The Ultimate Guide to Boating with Dogs: Everything Boaters Should Know!

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Boating with Dogs
Caption: A dog is sitting on a boat

You have been looking forward to this day all summer long, the chance to spend a few hours or an entire day on the boat. You’ve packed up everything you need, food, cookies, water, sunscreen (because it’s hot out there!), and towels. And now it is time to head down to the dock, but you wish your furry best friend could come along with you for the boating trip? Then this article is for you.

It covers everything that dog owners should know about boating with dogs. That includes training them to get on and off the boat, teaching them to go potty in a designated spot while out on the water, safety tips, things to bring for both you and them, and much more! Without further ado, let’s jump straight into it.

1. Prepare Your Dog for an Emergency

One question to ask yourself before the trip is what will I do in the case of an emergency, for instance, if my dog falls overboard? And what should always be on hand, just in case? So, the first thing you have to do is prepare for your dog’s safety and create a plan of action.

Ensure that everyone on board knows what to do if there is ever an emergency involving your pup! They should all know where the emergency kit is, plus how to put your dog in a life jacket and get them off the boat.

If you’re boating with a nervous or aggressive pup or if they have any medical conditions, be sure that everyone has been instructed on what to do during an emergency where their safety may be at risk.

Most accidents happen because people weren’t prepared, and so they were panicked and didn’t know how to react or what step to take next. It can get even worse if there are multiple people involved with different opinions about what needs to be done! So it’s best to have a plan laid out before anything happens at all.

2. Check the Laws About Dogs and Boats

While there are no federal laws about dogs and boating, certain local municipalities may have their own rules and requirements in place, in which they may restrict dogs to be onshore or enter certain ports or parks.

In general, most state law requires that dogs wear a life jacket when out on the water. That is because boats can capsize without warning and leave both you and your pup struggling to stay afloat until help arrives, obviously not an ideal situation for anyone involved.

If you also plan to cruise across the international waters with your canine, be sure to check the laws to find out what’s allowed and what’s not so that both you and your dog can have the best possible time boating together!

3. Train Your Dog to the Get On and Off the Boat

Next, you would need to train your dog to get on and off the boat. It is a lot like teaching them to go up and down the stairs. It is just an extension of what they’re already doing, except this time, you’re adding in something new, the boat!

When teaching them how to climb aboard, the most important thing is to be very clear about which object they should use for support. We recommend using a boarding ramp or ladder, as that can reduce the risk of straining or jolt injury.

To start with, put a few treats at mid-step so that your fido knows exactly where to focus their attention before making any moves forward. From there, they’ll follow through until getting all four paws safely on the deck. Once your adventurous pup figures out where the footing needs to be while climbing onto the deck, things will progress much more smoothly!

One thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that boating with your dog can be a little tricky, especially if they’re not used to being on water yet! They are already going to feel insecure about the vibrations and movements of their new surroundings, so be patient and don’t get discouraged if it takes them time to get accustomed.

4. Teach Your Dog to Pee in a Designated Spot While Out on the Water

Unlike while on land where your furry best friend can pee and poop wherever they please, boating means they are confined to a smaller area, and potty will be a lot less convenient. You’ll need to designate a place for them so that there are no accidents and mess on deck.

So how do you do it? Get a piece of AstroTurf mat or carpet, let your dog smell it, and place it at the spot where you want them to relieve themselves. When it’s time, put them on a leash and bring them to the mat and have them do their business on that surface. This way, they’ll learn where their bathroom is on the boat.

Alternatively, you can try using dog pee pads, which will be a lot easier to clean up. They’re also readily available at pet shops and come in various sizes that will suit your boating needs.

One thing to note, though, when teaching your dog to pee on the boat, don’t take them ashore until they do their business on the AstroTurf mat, carpet, or the pee pad. And remember to give them lots of treats and praises, so they know they’ve done the right thing!

5. Prepare Your Dog for a Boat Ride

Once you have the basics down, and before setting out to the sea, ensure to introduce your dog to the boat, especially if they have never done that before as it can be intimidating for them, plus they may also get seasick.

Give them some time to get familiar with the boat and the sound of the boat motor while it’s docked until they feel comfortable. You can also take walks with your canine near water before sailing off if that will help ease any anxiety about going into deep water.

Don’t go out into open waters just yet the first couple of times introducing your dog to the boat! Stay within a few hundred yards from shore for at least two or three sessions before venturing too far away until your pooch no longer feels unsure about what’s going on.

This process might take a while, but soon enough, your pup will be loving their time at sea with you!

What to Bring Boating with Your Dog

1. Doggie Life Jackets

A dog life jacket, vest, or personal flotation device (PFD) is a must as it can keep your canine safe if they fall overboard! Now, most people would usually ask straight away, “but my dog can swim! Why should I get a life jacket for them?” Sure, your dog can swim, and even if they are a pro swimmer, they can get exhausted swimming against strong wind and tidal currents and can be easily carried away from the boat.

Dog life jackets can help keep them afloat, plus these devices typically come with a handle on top that allows you to pull them out of the water, which also means the chances of them swimming back to safety and surviving are a lot higher.

2. Food and Water

In addition to a life jacket, you would also need to bring food and plenty of fresh drinking water for your dog, as it goes without saying that keeping dogs hydrated is crucial! And make sure to bring a dog-friendly water bottle so they can easily lap up the liquid. It might be wise too if, when on board, not only do you have these items in reach but maybe keep them within arm’s length just in case any sudden movements happen.

3. Pet First Aid Kit

For boating safety, it’s essential to have a well-stocked pet first-aid kit. It should have things like scissors, disposable gloves, bandages, and ointments for cuts, burns, and bites. Also, make sure to include pet-friendly seasickness medication and other medication your dog might need in the kit.

4. Leash

Yup, you read that right. You need a leash for your dog to be out on the water with you! It is an absolute must to prevent your adventurous pooch from jumping off your fishing boat to catch dolphins or falling overboard while they are out on the water. Plus, you will also need it for walking them when anchored in one place.

5. Dog-friendly Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Not just yourself but also your dog must remain protected from the harmful rays of the sun! Bring a sunscreen specifically designed with dogs in mind so their sensitive skin doesn’t end up irritated. It’s also a good idea to get your dog an insect repellent if mosquitoes are common in where you live because there can never be too many precautions when boating!

6. Slip Prevention

The deck can be slippery for your pup. So bring along a non-skid mat or carpet to make sure your dog has a firm footing and doesn’t slide around, which is especially needed for longer voyages.

Extra Dog Boating Safety Tips and Things to Keep in Mind

  • Get Your Dog a Life Jacket that Fits. There are plenty of life jackets available for dogs. It’s vital to get the right size and type for your canine, so it doesn’t slip off, ultimately ensuring that your fido is comfortable.
  • Never Let Your Dog Drink the Sea or Lake Water. Ocean water and lake water could be contaminated with trash, animal waste, and chemicals from factories and boats, which can be harmful to your dog if consumed.
  • Keep Fishing Gear Out of Reach of Your Dog. Dogs are curious animals, and they might think your fishing net, rod, hooks, and baits are their toys! So, make sure to secure all your fishing accessories in an area that your dog can’t reach.


If you’ve ever thought about getting out on the water with your dog, now is a great time to start! The benefits of boating with dogs are numerous and can help create lasting memories for both humans and their canine companions.

Whether it’s finally taking that relaxing vacation or just going out for an afternoon boating adventure after work, there’s no better way to enjoy life than by sharing it with our dogs.

We hope this guide has helped answer any questions you may have had about boating with dogs. Remember to bring all the dog boating accessories and essentials and always keep your furry friend safe but never forget how much fun they are having too!