Boating with Dogs: A Complete Guide for Safety & Fun

Few things are as exciting and fun as boating. But take your pup with you, and you might find it more enjoyable than every before. Hey, boating should be a family affair and we all know that a beloved pooch is as much a part of the family as the kids.

Now, in theory, it might not seem like too big of a deal to bring a dog on board and into the water. But there are tons of factors you should take into consideration to ensure everyone's safety. So what exactly do you need to think about before you go boating with dogs? Here's everything you need to know.

Can You Take Dogs Onboard a Boat?

Yes, you can take a dog on your boat. In general, there are no laws or regulations that specifically illegalize having a dog in the water or on a boat. But then again, every location might have their own set of rules in place. So make sure you read up on their distinct guidelines, or ask around before you bring your dog out with you.

And then there are some laws that might not have anything to do with boating per se, but still require strict observance when bringing your dog outdoors. For instance, in Arizona, pet owners are required by law to ensure their pet gets sufficient shade and water whenever they're outdoors. So that's definitely something you're going to want to consider before your trip to the sea.

Lastly, it pays to ask the specific marina where you plan to bring your dog. Some of them might not be too keen on having dogs around, especially if they're trying to maintain a certain ambiance. Check in with the management before you bring your pet so you don't end up wasting a trip to the marina.

*You may also like: Boat Names for Dog Lovers 

Tips for Boating with Your Dog

how to travel with a dog on a boat

Just like boating with cats, it's important to understand all the factors involved in making it enjoyable and safe. 

Wondering how to keep a dog on a boat? Dog boating isn't quite as effortless as it might seem. Sometimes, dogs won't take too easily to the water. Others might want to leap at the new opportunity for fun, putting both you and your pet in danger.

So before you head out to the waves with good ol' Fido, here are some safety tips to streamline the experience.

Acclimate Your Pup

If it's the first time you're bringing your pet out to the water, then they might feel a little overwhelmed at the sights and sounds. Timid dogs can feel scared and stressed out, not wanting to leave the comfort of your embrace. More excitable dogs may want to pull away to jump into the fresh water right off the bat.

Either way, the chances of accidents and injury increase not only for you and your dog, but for those around you. That said, it's important that you get your dog used to the new environment aboard the boat so they aren't overwhelmed when you're set to sail.

Bring your dog out to the dock and spend some time on your boat just familiarizing them to the new situation. It might also help to bring your dog in the water and practice swimming a few times to see how they fair.

Get a Life Jacket and Other Essentials for Safety

Regardless of whether they're good at swimming, the responsibility of keeping your dog safe rests on you. Safety needs like a dog life jacket, repellent spray, sun protectant spray or sunscreen, first aid kit, and a leash and harness should help keep your pup away from potential danger while on board. In fact, experts recommend that your dog wear a life jacket at all times.

It's also strongly discouraged for pet owners to use a collar to keep their dog tethered to a leash when they're out on the water. Always opt for a harness, even if your pooch can swim. Certain life jackets can even take the place of a harness entirely. Practice wearing your dog's life vest around the house so they won't try to get out of it when you're out in the sun.

Come Up with a Contingency Plan

What should you do if your dog falls overboard into the water while dog boating? While that would be the last thing that any pet parent would want, it does happen.

To prepare for the worst, it would be helpful to practice with your dog prior to your boating trip so you both know what to do just in case they're tossed onto the water. Of course, the first step would be to get them used to their life jacket.

In that moment, it might seem like a good idea to jump into the water to save your dog. But that would only put both of in the face of danger. Instead, turn back and close the distance, then cut off your engine. Grab their harness or dog life jacket, or teach your dog how to use a ramp which can make it much easier to get your dog out of the water and back on deck.

Provide a Potty Place

The unique environment on a boat can easily mess up your dog's poop and pee routine. In fact, most dogs might even try to hold it in since they're not too familiar with the surroundings just yet. But when they feel that they've held it in for as long as they can manage, they might end up doing their business anywhere aboard your boat.

You can see how that can be more than inconvenient if you're boating with large dogs. So make sure your dog has a proper potty.

An area with a fake grass pad can simulate a poop and pee space for your pooch. Some boat owners even craft a box of sorts and layer grass mat at the bottom to prevent any spills and mess on deck. Introduce your dog to the area, or walk them there while on his leash to establish the purpose of the space.

It might also be helpful to choose a route that lets you visit a shore or dock every so often so they can do their business on dry land.

Keep Essentials at the Ready

Just like your family and friends, your dog also needs food and drinks to make the trip more enjoyable. Don't forget to pack your dog's food, treats, fresh clean water, and an appropriate set of bowls for food and water whenever you plan trips with your dog.

Other than that, it would also help to teach your dog to use their bowl at a specific part of the boat. This can condition them to eat in a designated space which also helps to localize any mess. You'll also know when they're hungry if your dog goes to the spot to look for food.

Essential Supplies for Boating with Dogs

Aside from any necessary training tips and acclimation prerequisites, it helps to buy supplies for your pooch. There are a few important dog boating essentials that can help improve the sea experience for both you and your puppy whether you're on a private boat or a cruise, so try to cop these must-haves before you set sail.

Life Jacket for Dogs

life jacket for dogs

Life jackets are not optional. The law states that every passenger on board your boat should have a life jacket that's the right size and type. So who's to say that regulation doesn't reach over into dog territory? A dog life jacket reduces the chances of drowning and makes it easier to retrieve dogs in the water if they go overboard.

We recommend the Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket.

Dog Ramp

boating with large dogs

A dog ramp just makes it easier for your pup to get on the deck when boarding or if he goes overboard. There are various types of ramps to keep dogs safe - some help your dog hop aboard from the land to your boat, and others help them get back on after taking a swim.

Check out the PetSTEP Folding Pet Ramp or the Great Day Load-a Pup Platform.

For even more great choices see our recommended best dog boat ladders and ramps.

Dog Feeding Essentials

living on a boat with a dog

You could always just take their bowl from home and bring it on your boat. But boats move a lot and that might topple that bowl over and make a giant mess. That's why it might be a good idea to get a boat specific bowl. Some use a non-skid silicone base that keeps the bowl from moving. You can also get a grip floor mat with raised edges to place normal bowls in.

We like the DogBuddy Dog Bowl Food Mat Set or using Gorilla Grip Silicone Feeding Mat.

Repellent Spray and Sunscreen

repellent and sunscreen for dogs

Not-so fun fact: mosquitoes are quite rampant in warm, humid conditions like lakes. So it pays to have dog specific bug spray to keep your puppy safe. Make sure you're choosing a formulation that's intended to protect your furry friend against mosquitoes specifically, since a lot of buy sprays for the canine kind are formulated against fleas.

Doggy sunscreen can also prevent harsh burns on their nose and skin from exposure to direct sun which you can't really avoid during boating trips.

We highly recommend the Vet's Best Mosquito Repellent for Dogs or the Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets.

Dog Beds

dog boat beds

You'll want to give your doggo a nice and comfortable place to rest while onboard. What better way than a dog bed. But not just any bed will do. It's important to choose one that's made for use outdoors. This will help your pooch stay comfy and calm, and also ensure protection against the elements.

Dog beds that are elevated are a great way to go, as they will keep your dog off the hot deck flooring, and keep the dog cool while on the boat. Also make sure the bed is completely water resistant.

Some great choices are K&H Original Elevated Pet Cot and the Amazon Basics Water Resistant Pet Bed.

If you'd like more recommendations, check out our guide on the best boat dog beds.

Living on a Boat with a Dog

how to keep a dog on a boat

If you think the liveaboard life might be for you and your dog, then there are some major preparations and considerations to make. Aside from the essentials, see to it that you tick off most of the items and tips in this list:

Your Dog's a Strong Swimmer

Not all of the canine kind are good at swimming. Active and sporting dog breeds that swim well won't only enjoy boat life better, but also have lower chances of drowning.

They're Easy to Train

Dog life on a boat is completely different from living in a traditional house. Your furry friend of the canine kind should be easy to train especially if they're more likely to jump in the water.

They Enjoy Change

Some dogs prefer unchanging living conditions. But if your fur-covered friend doesn't mind a constant change of scenery as long as you're around, then boating might be for them.

Seasickness Isn't a Problem

Yes, your best friend can get seasick just like us. If you want your dog to stay happy on deck, it's important that you make sure they're not too sensitive to the constant churning of the water and waves. Otherwise, you might have to leave the water and head ashore more often than you want to.

All Aboard!

Trying to figure out how to travel with a dog on a boat? Boating with dogs can look like loads of fun, but there's tonnes to consider. Aside from making sure your best friend has all the essentials - from life jackets, to food and fresh water, to sunscreen, and everything in between - it's equally important that you check their compatibility for life on the sea.

So if you're a sailing enthusiast and you're thinking of boating with your dog, take these tips into consideration and make sure your boating experience is nothing but for for you and your dogs.