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Dogs and Boating Safety for Summer Outings

From puppy life vests to safety kits, here are a few ways to keep your dogs safe on boat trips

Check Your State Laws

While federal law does not outline specific regulations regarding dogs on boats, certain local laws may restrict dogs at particular boat landings or parks, and set temperature cutoffs for taking your animal outdoors. With sometimes unbearable summertime heat, under Arizona law, pet owners are required to provide clean water and shade for pets outdoors. This means finding a covered, comfortable area on the boat where your dog has plenty of room to cool down. Dogs are significantly prone to heatstroke and need to stay hydrated, so it’s important to know the signs. More information on heat stroke in pets.

Invest in a Dog Life Jacket or Vest

Do dogs need life jackets to be on a boat? While state law requires a life jacket for everyone on board a vessel, it doesn’t specifically mention dogs. Your pet is a member of your family, however, so why wouldn’t you protect them, too? It’s tempting to take a shortcut and order a life vest online to save time and money. Problem is — dogs come in so many shapes, weights, and sizes, you’d be better served by making a trip to a sporting goods store or pet store to test it out for size and fit. 

Here are a few tips on choosing the best dog life jacket for your furry friend; and remember, taking the time to get one that fits properly could save your pet’s life! 

    • Get a life vest with a handle. A handle ensures you can fish your four-legged friend out of the water if they go overboard. 
    • Look for a  D-ring. The D-ring allows you to attach a leash to your dog’s newest life jacket.
    • Know the difference. While they may seem similar, life jackets and vests are two different products. A life jacket acts as a full-body harness that provides better floatation and visibility. Life vests provide less coverage for your dog, but they also allow your dog more mobility in the water. If your pup is a strong swimmer, this is certainly one good option.

Once they’re tricked out in a heavy-duty accessory, your dog might need a friendly little nudge to encourage them to wear the look properly. One great tip is to introduce the dog to wearing the life vest before you go on the boat. That way, your pet won’t be overwhelmed by too many new things happening at once.

Another necessity is a restraint to ensure your pooch doesn’t fall overboard. Opt for a harness, rather than a collar, so the movement of the boat doesn’t pull your dog by the neck. Harnesses can typically fit under or over a life jacket. If your dog’s jacket has a D-ring, it’s best just to attach your leash straight to the jacket, so you avoid the hassle of too much equipment. 

Make a Test Run

Not all dogs are going to be comfortable on a boat, so it’s wise to keep the first outing a short one.  Allow your dog to get acclimated to the boat BEFORE you head for water, or while you are still docked. Once you’re on the water, watch your dog carefully for signs of sea/motion sickness. Symptoms of motion sickness can include: 

  • Inactivity
  • Listlessness
  • Uneasiness
  • Yawning or panting
  • Whining
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting (even on an empty stomach)

It’s safe to say that bringing your pet along for the boat ride can be a great time – so long as you follow these few safety tips to ensure you and your pet enjoy the water. If you have any suggestions on how to keep your dog safe while boating, leave them in the comments below! 

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