Nothing makes my pit bull Lacy’s ears perk up like the question “Wanna go on the boat?” She loves it when the wind blows up her floppy ears and she gets a full snout of fresh air as we cruise across Sebago Lake in southern Maine. Prior to Lacy, whom I rescued from a shelter, I boated with Otis and Tucker. Here are 10 tips — some learned firsthand, others from various sources — that you can use when taking your pet for a cruise.
Bring plenty of water from a collapsible bowl such as this one from outwardhound.com ($6.99 for a 48-ounce bowl).
Consider a boarding ramp if your pet is too large to be carried under one arm. A ramp also makes it easier for a pet to reboard from the water, the beach or a sandbar.
Include a mobile number on your pet’s tag. I prefer a tag that clips directly to the collar because it can’t get caught on anything or scratch my boat. Consider having a microchip imbedded beneath the dog’s skin. The chip is part of a registry and can be read by vets.
Keep your dog’s first boat outing brief. My dog used to stop and assume a wide-footed stance on the dock. Get your dog comfortable on docks and boats.
Dog Overboard Plan
Create a game plan before you even bring your pet on a boat.
Even “water breeds” benefit from a life jacket, especially in strong current or choppy water. The handles on a life jacket also help to grip and lift a pet into the boat.
Leashes and Collars
A harness, as opposed to a collar, provides a means to grab and lift the dog, even using a boat hook.
Make sure you have a stocked pet first-aid kit aboard like the one from RC Pet Products Ltd. (rcpets.com, $35). The Humane Society of the United States recommends pet-specific supplies and useful items to include in a boating dog’s first-aid kit. Dogs can take Dramamine and other remedies for seasickness. Check with your vet.
While many housebroken pets will be reluctant to “go” aboard your boat, pets can be trained to use carpet scraps, wee-wee pads or litter boxes placed in the cockpit.
Sunscreen should be applied on the dog’s belly and inside the hind legs, at least. Pet sunscreens like Doggles (doggles.com, $16.99), Nutri-Vet (nutrivet.com, $7.99) and Vet’s Best sun relief spray (petnation.org, $9.99) are free of zinc oxide, which can be harmful if pets lick it. Spray-on varieties are easy to apply.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.