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10 tips for boating with dogs

By  AAMI

Keeping the heat at bay is easier on the water. And it's only natural to want to include all family members on your summer adventure – even the furry ones! But taking your beloved pooch with you on a cruise requires more prep than just leading them onto the boat. Keep your canine companion cool, calm and safe with this helpful advice.

1. Plan ahead

Every experienced sailor will have an emergency plan for passengers and crew on-board – but not many of these plans will factor in your furry friend. Before loading your dog onto the boat with the rest of your family, take the time to consider how you'll make sure your dog stays safe in the event of an emergency.

2. Get them a life jacket

No matter how strong your canine companion's doggy paddle is, it's important to ensure they're fitted with a suitable floatation device. Life vests for dogs are available and it's a good idea to ensure your dog wears it at all times when on the boat, particularly if you let them go off-leash.

3. First-aid for your dog

No boat should leave the dock without a fully kitted out first-aid kit, but standard kits won't always cater to your pets' needs! Audit your supplies before heading out and make sure you have everything you need. An alternative is to purchase a pet-specific first-aid kit, check out this one from St John Ambulance.

4. Training is important

Just like toilet training or leash training, it's important to prepare your dog for trips across the water. Start by familiarising them with the sights, sounds and smells of the seaside, take them for a walk along the wharf and reward them for good behaviour. It's also a good idea to take your dog on-board the boat while it's still docked so they can get used to the new environment.

5. Start small

Before you set out on a long trip, make sure your dog can handle the sensations of sea life by taking them on a short cruise in calm waters. Just like humans, they can get seasick, too. Your dog's comfort is important, so keep an eye out for any signs of distress or seasickness.

6. Toilet trips

Potty breaks aren't just for humans – your dog will need to go to the toilet too. Always take your dog to the toilet before you leave dry land, then schedule regular stops throughout the trip. When docking your boat, check to make sure the surrounding land is dog-friendly before you disembark.

7. Pack pet-specific supplies

While you're packing breakfast, lunch and dinner for the human members of the family, make sure you also pack enough treats, food and water for your dog. Dogs get dehydrated too, particularly in the summer heat, so err on the side of caution and bring lots of water to keep your pet healthy and happy.

8. Sweep the decks

Having a dog on-board will mean you'll need to modify your behaviour and storage systems. Keen anglers will need to ensure hooks, lures and bait are kept out of reach, and the same goes for any chemicals or human food. When boarding and disembarking the boat, it's a good idea to carry your dog or use a ramp to stop them from jumping.

9. Give them solid ground

Decks can be slippery for your puppy's paws, so you might want to bring a mat or outdoor carpet with non-slip backing to help give them some stability underfoot. Mark out a space for your dog to retreat to when they're feeling overwhelmed by placing a mat or bed in a low-traffic area where you can watch over them.

10. Be vigilant

While your dog is on-board, it's important to always keep an eye on them to ensure their safe. Dogs are adventurous and curious pets who love exploring their new environment. Keep tabs on them at all times – regardless of whether they're tethered or off-leash – to make sure they're safe.

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