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Boating Safety For Dogs

May 16, 2023

Do you spend a lot of time on the water? Fido loves going to new places with his human pals. Many pooches also enjoy going boating. However, open water can be dangerous for your canine companion. You’ll need to take some precautions to keep Fido safe. An Oakland, CA vet offers some boating safety tips for dogs below. 

Swim Lessons 

Some dogs are natural swimmers. Retrievers, for instance, often take to the water like furry, barking ducks. Others? Not so much. If Fido doesn’t know how to swim, take time to teach him. Never throw your dog into the water! That’s not only very dangerous, but it could leave him with a lifelong phobia. That said, not all pups are well-suited for the water. Very small or large dogs aren’t really cut out for it. Brachycephalic dogs also cannot swim safely. If you aren’t sure whether or not swimming is a good idea for your four-legged friend, check with your vet. 


In addition to teaching Fido to swim, it’s also crucial that he obey basic commands, such as Sit, Stay, and Come. You need to be able to stop your furry best buddy from jumping overboard, getting in someone’s way, or walking into a dangerous area. 


Fido should always be wearing a doggy lifejacket when he’s out on the water. Any pup can get into trouble if they fall overboard! Get your canine friend used to wearing his gear before you go boating. 


This one applies no matter where you are. Always make sure Fido has plenty of fresh water available! 


Going fishing? Be careful: Fido could get in the way as you’re casting, and end up getting hooked! Keep an eye on your pooch, and make sure he’s safely out of the way.


Did you know that our canine pals can also get sunburned, just like people? Dogs with pale or thin skin are at highest risk. However, even pups with thick fur can get scorched noses. Ask your vet to recommend a good, unscented sunscreen for Fido.

Potty Training

Most people incorporate astroturf or fake grass into their boats for dogs to use. Potty training Fido may take some time, but will be well worth it in the end! 

Our Advice on Boating Safety For Dogs in 2024

How do you know if your dog is a natural swimmer?

To determine if your dog is a natural swimmer, observe their breed characteristics and initial reactions to water. Breeds like Retrievers and Spaniels typically have a natural affinity for swimming, shown by their enthusiasm and skill in water. Introduce your dog to water in a controlled, shallow environment to gauge their comfort and ability. A dog that eagerly enters the water, paddles effectively, and seems relaxed is likely a natural swimmer. However, always supervise water activities, regardless of your dog’s breed or initial confidence, to ensure safety.

How can you protect your dog from sunburn on the boat?

To protect your dog from sunburn while boating, apply a vet-recommended, unscented sunscreen, especially on exposed areas like the nose, ears, and any patches of thin or light-colored fur. Opt for pet-specific sunscreen to avoid any harmful ingredients. Additionally, provide shaded areas on the boat where your dog can retreat from direct sunlight. Consider lightweight, UV-protective clothing designed for dogs for extra protection. Regularly reapply sunscreen, especially after your dog goes swimming, to ensure continuous protection throughout your boating adventure.

How do you know if your dog is getting too hot or overexerted while on the boat?

To determine if your dog is getting too hot or overexerted on the boat, watch for signs of distress such as excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, or a rapid heartbeat. Other indicators include a bright red tongue or gums, vomiting, or uncoordinated movement, which could signify heatstroke. If your dog seeks shade, seems restless, or refuses to play, these may also be signs they’re overheating. Ensure they have access to fresh water and a shaded area at all times, and never hesitate to cool them down with water if they show these symptoms.

Are there risks of your dog drinking lake/ocean water, and how do you avoid this?

Yes, there are risks associated with dogs drinking lake or ocean water. Lake water may contain harmful bacteria or parasites that can lead to gastrointestinal issues, while ocean water’s salt content can cause dehydration and salt poisoning. To avoid this, always provide fresh, clean water for your dog and encourage them to drink it regularly, especially before boarding the boat. Keep a close watch on your dog to prevent them from drinking natural water, and redirect their attention if they attempt to. Proper hydration is key to a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

What precautions should you take if boating in an area with potential wildlife hazards?

When boating in areas with potential wildlife hazards, keep your dog on a leash or within close supervision to prevent them from jumping into the water after wildlife, which can be dangerous for both your dog and the animals. Educate yourself about the local wildlife and their behaviors. Use a doggy life jacket for added safety, and avoid areas known for having aggressive animals. Additionally, ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations in case of unexpected encounters. Prioritizing your dog’s safety can help prevent accidents and ensure a positive boating experience for everyone involved.

Do you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or care? Contact us, your Oakland, CA animal clinic, today! 

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