Tips for boating with your dog

August 25, 2013 

— Some dogs were born for the water, others less so. The key to boating with dogs, says Boat Owners Association of The United States, is taking it slow and making safety No. 1. Here are eight tips to get you started:

Before you go:

• Get a good fitting life jacket and have the dog wear it a few times around the home before it gets on a boat. Any pet life jacket should have a handle to easily lift the animal out of the water. Here’s a buying guide for dogs of all sizes: www.BoatUS.com/doglifejacket.

• Have a special ID tag with the name of the boat, marina, slip number and cell phone number on it just in case. If the dog gets lost, it’s a lot easier for the person who finds it to get the dog back to you quickly.

• If there is any chance you’ll be going to Canada and Mexico, make sure you have current rabies vaccine and other shot documentation with you, as dog tags are not acceptable proof of immunizations. It is also a good idea to check with customs because the rules and requirements often change.

Getting started:

• Familiarize the dog with the boat slowly – don’t just get on the boat and leave the dock right away. Ideally, bring the dog to the boat for the first time without leaving the dock, and give it a chance to sniff around and get its sea legs. It may help to start the engine so it is used the sound.

• Plan for falls overboard, either from the boat or dock. If the dog falls overboard underway – or jumps in – you may be able to circle back and retrieve Fido just like a fallen water skier, pulling up slowly, cutting the engine and luring the dog to the swim platform with a treat. If you don’t have swim platform, smaller dogs may be lifted over the side by the life jacket handle, but bigger dogs may require a different solution. If a dog falls off a dock, know that seawall bulkheads may prevent the animal from a self-rescue.

• Bring plenty of water and make sure there’s some place the dog can get out of the sun and stay as cool as possible. Know the symptoms of dog heatstroke. While seasick dogs may vomit, that’s also one sign of heatstroke. Rapid, loud or difficulty breathing, extreme thirst, thick saliva, disorientation, and a bright red tongue and pale gums are some of the others.

• If you’re going to be out on the boat for more than a few hours, plan on how your dog will relieve itself, and pick up after your dog, no matter where it goes. • Find out if your boat’s insurance policy covers pets.

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