The best way to introduce your pet to boating is to spend some time together on the boat when it’s tied to the dock. Some animals have an innate fear of the water and will never be comfortable on a boat. If your pet trembles at the site of water, you may have to leave him or her home when you go boating.
However, if your pet seems comfortable on the boat when secured at the dock, the sound of the engines may drive them nuts. Before leaving the dock, test this by running the engines. Animals hear a wider range of sounds than humans do and may be more sensitive to engine noises than you are.
If all goes well, plan a short cruise to introduce your pet to the motion of a boat underway. Pets can get seasick, just as humans do. Be alert for any signs of fatigue, clumsiness or disorientation.
Once onboard, make sure your pet has his or her own life jacket. These are available from marine stores and pet stores located in boating areas. Even if your pet can swim, a sudden dunk in the water may be so frightening or unexpected that your pet panics. Always have a leash onboard in case you need to restrain your pet. Our dog loves the water and boating, but he becomes an attack dog if pelicans land nearby. You never know what new experiences you and your pet will encounter on the water – be on the safe side.
Make sure there are no hazardous or dangerous materials within your curious pet’s reach. Nosy pets in the fishing tackle spell disaster! In a pet store, try to find a visor or brimmed cap to protect your pet’s eyes from the bright sunlight – if your pet will wear it.
Always make sure your pet has a shady place on the boat to escape the sun and heat and plenty of fresh water from home for the entire cruise. Cats and dogs absorb heat through their feet, also – protect them from hot deck surfaces.
Dogs and cats do not sweat – panting is the major means of getting rid excess heat for dogs and cats. However, with the heat also goes the water from the moistened exhaled air. This is why extra water is needed. Excessive panting and drooling, and abnormally rapid pulse, are danger signals that your pet may be suffering from heat stroke. Immediate treatment, in the form of immersing your animal in water, is recommended by the ASPCA.
Using a little common sense, you and your pet can have a great time boating. I recently read a story about a scuba diving dog – who knows what new talents you may discover in your pet.
Remember, if you plan to venture to foreign ports with your pet onboard, check the regulations in advance. Many countries have quarantine/health laws that apply to “foreign” animals.