Boating Basics: Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe

Put on a life vest. If he does go in the drink, a canine life vest will help keep your dog afloat until you can reel him in. Choose one in a highly visible color, such as yellow or orange. It should fit snugly but comfortably without restricting his movement and have a loop or handle on top, so you can grab it easily with your hand or a boat hook. Practice pulling him out before you actually have to do so. It might be necessary to have someone in the water giving him a boost, while someone else on the boat helps to hoist him up.

Don't forget his collar! Be sure your dog always wears a collar and tag bearing your name, the name of your boat and the slip number. A registered microchip provides additional insurance that he can be identified and returned to you if he gets lost.

Be sun smart. Apply pet-safe sunscreen to prevent sunburn, especially if your dog has light-colored fur or little hair. His nose and ears are especially at risk. Make sure he has a shady spot available in the heat of the day. Dog goggles can help protect his eyes on bright, sunny days.

Be prepared to hoist him back into the boat. At some point, your dog — especially if he’s a Retriever — will probably jump out of the boat to go for a swim or pursue a duck. As long as he knows how to swim and the current isn’t swift, let him enjoy. Again, practice getting him back on board both on dry land and in shallow water. You can lift a small dog up by the handle of his life vest, but a larger dog may need to practice scrambling back in, climbing a ladder or letting you help him.

Plan a post-sail bath. Salt water can dry your dog’s fur, and lake water can be contaminated with algae. Give him a freshwater rinse after any planned or unplanned dunkings.

Pack seasickness medications. Yes, dogs can suffer from motion sickness. Ask your veterinarian if he recommends any medication for your dog in case you need to administer it.

Most important, have fun!

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