Tips For Boating With Dogs

Written by Paul

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Getting Dogs Familiar With Boating | Dog Safety Gear When SailingProviding Food & Drinks For Dogs Onboard | Check Pet Allowed With Charter Company | Sailing With Dogs: Rules & LegislationDog Toilet Breaks When OnboardDog Overboard Plan | Watching Out For Sea CreaturesBoating With Dogs Video

Let's face it, sailing with your precious dog is a lot of fun. But if you've never brought your animal onboard, how do you sail with them?

And most importantly, what are the steps to take to ensure they are safe, healthy and loving life out on the sea water? 

Dogs can be more fun than humans and are always great company so having them onboard with you can be great! So what are the steps to get going with your pet?

We'll cover: 

  • Safety when sailing with dogs
  • Food when out boating with your animal
  • How dogs use toilets onboard your boat
  • Do dogs get seasick
  • How to prepare for emergency situations with your pet
  • Legal Requirements for sailing with dogs

Whether you're on a sailing boat, a small motorboat, a yacht, a pontoon boat or any vessel for that matter, this article will apply to you and your dog.

There is also a video you can check out below if you prefer to see instructions in video format.

Now, it's important to check the weather before going on your voyage. Rough seas and strong winds isn't exactly the most favorable for dogs onboard.

It's better to start slowly and work your way up to longer trips with them. Right, let's look at the step by step.

Short Sailing Trips Before Longer Trips With Dogs

sailing with dogs and puppies
photo: booknsail

It's best to start out with doing short sailing trips with your dog. You won't want to bring a dog onboard for days only to realize they don't enjoy the water.

The best way around this is to simply test out how it is for them by bringing them on short trips (maybe an hour to 3 hours)

This will give you a great idea of how a dog finds being onboard. Getting your dog familiar with boating is crucial.It's always best to work up to multiple days on a boat if this is what you are planning.

A dog may be fine for a couple of hours onboard but struggle with a couple of days. So take it in small steps. Keep an eye to ensure they aren't timid or sick.

I think it's fair to say that if you're reading this article, you will be watching your dog like a hawk onboard to ensure all goes smoothly.

Starting out with the shorter trips is a great way to practice before maybe going on longer ones in the future, for both you and your pup.

Have The Necessary Safety Gear

Now this is an important step for your dog. Safety is paramount and it's really important to have the necessary gear to ensure your pets are safe and sound.

Even if your dog can swim normally at beaches or lakes (or the swimming pools) it can be a completely different story when out on the sea water with the currents and larger waves.

Canine Life Jackets

dog life jacket

You should ensure your dog is equipped with a dog life jacket.


Well, it will give you peace of mind that if they decide to go for a swim in the ocean, they won't drown. Some dogs can get over excited as we all know so protecting them with a life jacket is really important.

You can get life-jackets for dogs on Amazon and they aren't that expensive either.

Pro tip for dog life jackets: Make sure you get the correct size for them. Too big and the life jacket will not be effective and too small and it won't be comfortable.

You'll also want to ensure there are proper handles on the life jacket to ensure you can pull your dog out of the water.

Dog Sunscreen / Insect Repellent

dog sunscreen when sailing
photo: chewy

Something you might not have thought of is dogs can get sunburned too, especially the breeds with shorter hair. With that in mind, you should ensure your dog has the adequate protection from the sun just like you would have.

This will help with sunburn and ensure the dog has the best experience out on the water.

You can get dog sunscreen on Amazon. Make sure and choose a sunscreen with little or no scent as otherwise it might annoy or irritate the dog.

Dog First Aid Kit

first aid kit for dogs when boating

Bringing a first aid kit on your sailing trip for your dog is also very important. 9 times out of 10, you will most likely not need it but it will be invaluable when that 1 time arises that you need to use it.

Being able to offer first aid to your dog if they are injured is really really important so make sure you have a proper canine first aid kit.

Again, you can get these on Amazon and it's important to have.

Make sure the first aid kit has tablets or medicine for seasickness. As dogs can get seasick, this is important to have.

Provide Fresh Water, Shade,Fresh Dog Food & Dog Toys

Ensure you have a plentiful supply of fresh water, dog food and shade. Dogs can get heat stroke when out on the harsh boating environments so make sure they have a comfortable spot to relax in the shade with available water.

Dehydration can be a problem and we don't want your dog jumping into the sea water thinking they can just drink that.

Also, having dog food to ensure they aren't hungry is important too so bring enough to last your sailing trip.

You might also want to bring some dog toys to keep them entertained on the boat. This can especially help for timid dogs that might take a bit longer to get used to the boating environment.

Dog Toilet Breaks When Sailing

Your dog will need to use the potty when they are onboard for some time. You'll need to ensure you have the right gear to enable a smooth toilet experience.

Some dogs won't enjoy using toilet onboard so you'll need to plan on where you can stop on your sailing trip for them.

Some boat owners simply bring AstroTurf or a small litter tray for them to do their business. The AstroTurf is particularly useful for dogs that would prefer to go toilet on land.

Check Are Pets Allowed With Charter Company

no pets allowed when sailing

If you are renting a boat (i.e. the boat doesn't belong to you) it's important to make sure the boat owner is happy to allow the dog onboard.

Make sure you check this out before booking to avoid disappointment

Have A Dog Overboard Plan

dog overboard plan
photo: petsami

Let's face it, some of our dogs get a little too excited with being out on the water and want to explore the ocean. You turn your head just once and they are in the water cause it looks so enticing for them.

Well, this can be fine if they have their life jacket and you are watching them but it's still very important to have a plan.

As the saying goes: " Fail to plan, plan to fail"

You should always have a plan for what to do if your dog decides to take a swim. This could be a simple checklist should they go overboard.

Watch Out For Sea Reptiles/Mammals

This is very very important and is something you need to be aware of.

If you are sailing or boating in parts of the world where there are crocodiles, sharks, whales etc, it's crucial to have your dog leashed onboard.

If your dog spots the reptile or mammal, they might take it upon themselves to protect their territory. And this will only end one way if it happens.

So if you are in the sea waters and spot a dangerous sea creature, please ensure the dog is strapped in, either with a leash or some form of restraint.

Again, we cannot stress this enough, Some dogs are more aggressive and if you think your dog would be happy to face off with a crocodile or shark, make sure they are strapped in so all they can do is bark and nothing more!

Boating With Dogs Video

You can watch a video guide to boating with dogs below from sailorsandseadogs channel:

Finally, some people treat boating with dogs as important as boating with children. So it's important to ensure your precious cargo is well protected on a vessel!

So make sure to follow the tips and have a great time on your boating trip with your pet!