Boat Dogs: Everything You Need to Know About Dogs on Boats

Boat Dogs: Everything You Need to Know About Dogs on Boats

The feeling of a cool breeze blowing through your hair as the water passes beneath you is pretty special, but it would be even better with your best friend beside you.

If you’re a boat-loving dog owner, you’re probably wondering if your pooch can come with you on boat rides. The good news is that your dog can be a boat dog, but there are a few things you need to prepare.

Can I Take My Dog on a Boat?

Except for very scary bath times, dogs tend to love being in and around water. Most dogs are excellent natural swimmers and quickly pick up how to move in the water — they don’t call the swimming stroke “doggy paddle” for no reason!

Certain dog breeds, such as Portuguese Water Dogs, Labrador Retrievers and Irish Setters are known for their strong swimming ability. However, not all dogs swim so easily: short-nosed “brachycephalic” breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs may have problems, as may short-legged dogs like Dachshunds. Remember to make sure your dog is comfortable and confident in water before taking them on a boat!

Are Dogs Allowed on Boats?

Well, it depends on the boat! If you’re going out with a company, make sure to clarify their pet policy before booking the trip. Likewise, if you’re hitting the lake or the seas with a group of friends or family, check that everyone is comfortable with your pooch being on board.

If you want to take your dog out on the water, we wouldn’t recommend being the only human on the boat. It can be hard enough to focus all of your senses on safely controlling the vehicle, and the added distraction of your dog could complicate matters. Make sure there’s at least one other trusted person on board.

Are Dogs Required To Wear Life Jackets on Boats?

If you’re asking “do dogs have to wear life jackets on boats?” then the answer is no, there aren’t any regulations regarding pet life jackets. But if you want to know whether they should wear a life jacket, the answer is a little different.

Even if your dog is a good swimmer, it is a dog. We all know what incredible creatures and companions they are, but we have probably also seen how distracted they can get! If there are any other animals around, such as birds, dolphins or even alligators, their curiosity can sometimes get the best of them. Even if there are no obvious distractions, dogs can get tired and disoriented in deep waters and this could soon spell disaster.

That’s why we highly recommend getting your dog a life jacket or flotation device. You can find them in most boating stores and pet shops. Make sure the jacket is a good fit and your dog feels completely comfortable in it, and try to choose one that has reflective material and handles.

If your dog falls into the water with a jacket on, a stressful call to the coast guard can be avoided. During a dog overboard situation, remember not to jump in yourself (you may accidentally drag each other under), but to circle back and cut the motor when you are close enough. There’s no need to panic as the jacket will help your dog stay afloat. Now all you need to do is grab the handles and pull your dog back up to safety.

How To Get a Dog on and off a Boat

Some harbors have metal ramps that lead down to the jetty where your boat is docked. During high tide the angle of the ramp shouldn’t cause much of a problem, but at low tide the angle of the ramp can be very steep. If your dog isn’t used to walking on metal ramps she might find a particularly steep one quite scary. Make sure to search online for tide predictions before heading out, and remember that the tide reverses approximately every six hours!

Every port and harbor is different, which is why it might be necessary to purchase a dog ramp or ladder to help your pooch get on and off your boat. There are many different dog boat ramps on the market, including floating ramps and plastic boat ladders, so be sure to shop around!

Once you have the right ramp you may need to train your dog on how to use it. Remember to be patient and to start teaching your dog while on dry land or shallow waters.

Some Top Boating Safety Tips for Your Dog


It can be hot at sea or on the lake and your dog can get just as dehydrated as you can. Don’t let your bestie drink sea or lake water; besides the obvious salt in seawater, lake water can also be harmful as it can be contaminated or contain harmful organisms.

Instead, bring a water bowl and plenty of H₂O — your dog will certainly be thankful for it as soon as she’s panting with her tongue out!


Water alone often isn’t enough to protect your dog from the heat. Dogs can get sunburnt too, which is why you should ask your vet about sunscreens that are formulated for dogs.

Always keep a shady spot for your pet, whether it’s below deck or under a seat. It’s important that they can seek relief from the sun at all times.


While too much sun and heat may be your main weather concern when going boating with your dog, you should also check the forecast for storms. The loud crack of thunder is known to provoke anxiety in many dogs, and in general, it’s best to avoid boating in such weather. If your dog gets nervous with loud noises, be sure to read up on how to calm your dog during storms or fireworks.


Your dog will need to do his business somewhere, so make sure to plan ahead! Take doggie waste bags and paper towels, or provide a space for your dog to go that is easy to clean. Some pet parents use puppy pads or astroturf, while others make regular stops on land to give their pooch a chance to go. If you are stopping, make sure to put your dog on the leash first — you don’t want them jumping overboard too early!

First-Aid Kit

When on a trip, it’s always a good idea to bring along a first-aid kit. Dogs, just like humans, can have accidents so it’s advisable to have a good supply of bandages, antibacterial ointment and medicines in reserve.

If you’re a boat and dog-loving person, it can be very tempting to combine the two. As long as you adhere to all of the safety tips then there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy relaxing boat trips with your pup too. If you’re looking for a treat to reward your bestie for good behavior while out on the water, you can’t go wrong with our Sustain Jerky Treats. They come in four delicious varieties, including our Cage-Free Duck Recipe which contains over 75% duck and is made using only six simple ingredients. These treats are expert formulated, suitable for all life stages, and sure to have your dog drooling in anticipation!

If you’re looking to feed your pet a full meal of Canidae® goodness, try our quiz. Just put in a few details about your pooch and we’ll advise you on the perfect food.