10 boating safety tips for pets

by | General Pet Care |

If you have a boat – this is certainly the time of year to be using it. The sun is out, the humidity high, and the water’s cool! If you plan on bringing your pets along for the adventure, here are some tips you need to keep in mind from our blog; Pets and boats: Boating safety tips.

10 tips to keep your pets safe while boating

  • boating, boats, boat, boating safety
    Photo submitted by Lynn Harris.

    Introduction to swimming: Before bringing your dog on a boat it is recommended to expose them to the water first.  Keep in mind breed can make a big difference in your dog’s affinity to water. Dogs with flat noses such as Bulldogs, or those with particularly short legs, such as Dachshunds, are not adapted to be avid swimmers.  Comparatively, some breeds such as Retrievers and Pointers have webbed feet and elongated snouts that make them keen swimmers. You should be aware of your dog’s swimming capabilities prior to boating with them.

  • Introduction to the boat: Allow your dog time to become familiar with the boat before going on any long trip. Short trips can help your dog have a positive experience on your boat before a long trip. This will also give you time to assess if your dog gets sick while onboard.
  • Invest in a life jacket: Even good swimmers can tire easily in rough water, and banks may be slippery or too steep to climb up if required. Life jackets not only keep your pet afloat if they decide to “jump ship,” they can also help protect against hypothermia in cold water and can also make it easier to pull them back onboard.
  • Make shade available: Remember it can get very hot on the dock of your boat. Be sure to provide a shaded area for your pet to rest. Also have lots of water accessible to prevent dehydration and/or heat stroke.
  • Portable potty system: If you are planning to be on the water for a long period of time, you may need to bring a portable potty system (a square piece of turf may work for some dogs or look up “pets and portable potty system” on the internet).
  • Make a plan if your pet goes overboard: Talk with your family or friends in advance about what you will do if your pet falls overboard. Having a plan will make the rescue smooth and easy in the moment.
  • Leash/Harness: It’s a good idea to bring along a leash or harness to secure your dog if you need to. A harness also provides an easier means to lift your dog out of the water if they fall in.
  • Pet first aid kit: In case of emergencies, bring along a pet first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to find out where the closest veterinarian is to where you’re boating in case anything happens to your pet.
  • Check the rules: It is also advisable to call the marina in advance to determine their policies regarding pets on boats.

Finding your dog a life vest:

Even the most skillful of swimmers (both humans and dogs!) require the aid of a life vest to keep them safe when out on the open water. Depending on the size and breed of your dog, you can purchase a life vest that provides the ideal support for your pet. Here are some things to consider:

  • Size and weight capacity: Every brand will have measurements and weight ranges associated with the ideal sized dog it can fit. If necessary, take your dog’s measurements (including the chest circumference and torso length). The fit should be snug, but allow the dog to move comfortably.
  • Buoyancy: Life vests can be made to have floatation support in various locations surrounding your dog, including the side, back and belly, with some that have floatation support under the neck to assist in keeping the dog’s head above the water.
  • Attachments: Vests will have distinctively placed easy-access clips for leashes to be attached, and/or handles for owners to be able to pick the dog up easily.
  • Colour: Vests come in all different colours and patterns. Most are bright and some even have reflective components to increase the visibly of your dog. If you are boating at night, it may be a good idea to purchase a light attachment that can be placed on the vest or collar of the dog.

Ontario S.P.C.A. Act Standards of Care:

Please note it is every owner’s responsibility to ensure their animal is transported, weather on a boat or other vehicle, in a safe and secure manner, as outlined in the O.S.P.C.A. Standards of Care:

2. (4) Every animal must be transported in a manner that ensures its physical safety and general welfare.  O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (4).

We hope these tips help you and your dog have a safe and fun filled summer boating and swimming!


For every animal you save

For every animal you save, every animal who feels loved in their last moments, and for everything else you do; thank you and God Bless.