Want to Bring Your Pets with You on Your Boat?
Here’s What You Need to Know
Because dogs are such a big part of many of our clients’ lives, we thought it was time to cover the topic of yachting with pets, especially if you’ll be spending longer periods of time on your boat to practice social distancing and no longer want to kennel your best friends while you’re away.
So, whether you have welcomed a new pet into your life since owning a boat, or you have welcomed a new boat into your life and already have a dog (or two!), learning the ins and outs of boating with pets is essential before setting sail.
To accompany our article on Boating with Family, here are the Van Isle Marina team’s top tips for boating with animals, including a list of things to bring, and tricks for helping your dog adjust to life on the water.
Best Dog Breeds for Boating
First off, if you don’t yet have a dog and are looking to get one, compare dog breeds that are best for boating, versus dog breeds that don’t like water. Of course, every dog will be different, but a dog’s breed is often a good indicator of how much your future best friend will love going boating.
Boat Design Considerations for Pets
If you are building a new boat or are renovating an older one, consider adding accommodations for your four-legged family members from the get-go. These can include things like:
- Real or artificial grass patches where your dog can do their business
- Custom-cut dog doors where needed, such as from the cabin to the cockpit
- Light and door sensors positioned at your dog’s height
- Extra guard rails or specialized guard rails where the space between the railings is protected by glass or grilles
- Installation of extra-small staircase gates
- Specialized boarding ramps if your dog is too large to carry on board
- Dedicated dog wash stations for use after the beach
- Protective covers for your upholstery
- Added décor that pays homage to your pet(s)
Identification and Paperwork for your Pet
If you plan to leave the country with your pets on board your boat, you’ll need to think ahead for any required international travel documents and limitations. There will be paperwork involved, which vary from country to country, but at the very least you’ll need proof from a vet that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. Your regular vet might not know all the pet travel restrictions to some of your more exotic locations, so be sure to do your own research well before departure.
Be sure to include your phone number on your pet’s ID tag that clips onto his or her collar. Some owners also go for the extra coverage of having a microchip imbedded beneath the dog’s skin, or else a waterproof GPS device also attached to the collar.
Acclimatizing Your Pets
Depending on your pet’s age and temperament, they might not love boating right off the bat. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your first boating trip with your pets extremely brief. If things are fine, keep going, but be prepared to keep things short as your dog gets more and more comfortable being on the docks and boats.
As you venture out further and further, you’ll also find out quickly if your pet is prone to seasickness. If this is the case, try and plan feeding time so they aren’t setting sail on a full stomach. This will reduce cleanup efforts on your part. Check with your vet for suitable seasickness medicine that is available for your dog’s breed and size.
Training your dog to be comfortable on the boat may involve teaching them how to swim or training them how to love the water they were once afraid of. There are many pet blogs that cover the topic of how to help your dog enjoy the water.
Dog Overboard Plan
There is a chance your dog could end up overboard. There’s no true way to plan for such an occurrence but making sure they can swim before you’ve even set foot on the boat will help ease everyone’s anxieties.
There are also life jackets specific to dogs, which are recommended when passing through strong currents or choppy water. Most lifejackets suited for dogs have a handle at the top so their owners can easily grip and lift them back up onto the boat. Don’t leave shore without life jackets for ALL those on board.
Likewise, when it comes to the right leash and collar, it’s best to replace the collar with a harness, which also provides a handle or other means of lifting a dog back on board. This could even be done with a boat hook if thing’s ever got to that point!
You’ll need to provide and then train your dog on their new place for doing their business. Housebroken pets will be reluctant to soil your boat and will have to get used to pee pads all over again.
Spend time and be patient as you coax them into using their new dedicated area, whether it is a patch of grass, carpet scraps, pee pads, or a litter box in the cockpit. Bring supplies to clean up messes as your pet adjusts, and pack plenty of treats for training.
Another alternative is to stay close enough to shore to accommodate your pet’s schedule. But this strategy will only take you so far.
Staying Cool and Hydrated
Be sure there are multiple bowls of fresh water around for your pet. Keeping your pets hydrated on board is so important, as it will prevent them from attempting to drink seawater, which could cause serious health problems.
Depending on the season, you’ll also want to ensure a cool, shaded area for your pets to hang out on board, as constant sunshine is not recommended. If bringing a kennel on board, keep it inside somewhere cool with good air circulation.
Sunscreen for your Dog
You might be surprised to learn that there are entire lines of sunscreens available for your pets. At a minimum, these should be applied to your dog’s belly, as well as the insides of the hind legs. Look for a spray-on variety for easiest application, and a formula free of zinc oxide – an ingredient you don’t want your pets to be licking or ingesting.
Pet First Aid Kits
There are first aid kits designed especially for pets on the market that are small, affordable, and perfect for travelling. They include many of the same elements of a first aid kit for humans, including tweezers, gauze, gloves, and antiseptic wipes. If you’ll be doing some hiking on shore, look for a tick remover as well.
If you’ll be going for an extended boating trip, consider making a trip to your dog’s groomer first. The shorter their hair, the easier it will be to clean your furry friend who just might be constantly wet and sandy from the beach. A good toenail clipping will also help prevent any scratches or scuffs on your upholstery or special deck surfaces and coatings.
Boating with your pet can be such a great experience for everyone involved. We are extremely dog friendly here at Van Isle Marina, and love meeting your pets! So much so, in fact, that the marina will be adding a new service that’s specifically for our furry friends. Sometime in May, we’ll be adding a DIY dog wash station so that you can clean your pets after coming back from enjoying time on your boat. Our new fureverclean DIY dog wash station will provide an easy way for dog owners to quickly wash, dry and condition their pets.
For more boating tips from Van Isle Marina, be sure to check out the rest of our blog.