If you’ve planned a summer out on the waves, and want to take your dog on board the boat, there’s a lot to think about before you cast off!
Gliding over water that shines like a mirror without a cloud in sight might seem like a worry-free experience. As a dog owner, you’ll probably want to take your dog with you. While boating can be one of life’s simple pleasures, it also places high demands on your safety and logistics planning, especially if your dog accompanies you. It’s a weird experience for dogs to suddenly be on a small unknown thing, floating above the water, so it’s difficult to know in advance whether a dog will enjoy it and how they’ll behave.
LIFE JACKETS FOR DOGS – SAFETY FIRST
The first and most important thing to keep in mind when you take your dog on a boat is that they must wear a life jacket both on board and on the jetty. Your dog may love to swim and be a superb swimmer, but if he or she falls overboard, things can quickly get extremely stressful and frightening. The life jacket also gives you the opportunity to get hold of your dog and help them out of the water more easily. So remember, dog on boat = doggie life jacket.
What life jacket you should go for depends on your dog’s weight. Remember to add a few extra kilos to your dog’s weight if he or she has long hair, as the fur will be heavier when it’s wet. A good life jacket should have proper handles on the back and a loop for attaching a lead. Note that a dog on a boat or jetty absolutely must not be tied up using their collar, as it can have devastating consequences if the dog falls into the water. Instead, hook the lead onto the loop on the dog’s life jacket.
SWIMMING WITH A DOG – THINK ABOUT THE FOLLOWING
Some dogs are very happy to swim, and it’s easy to take a dip when the water’s so tantalisingly close. Swimming is a very good form of exercise for dogs, so feel free to make training more fun by playing water fetch and swimming with your dog. However, do it at the dog’s pace, and be mindful that swimming can be very strenuous.
If your dog’s a beginner swimmer, it makes sense to start slowly. Why not start in shallow water? Coax your dog into the water with the help of toys and stay close. Keep in mind that slippery rocks aren’t good for dogs that are worried about swimming, and that barnacles can cut your dog’s paws.
DRY YOUR DOG AFTER SWIMMING – AVOID LIMBER TAIL
It’s important to dry your dog off after swimming. A dog that swims a lot and doesn’t get dried properly can suffer from limber tail. This is inflammation of the base of the tail that occurs when dogs become damp and cold. Limber tail is very painful and makes the space around the buttocks very sore. It usually goes away on its own after a couple of days if the dog is kept warm and dry, but if it doesn’t you should see a vet for painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
To avoid limber tail, it’s important to dry your dog after he or she swims, and keep it warm between swims. In addition to drying your dog after swimming, it’s also important to occasionally rinse him or her thoroughly in fresh water. Also comb their fur to get rid of bacteria carrying dirt and parasites that can be found in the sea.
DOGS ON A BOAT – PLAN YOUR TRIP CAREFULLY
Plan your trip properly before taking your dog on a boat. When there’s a dog on board, there are several practical things for you to think about. Dogs don’t generally enjoy being at sea for too long, so don’t leave more than four to five hours between your stops. Make sure you have enough drinking water with you and let the dog drink often, otherwise it might get the urge to swallow salt water, which can lead to salt water poisoning. Also, don’t let your dog swim if you suspect there are algae blooms in the water, as this can be poisonous. Pack a dog first aid kit when you have a dog on the boat, just in case anything goes wrong. Also, why not write down the numbers of vets in the nearby area? Let the dog both rest and keep active when you’re on shore, and give it a calm and safe place to rest on board.
If you’ve done all that, you’re ready to cast off. Take your dog on board with you and have a summer full of great boating experiences!