Cruising with Canine: How to Keep a Pet Safe When on the Water

Doesn’t Fido deserve a day off too? Of course you want to take your best friend out on the boat. But there are some key steps you should take to make sure that he stays safe and has a great day out on the water as well.

Cruising with Dogs on a Yacht

7 Steps to Pet Safety Onboard

We’ve made a list of the top seven ways to take care of your pet while cruising. Most of these tips are for dog owners, but the same principles apply for any type of animal.

1. Prepare for cruising ahead of time.

Before stepping onto the boat there are a few things you should do to help ensure the safety of your dog.

    • Most dogs love the water, but not all. Practice swimming with your dog. Understand what he feels comfortable doing in the water and what causes anxiety. For example, some dogs avoid waves or open water. 
    • Practice getting your dog safely from the pier onto the boat. It’s best to use a walkway so that he can walk onboard himself. Never let your dog jump onto the boat as it’s easy to slip and injur himself.
    • Develop a plan for how to rescue the dog in case he goes overboard. Share this plan with others on the boat.

dogs on a yacht


2. Let your dog get comfortable onboard.

Let your dog get familiar with the boat before turning it on or going anywhere. He should be comfortable spending time there while the boat is docked and conditions are stable. Take a few short trips with your dog onboard in preparation for longer cruises. Look for signs that your dog is feeling seasick.

3. Have your pet wear a life jacket. 

Protect your dog in case he goes for a swim or accidentally goes overboard by buckling him up in a life jacket. Even dogs that are good swimmers should have a specially designed floatation device that fits well. This will keep your pet afloat even if the weather conditions change or there are strong currents. Make sure you try out the jacket before heading out. 

Dogs on a boat wearing lifejackets

4. Come onboard prepared.

Here’s what you should always have on hand when there are pets onboard:

    • A first-aid kit with any medications that your dog might need if he gets hurt. It should also include veterinary medicine for motion sickness and eye drops in case something in the water irritates this delicate part.
    • Because pets can get sunburns too, sunblock is recommended for light or thin-haired breeds. There are special sunscreens made for dogs, which are made without zinc, a toxic substance for animals. Apply this to your pet’s ears, snout and other place where skin is visible. 
    • Bring waste bags and puppy pads to clean up messes while out on the water.

5. Keep fresh drinking water available.

Hydration is always important when boating. The heat, salty water, wind and panting can quickly dry a dog’s tongue out and lead to dehydration. Make sure to have a water bowl always available and that your dog knows where he can go to drink.

6. Sit. Stay. Good boy!

Dogs shouldn’t wander around the boat or go near the bow while your cruising. Waves, wet spots on the deck and movement from navigating can easily cause them to loose their balance. Locate an area on the boat where your dog can safely stay while the boat is running. It should be on the floor of the boat and have plenty of shade. Provide a mat which will make him feel at home. Make sure that the deck in this area provides enough traction for your dog to sit and stand without slipping.

7. Safety first on the water.

It’s possible for dogs to drown. So, keep your dog in sight whenever he swims. Never throw him. It’s better to let him jump in for a swim or choose to stay onboard.