In summertime, the best place to chill is often on the water. And who better to chill with than your dog? Whether you have a sailboat, speedboat, electric boat, kayak or canoe, there’s a perfect “docks”-hound to accompany you on lake, river or open sea.
But even dogs who tend to love the water can benefit from some water-safety strategies, starting with a life vest. Never leave any dog in the water unsupervised and if he’s lounging on deck in the sun, watch for signs of overheating. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water to reduce the chance of your dog lapping up water from stagnant ponds or swallowing too much salt water.
Here’s our pick of eight dogs who can be classic first mates and bosun buddies.
The Lab is first in the hearts of his countrymen — he’s been ranked most popular dog by the AKC for a dog’s age — and not just for his classic good looks. He’s typically an all-around athlete and water dog par excellence. It’s not unusual to see a Lab standing on the bow of a yacht or motorboat, keeping a weather eye out for birds and dolphins or leaping off to go for a dog paddle. His webbed toes, rudder-like otter tail and waterproof coat often make him a top boat dog.
This dog with the funny name was born to be on the water. The state dog of South Carolina, he was bred to hunt from small boats in swamps, taking up less room than larger retrievers. The Boykin has a curly coat that is liver, brown or dark-chocolate in color, the genesis of his nickname “little brown dog.” He’s also known as “the little dog who doesn’t rock the boat.”
Portugese Water Dog
When you’re looking for a boat dog, it’s hard to go wrong with one with “water” in his name. The Portie, as he’s nicknamed, used to go out with fishermen and help retrieve their nets filled with fish. Not surprisingly, he typically loves to play in water and is a popular sailing companion in any port. Porties have a wavy or curly coat that doesn’t shed much but must be brushed two to three times a week and trimmed regularly.
This “excellent and faithful” watchdog is the perfect size for many boats, where he will most likely be happy to serve as co-captain. The Schipperke hails from Belgium and although there are stories about him serving as a watchdog on canal boats, he was actually a type of miniature herding dog. That doesn’t mean he can’t adapt to life on the water, though. This fun-loving dog tends to be curious and alert, as well as agile enough to navigate a deck with ease. His abundant black double coat is easily kept with weekly brushing.
American Water Spaniel
Another “little brown dog,” the AWS is the state dog of Wisconsin, where he was developed primarily as a water retriever, but he’s plenty versatile. At 25 to 45 pounds, he’s suited to just about any size craft, from a kayak to a mega-yacht. True to his name, he usually loves any activity that involves getting wet. Plan to comb and brush his curly brown coat two to three times a week and give him a thorough freshwater rinse if he goes for a dip.
Did you know that Poodles started out as water dogs? The standards were originally bred in Germany to retrieve ducks from bodies of water, and that fancy trim with the poufs on the legs and chest supposedly originated as a way to keep the dog’s joints and body warm in the water. Any size Poodle can make a good boat dog, but the Miniature — larger than the Toy but smaller than the Standard — may be the most practical choice.
While his origin is as a ratter on a farm, the lively Miniature Schnauzer has many qualities that can make him well-suited to the boating life. One, of course, is his portable size: At 11 to 20 pounds, he’s easy to lift on and off a boat, but he’s not so small that he is likely to be easily injured. And his ratting ability transfers nicely to docks and boats; your craft will be vermin-free with him on the job. Miniature Schnauzers are typically smart and affectionate with their humans, and an alert nature tends to make them good companions during the dog watch.
He’s probably more suited to a yacht than a kayak, but the Newfie (as he’s known for short) is the quintessential water dog, with a history of rescuing people when they fell in the drink by swimming lifelines out to them. One of history’s most well-known Newfies was Lord Byron’s dog Boatswain, whom he eulogized as having “all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.” A Newfoundland named Seaman accompanied explorers Lewis and Clark as they mapped the vast Louisiana Purchase. A flat, water-resistant double coat and webbed feet complete his qualifications to be your matey.