Health Care for Boating Dogs

By: Terry Gibson


Taking the pup for a boat ride is more than enough of an excuse to splash the boat. I love loading up the pups just to watch them sniff the breeze while we're under way, tongues lolling out the side of their mouths happily. Who cares if the slobber is collecting on the windscreen? What sheer joy it is for them!

My pups are now almost 15 and 14 years old, respectively. Their boatride days are now limited to calm days on inshore waters where there's lots of places to let them out to "do their business." But I like to think that they can still enjoy the boat because we've been careful not to beat them up in one. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you embark with your four-legged boating buddy.

Yes, all dogs can swim. Most swim really well. But they can't swim if they're unconscious or badly injured from falling out of the boat. Life jackets for dogs are available. Since our pups are such strong swimmers, and since it's hot in Florida, I take the jackets off them when we're anchored or idling. But it's best to leave the jackets on while running.

Dogs, like people, get seasick. And, a rough sea is just as hard or harder on their joints as it is on any old salt's bones. If I'm headed offshore to fish in much of a sea, the pups stay behind. 

Even on calm waters, dogs and boats aren't exactly meant for each other. Their bones and feet evolved for Terra Firma, not for a fiberglass or wood deck that is moving. That's why I bring a bean bag for the pups to rest on. See photo. It lets them get off their feet. If there's shade on the boat, that's a good spot for the bean bag.

Bathroom breaks are also a must, as is constant hydration for the animal.

If you're taking a boatride this weekend or any weekend coming up, bring your four-legged buddy or buddies, and help the pup(s) enjoy this and many outings to come by taking this advice.

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