Skipper Isabelle’s dog boating safety tips

Skipper Isabelle knows how to make sure four-legged boaters have a safe and fun time on the water.

Isabelle is a well-weathered skipper on a boat located along the shores of Lake Erie. The word "boat" sends her into a tail wagging and jumping frenzy and is clearly in her mind better than any treat at the moment. The increase of canines aboard boats nationwide and on longer journeys is on the rise. In fact some families find a stray or adopt while yachting.

Canine safety and preparation are a must for the skipper and crew embarking on any yachting adventure on any type of boat.

Catamarans, sailboats and power boats are a lifestyle that many canines enjoy with family and friends. Research shows 70% of Americans boat with their dogs.

Most skippers agree that small dogs are easier to cruise with but accommodating medium to large dogs is certainly possible. Docking, dinghies and ladders present challenges, so have a plan.

Just as emergency preparations should be in place for your pets at home, they are also critical when boating. Bring along extra provisions like water, food, sunscreen, first aid kit and personal flotation devices for not just the two-legged but four as well.

Isabelle proudly wears her personal flotation device and also has foul weather gear in the event stormy or rough weather arrives.

Consideration must be given to any alone time, weather conditions and if any destruction or anxiety might occur if your dog can’t go off on an adventure on land or to dine with you. However, more dining establishments that want your business are becoming pet friendly. Know that some breed restrictions might be applicable based on where you are traveling to.

Securing your pet in a crate or confined area that is temperature controlled, along with a good fitting collar and harness with current identification is a must. Having copies of your pet's paperwork and knowing where veterinary emergency clinics are also smart ideas. 

Skipper Isabelle recommends some of the following training and safety tips before leaving dry land:

  • Invest in a quality canine personal flotation device and dog harness. Have a plan if your dog does go overboard. If the dog is tethered on the boat it is best to wear a harness in the event of sliding or going overboard. Dogs can drown and are not necessarily adept at swimming, especially if injured or fearful.
  • When possible visit the boat with your dog multiple times before departure. Reinforce calm behavior with treats and verbal commands to minimize fears. Teach your dog how to swim and work on recall commands.
  • Jurisdictions and states have different regulations, so check those out before your trip.
  • Restrain your dog from swimming where boats are docked as there might be electrical currents and higher levels of diesel and bacteria in the water.
  • Acclimate your dog on getting safely on and off the boat, if you can’t carry the dog. Just as some dogs do not tolerate thunderstorms and/or fireworks, engine sounds and the smell of diesel might be stressful. Your veterinarian can guide you on desensitization techniques for these anxieties.
  • When on shore give your dog plenty of time to eliminate and lots of praise. Consider AstroTurf for the boat if needed for longer trips.

Isabelle says implementing these basics and shaping other behaviors will make for a fun and safe nautical adventure for all on board.

Nancy Brown

Nancy Brown

Owner, Hot Diggity Dog, Inc.

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Volume 11, Issue 15, Posted 10:17 AM, 08.06.2019