How to Get a Big Dog on a Boat Safely

So the last time you brought your pooch on a boat ride, things didn’t go as swimmingly as you thought they would. True enough, it’s all fun and games until you find yourself with a 65-pound dog wading in the water and trying to get back into your boat. Now that you know that hoisting her back on board was a near impossible herculean challenge, you’re looking for ways to make it easier for your big ball of fur to get on and off of your pontoon.

It might seem simple enough, but the question of how to get a big dog on a boat as safely as possible isn’t one that’s so easily answered. Fortunately, we’ve lined up a concise guide to help you come equipped with the right gear so you won’t have to lose your breath trying to pull her back in.

Gear for Getting a Big Dog On a Boat

There’s more than one answer to how to get a dog back into a boat, but it’s important that you consider your dog’s specific condition. For instance, an older pooch might not be able to go up and down ladders with the same agility as a more youthful pup. Then of course, you might also want to consider how a rowdy dog might injure himself upwards of a set of human-intended ladder steps.

dog boat ramp

A simple dog boat ramp or ladder would be a great way to load your canine from dry ground or water onto your boat. These are typically fixed to your pontoon by a series of cords, giving your dog a stable surface to safely move on and off of your boat. There are also mini ‘docks’ that you can attach to underside of your deck. These will submerge slightly under the water, giving your dog a place to stand if he’s coming from the water.

Then, there’s the good old harness. Similar to a vest that you place on your dog, a harness has a bunch of latches and hooks that you can use to literally hoist your dog up with a block and tackle attached to a boom. This can be a good choice if you’ve got an older dog who just isn’t as limber when it comes to navigating a slipper ramp or dock.

get dog on and off boat

Tips on How to Get a Big Dog On a Boat

It’s one thing to equip your boat with gear for easy dog movement, and another to make the process more seamless for your dog. Even with these different types of gear in place, there’s always the risk of injury or accidents that no one really wants to deal with. So just to make doubly sure that you’re pup is safe throughout the experience, you may want to try these tips.

Clip His Paw Fur 

If you’ve got a long coat breed or even just a canine with true fur, you’re likely to find hair growing out from in between his paw pads. This can make your pontoon’s floors and deck especially slippery, which can be a hazard for getting on and off. The simple task of clipping away the excess fur can give your dog’s feet more traction, thus significantly reducing the risk of accidents.

Get Him Some Booties

how to get a dog back into a boat

Dog booties that are designed for outdoor adventure will feature rubberized treads that help to improve traction and grip on all sorts of surfaces. These can be great for clumsy pups who struggle with stepping in confidence over wet boat surfaces. They can also give your pooch that extra friction he needs to safely manage a ladder or ramp especially if he’s coming out of the water.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you’re looking to make it easier for your dog to get on and off of your boat, then you might want to help him practice. Training dogs on boats before you take your new gear out for a spin can make getting on and off of your pontoon almost automatic when you find yourself in the water.

Try placing a high value treat on the deck and praise your pooch whenever he makes an effort to reach it or to jump on. This can be especially important if your dog is a little on the nervous side so you can help him get accustomed to the new environment.

Preventing Accidents While Boating with Your Dog

dogs on boats

No one wants to be confronted with an emergency dog situation on a boat. So it would be wise to do everything you can to prevent unforeseen problems from happening. Most of the time, these will involve situations where your dog falls into the water by accident. Coming prepared with the right gear and knowledge should help resolve the matter in a cinch.

Don’t Jump In If He Falls Accidentally 

The first instinct that any loving pet owner would have after seeing their dog fall into the water would be to jump in after them. But since your dog has strong senses, it can tell when you’re in a panic, and will likely panic along with you. Instead of jumping in, you might want to consider turning back and cutting the engine when you’re near. Call him over to your boat and hoist him up by his life jacket, or throw over his ramp to help him get back on.

Tether Him to the Boat 

To keep him from falling out all together, you might want to consider tethering him to the boat. A durable cord with substantial length latched on to one of your dog’s vest hooks can help make it possible to easily retrieve him should he fall over board. This can come in particularly handy when you’re navigating rough waters that might gently toss your boat around.

Avoid Boating Alone with Your Dog 

You would have to be responsible for watching your pup and steering the boat. And since you can’t keep your eye on just one of these tasks, it would be best to make sure there’s someone else aboard who can help you keep things safe. If you know there won’t be anyone else around, you may want to consider leaving old Fido at home.

Over to You

While smaller pooches might be easy to move around on a boat, a big dog poses unique challenges that may require extra preparation and gear. So before you think about bringing your best bud with you, you may want to consider the intricacies of how to get a big dog on a boat. Sure, it’s not going to be quite as easy as bringing along a 30 pound pup, but with the right gear and proper training, you should be able to enjoy a day out on the lake without having to worry about your how to get dog on and off of boat.