With boating season in high gear, it's a good time for a little refresher on pet-friendly boating to ensure your little one is safe. Before hitting the high seas with your pet, it's important to plan ahead and always keep the best interests of your four-legged friend in mind. Boating with your pet can be a wonderful and bonding experience or a not-so-pleasant one. It's all a function of proper planning and preparation.
Be sure to take these necessary provisions to ensure your pet's boat cruise is a happy and safe one.
•Identification tag: Make sure your pet has a collar with an identification tag. Include contact information, marina address and slip number.
•Familiarization with the boat: It is best to gradually introduce your pet to your boat and the water. Let your pet explore the boat while it is docked before going out on the water. Turn on the engine and let them get used to its sound, smell and feel while the boat is docked. Then, take your pet out on small cruises and gradually build up to a longer cruise.
•Safe and easy boat access: Provide a special pet ramp for your pet to get on and off the boat. This not only includes from the dock to the boat, but also from the water to the boat. Pets weigh much more wet than dry, and it can be very difficult to lift them back into your boat after a swim.
•Flotation device: A personal flotation device (aka pet life jacket) can also ensure safety while on the water. Not all pets can swim (including some dogs). Even if your pet is a good swimmer, getting tossed overboard can put any animal into a panic. In addition, your pet could suffer from exhaustion or hypothermia.
Many pets also fall into the water from the dock or while trying to get from the dock to the boat. Having your pet equipped with a flotation device with a lifting handle makes retrieving your pet much easier and safer. Help your pet get used to the PFD by first practicing at home for short periods of time. Start by putting the PFD on your pet and let him walk around with it on. The next step is to let your pet swim with it on for a short period.
It's a new experience for your pet, so it's important for him to get used to it before the boat trip.
•Proper hydration and staying cool: Pets do not sweat, so keep an eye out for heavy panting or drool and a rapid heart beat. Protect pets from heat by providing some shade on the boat, providing plenty of water, and keeping the deck cool to protect paw pads. Bring along a pet travel bowl and fresh water.
It is critical to hydrate pets before they get into the water. Otherwise, they will drink the natural water and may get sick.
•Going potty: A big challenge of boating with your pets is making provisions so that they can go to the bathroom. Bringing along your cat's litter box and securing it inside the cabin is a good solution for your feline friends. Dogs, however, are a bigger challenge. If your boat trip does not allow for regular land stops for your dog to do his business, then provisions must be made so he can relieve himself on the boat. A portable dog potty that simulates grass is an excellent solution.
•Health records: If your boating destination is a marina or place that you're not familiar with, be sure to bring along a copy of vaccination and health records. Some places may require proof of immunization before letting pets explore on land.
•Call ahead: While most marinas and parks welcome pets, there are some that aren't pet friendly. Be sure to call ahead before arriving on shore.
Wishing you and your pet safe and happy travels on the water this season!
TripsWithPets.com is an online resource for pet travel. Named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports, TripsWithPets.com's mission is to offer resources that ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe while traveling. The website features a directory of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as airline and car rental pet policies; pet-friendly restaurants, beaches, and events; a user-friendly route search option; pet travel tips; pet travel supplies; and other pet travel resources.
Author Kim Salerno is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel. Her mission is to ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe in their travels.