Boating In Paradise: Prepare Pets For A Boat Excursion

by Bill Jefferson,past commander, Cape Coral Power Squadron
Photo of a dog and child on a boat
Photo courtesy Getty Images

Boating with dogs and cats aboard your boat can be fun. But before you head out, your pet should receive some initial preparation if it's to be the first boat trip for your pet.

Consider having an ID microchip implanted in your pet if it doesn't already have one. It's fairly inexpensive and if a lost dog or cat is found any vet or animal shelter can easily obtain the owner's address and phone number through a national registry.

Practice swimming and rescue procedures in the event your dog falls overboard or is just swimming off the boat. Make sure you have devised a method to get the animal back aboard. A cat might only require a piece of carpet possibly attached to the swim platform, while dogs don't automatically know how to use a ramp — they have to be taught.

Life preservers for dogs and cats are available at any boating store. Dogs and cats aren't necessarily good swimmers. If they aren't accustomed to swimming they tend to thrash about in the water with their heads straight up and they tire quickly.

If your pet hasn't been boating, introduce it to your boat by bringing it aboard while the boat is docked. Start the engine on the boat, and get it acclimated to loud noises. A quick trip would be appropriate to get the animal used to the noises and vibrations.

Your vessel also has to be safe for pets. Remember that boat decks can become slippery and are often hot. Make sure your pet has a shady place to lie or sit on deck. Any items such as fishing poles or other possible hazardous items should be stowed safely.

Water must be provided for the pet and it's possible you will have toilet issues. A piece of astro turf or a box of sod might provide a respite for the dog and an anchored litter box for the cat might suffice.

Be extra alert at the dock — it seems to be where most pet accidents happen. The pet must be trained how to get on and off your boat and only with your permission.

Dogs and cats do get sunburned so keep them out of the sun and keep sunscreen handy. They also can get seasick. Some medication used by humans, such as Dramamine, can be used. Check with your vet.

Your pet might not take to boating. If you've tried multiple times to bring your pet boating and it hasn't worked out, then you might just have to face facts — some animals will never enjoy boating. Not only will the pet be happier, but everyone on the boat will be safer and happier if the pet is left home on dry land. I know if a sailor has chronic seasickness he's discharged from the Navy.

— Bill Jefferson is past commander of the Cape Coral Power Squadron

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