If you’re a boat owner, you already know that boating is a beautiful way to bond with family and friends. Why not let your four-footed pals in on the adventure?
Once you take the proper safety measures and purchase the right boat insurance to cover you in the event of a mishap, there’s no reason NOT to let you furry friend come along for the ride.
Follow these tips to keep all the guests on the boat happy and healthy.
Dogs Gone Boating: 9 Tips for Boating with Dogs
1. Check local laws to make sure your dog is allowed on your boat.
Taking your dog on the boat can be a lot of fun. But don’t assume that it’s allowed, even if you see other boat owners with their pets onboard. There are no state laws governing taking pets on boats, but there may be local ordinances. Even individual docks, marinas, or beaches may have specific rules, which could determine where you depart from and where you can dock.
If you do end up switching marinas to a more pet-friendly place, read the fine print on your contract carefully. Some marinas ask to be listed as an additional insured on your boat insurance policy, which could shift the costs and liability to you in the event of property damage or personal injury.
2. Make sure you’re insured.
Will your boat insurance cover personal injury if your dog bites someone on your boat? What if your pet gets hurt; will your insurance cover the vet bills?
Make sure your liability coverage for personal injury covers dog bites, and that it meets the recommended minimums or minimums required by law. You can purchase personal excess liability insurance to increase your protection levels in case your dog happens to bite anyone on your boat or in the dock. Your homeowners insurance should cover any bites on land, even away from home.
3. Buy a doggy life vest – and make sure it fits.
Once you’ve ensured the safety of others, it’s time to make sure your dog will be safe on the boat, too. Buy a life vest to protect your dog in case it goes overboard.
When choosing a life jacket, ask the pet store rep or a vet to help you make sure it fits properly. Choose a brightly colored model with reflective stripes for good visibility, and look for one with a top handle so you can easily pull your dog back onto the boat. A front flotation pad can help keep your dog’s head above water if he becomes unconscious.
A leash attachment loop can be handy for larger dogs, so you can keep him nearby until you can get help to pull him out of the water. You might even consider creating a “run” for your dog on the boat, a safety line that runs along the sides of the boat and gives your dog the freedom to explore while keeping him safe on board.
4. Have a plan for “doggy overboard.”
Even with a safety line, formulate a plan of action in case your dog goes overboard. Maybe one passenger is designated to kill the engine, while others retrieve the dog. Some boat insurance policies offer discounts for wireless tethers that automatically turn off the engine if anyone, including a pet, falls overboard.
5. Stock up on basic safety gear.
You should already have a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flares, and plenty of water onboard. Provide a large, heavy water bowl for your dog so he can stay hydrated. He may not want to eat, but keep some food and treats in stock, in case you find yourselves stranded at sea.
6. Review important commands.
Even well-behaved dogs may get overexcited by the scent of the sea air and the novelty of boating. (Don’t we all?) For the safety and enjoyment of everyone on the boat, make sure your dog can follow basic commands like “sit” and “stay” before bringing him out on the water.
7. Get your pet accustomed to the boat and keep the first trip short.
Practice before your first boat trip by letting your dog stand on deck while the boat is in dock. Let him get used to the motion of the rocking boat.
Then take a short excursion on the water to see how he reacts. If he doesn’t like it, drive back and spend more time in the marina letting him get used to being on the water without going anywhere.
Did you know you can keep your boat insurance premiums low by using the boat in lakes and rivers instead of large bodies of salt water? An outing on the lake is the perfect way to get your pet acclimated to a day on the water.
8. Plan ahead for poop.
Many dogs won’t want to relieve themselves while on the boat. Others can be trained to use wee-wee pads or even a litter box. Think about having a small container and plastic bags to contain any waste.
Some dogs, just like people, can get seasick. Bring old towels to clean up in case this happens, along with disinfectant and deodorizer. Once you’re cleaned up and safely to shore, you may have to make the hard choice to relegate your bonding time with your best friend to land.
9. Always wear sunscreen.
The old adage rings true when we talk about our pets, too. Vets recommend using sunscreen on your dog’s belly and the inside of his legs—anywhere that fur doesn’t block the sun—to prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen and boat insurance: They’re actually somewhat alike. They both give us peace-of-mind and added protection when we’re out at sea.