Summer is a great time to get out on the water. And while I love taking my dogs on a variety of fun adventures, not all dogs enjoy boat rides. Every dog is different, and the size of the boat may also make a huge difference. A dog might naturally enjoy taking a leisurely ferry ride. But, put the same dog in a canoe, and he might prefer to be in the water instead of on it.
If you are wanting to take your dog on a boat, please take the following precautions. They not only will protect Buster’s health, but also his behavior.
Most dogs aren’t comfortable feeling like the floor is moving and may be quite fearful of a rocking boat. You can prepare for some rocking motion at home first by putting a large board on a ball, or something that provides some instability for the board. As Buster approaches the board, mark it with a clicker or say an enthusiastic “YES,” and then throw a small treat on the floor away from the board. As he comes back to the board, do the same when he puts a paw on the board. Again mark the behavior with a click or “YES” followed by a treat. Then look for two paws, and repeat the process until Buster has all four on the board. Once he does, you can still mark the behavior but give him very small treats in your hand and let him chew on them while he balances on the board.
If you are taking your dog on a small boat, such as a canoe, it is best to introduce him to the boat on land first. Sit in the boat with a treat in your hand and call him. When he comes to you, reward him with the treat. Stand up and rock the boat just a little bit, pay him again for staying in the boat. Do this for a few days and increase the time each day that you are in the boat, as you start to diminish the treats. Alternate keeping the boat still with providing some rocking motion. If your best furry friend wants to get out, let him. Play a fun game together and try again another time. If you need to, you can always throw his favorite ball or treat in the boat. Never force him to stay in the boat. The idea is to build up a positive association towards the boat.
It’s commonly known that dogs, like people, can easily get dehydrated in hot temperatures. The problem is that Buster won’t always tell you when he’s thirsty. Provide plenty of cool, fresh water and land breaks so that he can relieve.
According to The Farmer’s Almanac, “a sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 is recommended for exposed areas such as nose, interior of ears (take care not to apply it into the ear canal), and belly, and check with your vet about which brands are safest as dogs will tend to lick it off. Bear in mind excessive sun exposure can cause severe illness in dogs, just as it can for humans. Modern boat surfaces, such as fiberglass, can heat up dangerously in the sun. Dogs absorb heat through the pads of their feet and need to release it through their pads and abdomen, so take extreme precautions to keep them cool (cool, wet towels on which to rest may help if your pet will use them). Also, provide plenty of shade for Buster.”
5. LIFE JACKET
Even breeds known for their strong swimming skills, such as Golden Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs, may get stuck in a situation where they need a life jacket. Weather and current can change quickly and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Many companies make life jackets for dogs of all sizes. And if Buster falls overboard, you’ll have something much safer to grab onto than his collar.
Enjoy your time on the water with your best furry friend. Feel free to add your own safety water trips for Buster in a comment below.
Royal on boogie board: Liz Gebhardt
Jenny on sailboat: John Thompson
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