10 Top Tips for Boating with Fido!

There’s nothing more adorable than seeing man’s best friend thoroughly lapping up the great outdoors with his or her favorite human family!

Here in NW Florida, we’ve all passed boats carrying our favorite mascots complete with wagging tails, dancing eyes and buoyant barking spirits! Boating with beloved fur babies on fun family adventures brings plenty of joy to boaters!

However, if you’ve never taken Fido boating before, here are 10 Top Pet Boating Tips to keep you and buddy safe and secure on our area waterways!

   • Start with a Short Ride! Don’t plan a major all-day adventure and bring your bud for the first time. Some dogs take to boating better or faster than others. More nervous Nellies might find the entire experience unnerving and become highly stressed. Others, like my former golden retriever, may be ready to launch off the boat and out of the gate the minute you leave the docks! Best to take an inaugural short ride to know how well your pup will respond prior to planning a lengthy excursion.

   • Stay Leashed! The first few times you take your fur baby out, use a leash and keep it connected. If you have a lapdog, secure him or her in your lap before getting underway.  The sound of the engine and the resulting movement is all new and can be disturbing. Having your dog seated next to you on a leash or securely cradled in your lap is a smart recommendation as you both “test the waters.” Some dogs will pace on the boat due to nervousness, and others may try to leap overboard. Be prepared for all scenarios by seating and securing them before you leave the dock.  

In addition, the leash should always be used anytime you disembark from your boat. Never let Fido run around the marina or take off when you land at your favorite watering hole or island. Just as you wouldn’t let your toddler or your child run wild, use the same smart precautions when it comes to your pup.  



   • Designated Drinker! Just like you, Fido needs PLENTY of fresh, clean drinking water when he goes boating. Pack a small bowl and bring along some designated bottled water just for him. Also, never allow or encourage your pup to drink the water that your boat is floating on. Throughout your boating adventure, observe him regularly to make sure he’s not becoming dehydrated … telltale signs include heavier than usual panting, dry mouth and general malaise. Make sure he gets plenty to drink, drink, drink!




   • Burn Baby, Burn? If you’ve ever been on a boat for a day and forgotten to use sunscreen, you know how painful the results can be! Did you know that dogs can burn like humans? Stop by your favorite pet store and ask about exclusive sunscreens for Fido, especially if your dog is a shorter-haired breed.




   • Bag It! Before you leave the dock, make sure to walk your dog to ensure he does his business before coming aboard. Plan for the unexpected however, and pack poop bags and some gentle upholstery cleaner and scrubber, just in case of an unforeseen accident.  Have a designated depository bag for this type of trash.




PFDs for Pets!   Many boat owners invest in PDFs for their pets, for good reason. Some, as previously mentioned, may instinctively know how to swim. Others may not and could drown. A PDF designed and fitted especially for your pet will provide flotation safety, while protecting against fatigue. If possible, have your pet accompany you to the pet store and ask an employee for help in fitting Fido correctly. If possible, choose a PDF that has handles so you can easily support and lift your dog out of the water as needed.




Swimming Caution!  In addition to the PDF, it’s important to introduce your dog to the water slowly. Never throw them in the water without proper preparation! If your dog has never been in water other than a bath at home or at the groomers, you might consider introducing them in a pool first before you take them boating.


When you are ready to take them swimming from the boat, exercise caution and consider a safe method of transfer. If possible, have two people help to acculturate your pet. One should get in the water first, and the other one can help pass the pup.

Be aware also of wildlife in the area and avoid taking your prized pet to waterways known for lurking predators.

   • Toys for Tots! It never hurts to bring some comfort floaties and toys along for Fido. Having a familiar toy can help ease anxiety.

   • Brush it Off! To avoid a mangy mess at the end of the day, rinse off Fido after you’re done swimming with some freshwater, Towel him off and run a brush gently through his coat. This will remove residue that can possibly irritate his skins and allow him to return home in great condition!

   • Watch for Nails!  Some boat rental operators don’t allow dogs onboard because of the potential for upholstery damage. Regularly trim your pup’s nails and be aware of this potential problem. Another good idea is to bring aboard a special towel or lightweight blanket for your baby to rest upon, especially if there is one that is familiar.     


Your friends at Emerald Coast Marine Center welcome you and your favorite fur balls! We’d love to post pix of you and your dog on our social media pages and to share any additional tips you might have for maximizing your time on the water with your beloved pet! Send pix and tips to: annamarie@emeraldcoastmarine.com

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