tickets for a wonderful San Francisco Bay cruise just to find that your 120-pound Newfie won’t move on top of a steep ramp at low tide!
And don’t forget that the tides turn every six hours. So the conditions you saw when you arrived on the boat may not be the same when you leave.
5. Where can you find boats suitable for pets?
Boating is one of the most enjoyable pet activities you will find. And you can have fun with a boat, even if you don’t own a boat yourself! Look for the area you are visiting on GoPetFriendly and look for boat trips, ferries and equipment under “attractions”.
Many state parks also rent kayaks and canoes. But not everyone is a pet. Don’t guess – ask first.
You can also find equipment that will give you everything you need to spend the day in the water, including lessons. Approving pets for a paddle seems to be particularly intense to help pets get acquainted with the board before sending everyone to the water.
READ MORE ⇒ Boat trips for pets in the USA
Ferry websites usually publish their rules for pets, but much smaller nature boat trips and small cruise companies do not, so you may need to call.
The best way to find a great pet boat or charter trip when you arrive at a new location is to go ashore and check out the ticket offices and dock brochures. Ask the ticket agents if the captain will allow you to take your dog on the boat.
Think about the type of cruise your pet would enjoy the most. A deaf dog can be completely happy on a noisy air boat. But your cat, who hates loud noises, may prefer a leisurely cruise under sail.
Taking your dog on a boat can change your life
I kayaked and canoeed with all my dogs. But a few years ago, I started thinking it would be fun to learn how to sail and live on a boat. How do I know if Honey will enjoy sailing?
Fortunately, I read about GoPetFriendly for Doggone Sailing Charters in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Captain Rory led Honey and me on two different sails. She even had an extra life jacket when we forgot to bring Honey’s on the second day!
Honey was happy to snuggle in the cockpit under a sail. And that showed me that I could start making plans to live on a full-time sailboat.
So, one more thing you may want to ask yourself before you take your pet on a boat … what would you do if you loved him so much that you wanted to get on board ?!
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