Bringing pets on board is a popular practice. They are a part of your family after all, right? Because they are part of our families, we want to make sure you treat them like family. Just as you make sure your wife, husband, children and friends are safe on your boat, you need to prepare your furry kids for the water as well. Whether you plan to just bring man’s best friend or are brave enough to bring a feline friend, this article covers it all. Check out these 12 safety tips for boating with pets.
When introducing any pet to the open waters, be sure to ‘test the waters’ first. See if your pet(s) will be easily manageable on your vessel. Here are a few tips to start the process, before dropping the boat into the water.
- Train your pet special boat safety commands. Cats are almost impossible to train but if you can get them to listen from a young age, it’ll be easier. Otherwise we hope you have a cabin on your boat. Luckily, most people simply bring their dogs onboard. In that case, teaching them commands is considerably easier. Teach them only a few simple boat safety commands like “on boat”, “off boat”, “sit” and “stay”. Training your dog to use the bathroom on a moving vessel may be tricky. Getting them used to the turf before taking them out lets them know they can use it onboard.
- Have an overboard retrieval plan. If your pet falls overboard or gets curious, dropping into the water, you’ll want to have a prepared strategy. This strategy should consist of an easy way for how to get them back onto the boat. Animals can sense fear and anxiety. Having this plan already formulated will help you remain calm and get them back on the ship swiftly. They will be scared; remaining calm and getting them back onboard as quick as possible will significantly reduce their stress.
- Make your pet identifiable if lost at sea. We know no one wants to think about loosing a fur-baby to open water, but it does happen. That’s why it is important to make your animal easily identifiable, so they can be returned to you. There are a couple of ways to make this happen. First, you can microchip your pet, making it easy for a shelter to get your information. Second, make sure your pet has a tag on their collar that includes your name and phone number.
- Purchase a properly fitted life jacket. Most dog owners who are considering taking their pup on the boat believe their dog is a strong swimmer. However, depending on weather, currents, and how they end up in the water, your dog can face various problems. Having life jackets on your pets, always, ensures they remain afloat until you can enact your above retrieval plan. To get them used to the life jacket, putting it on and let them roam around the house for a few days.
- Bring a sperate pet-friendly first-aid kit. Dogs and cats need different first-aid items, especially when they are put in unnatural environments, like open water. Stock your first-aid kit with antibiotic ointment for scrapes, barnacles can be nasty little boogers. Pack extra medication your pets may be on. Include gauze and wraps, human bandages don’t work with their fur. Tweezers will also come in handy, to remove unwanted items from a wound, and anything else you can think of.
- Don’t forget to pack a bag for your pet as well. Perhaps the most important item to include in this bag is animal safe sun protection. Dogs and cats can get sunburnt as well, especially if they have sensitive skin. Blankets and extra towels are always important. Don’t forget toys, as well as extra water, food and treats. If you dress your animals, go ahead and bring extra clothes, the wind can be rough on your pets.
- Pet proof the ship. Pets tend to go to the restroom even more than us, so they will need a restroom. For dogs, place a piece of turf on a corner of the deck. Anchoring a litter box for cats should work just fine. If you have a cabin, cats will be more likely to use the bathroom there. Anything sharp like fishing rods and fillet knives should be stored below deck, in drawers or up high. Pet feet are sensitive; if you know spots that get hot, place a piece of nonskid carpet there. Be sure to block slippery spots off or use nonskid bath mats if you want to keep those spaces open. A shady spot will also provide some relief.
- Visit the vessel with your pet before pushing off. Dogs and cats need to feel safe. This rule is especially important for cats and skittish dogs. Taking the family feline or a scaredy-dog on a trip will require them to take a trip to the boat while it is docked, first. Cats will need to walk around, get a sense of the boat and to rub up on things. They will need to see where their litterbox sits and where their food will be. Bringing your dog beforehand, gives them the chance to look over the edge and see how close they can get. They will realize the vessels size makes them act differently while onboard. It isn’t the same as running around the living room at home. Also, turn on the engine and other items that make noise. This will get them used to the sounds they may hear while out on the water.
Whether this is your pet’s first outing, or they are avid boaters, it is always important to keep the everyday safety tips in mind while out on the water. Look at some of our offered tips while out on the water:
- Keep your pets first trip short. Being on a moving ship is not easy on your pet’s 4 legs. Making the first trip brief allows your dog or cat to feel the difference in motion and begin adjusting. For first trippers, be on the lookout for seasickness. Like humans, some animals have sensitive stomachs when motion is involved. If your pet gets sick, dock your boat, put them on shore, give them water and let them readjust. Plan on taking extended trips? You can ask your veterinarian for pet friendly seasickness meds to make them more comfortable in the future.
- Keep your animal hydrated and provide a shaded spot. With the amount of fur most dogs and cats have, being in the sun can cause them to overheat. Be sure to have plenty of fresh water for the pets and the humans on board. Placing a bowl down for them like you would at home, will work. If you can, provide a shaded area that your pet can curl up in. Whether you have a cabin, Bimini top or chairs you can drape towels over, having shade for your pets to escape lessens the chance of overheating or getting sunburnt.
- Bring sunscreen for your pets too. Most people are unaware that dogs and cats can get sunburnt, similar to us humans. You can purchase pet sunscreen, or simply use a human safe unscented light and sprayable unscented SPF 15.
- Make sure you are always aware of your pet’s location. We’re aware pets are constantly moving, especially in small spaces, so be sure to keep eyes on your pets. Make sure they don’t get too close to the edge or slippery spots. The best thing that will keep your animal safe on board is your attention. If possible, block off the slippery spots and the edges of the boat.
Keeping your pet safe on a boating trip is more work than most believe. Following these 12 safety tips for boating with your pets will make having your fur kids with you second nature. Train them properly, let them acclimate, make them comfortable and keep your eye on them. On a boat you need to treat them like you would human children, then it should be smooth sailing.
Unlike human kids, animals can’t speak, if you notice they don’t enjoy boating, be courteous and leave your four-legged friends home. If they don’t like boating, you will be putting them and everyone on board in danger. A scared and cornered animal will act out, potentially harming themselves or your ship mates.