Safety at Sea

5 Basic Boating Safety Tips for Dogs

Dogs and water can be fun and enjoyable for some, but not all dogs like being out on a boat or kayak.

Dogs and Boats

Dogs have different characters and the type and size of vessel can have a significant impact. A large vessel like a ferry ride shouldn’t be an issue for most dogs unless the pet is highly nervous. But, a small vessel might not be so attractive for a dog.

Below are five safety tips for taking a dog in the water:


Dogs that are first-time boaters might be quite fearful of the motion of the floor at the start. To help minimize the issues with a potentially rocking boat make sure to prepare the dog before taking them on board. Let the dog get used to the motorboat, sailboat or kayak when ashore to increase the chance of being more comfortable out on the water. After a short time most dogs will start to get accustomed to the motion and balance that comes with being in the water.


A period of desensitizing is the best course of action to get the dog used to live on a small boat, dinghy, or kayak. Sit in the boat with the dog and slowly rock the boat from side to side to give it some motion. Repeat this process of several days to ensure the dog is fully comfortable on board before heading out to sea. Avoid forcing the dog to stay in the boat, but give positive reassurance and build up a trusted relationship that confirms the boat is a safe environment.

  • Any dog on board a boat should know the basic commands like stay, sit, down, etc.
  • Create a specific space on or in the boat for the dog to use and apply a non-slip pad. Let the dog explore all areas of the boat.
  • Show the dog the easiest ways to get in and out of the vessels and lead the dog to the best places to lie or sit in comfort.
  • Make certain a dog is fully comfortable before heading out. A sudden shift in weight can cause issues with small boats or kayaks, so ensure the dog is able to remain stable on board.


Similar to people it is very easy for dogs to start to get quite dehydrated when left outside in hot temperatures. Give suitable access to fresh, cool water to avoid issues with thirst and also provide land breaks if possible to let the dog escape and relieve themselves.

  • Puppy pads, litter box or similar might be needed if land breaks aren’t a practical option.
  • Pack enough fresh water to ensure the dog is kept hydrated for the duration of the time on the water. On the hotter days, an increase in fluid intake is highly likely.
  • Plus, consider taking along the pet’s health records in the event these are needed should an emergency arise.

Life Jacket

Even the most competent dog breeds (Portuguese water dogs, Golden Retrievers, etc.) can experience issue in open waters and benefit from the safety of a life jacket. Water current and weather can easily change and it is better to have the safety of a life jacket in place. Life jackets come in a variety of sizes to ensure all breeds are fully protected. A life jacket is not only effective at keeping the dog afloat should it fall overboard, but will also make it easier to grad compared to only having a collar.


Apply a sunscreen to a dog or provide enough shade is certain to benefit when out on the water. A sunscreen with SPF of 15 or more is practical for applying to the belly, ears (avoiding the ear canal), and nose. Ask the vets to determine the safest brand to use for pets. Many dogs have a tendency to lick it off so you want to avoid issues that could lead to severe stomach upset. A boat hull in fiberglass or aluminum can easily heat up once exposed directly to the sun. This heat is then easily absorbed by the paw pads, so make sure to have a cool or shaded area for the dogs to get relief from the heat.