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Boating With Dogs

Boating is a favorite pastime of Nantucketers, many of whom bring their beloved dogs along for the ride.  I even knew a friend travel the Great American Loop, a passage of waterways on the Eastern Seaboard, with his wife and diabetic cat!  But for most of us, an afternoon on the harbor is a wonderful way to spend time with friends and pets.  Recently, a little Pomeranian named Tank went overboard on the Chicago River and was later discovered in a park still wearing his life preserver.   This is a story with a happy ending, read the news brief HERE

In light of Tank's recent adventure, I would like to share some pet-friendly boating tips with you:

1. Personal Flotation Devices for pets
If your dog is not a natural swimmer, (and surprisingly, not all are) life jackets are a must. In the spring and early summer months, the water temperature can be quite frigid, so hypothermia and exhaustion are concerns. In the case that your dog does go overboard, (s)he has a fighting chance at survivial and may be recognized on shore. To purchase a doggy life preserver, inquire at Geronimo's or Madaket Marine

2. Give them time to find their sea legs
Allow your pets to familiarize themselves with the boat while it’s still on land. It’s also a good idea to give them a bit of time to get used to the rocking motion and the sound of the engine before you jet off.

3. SPF Protection
Pets can get sunburned too!  Sunscreen is a must if your dog has short hair, light-colored fur, or pale skin. Areas where dogs have less fur such as their abdomens and the inside of their legs are more-likely to burn. If you can’t find sunscreen specially formulated for dogs, try sunscreens made for children and babies.  Even if a long furry coat protects your pet from the sun's harmful rays, be sure there is a shady spot for them to cool off in.

4. Fresh H20
Unlike humans, dogs only have sweat glands on their noses and on the pads of their paws. They’re unable to cool themselves down as efficiently as humans, so they’re at a greater risk of overheating. Dogs cool themselves off by panting and drinking water, so make sure you have plenty available. Traditional dog bowls don’t work well on bouncing boats, so we use a spill-proof travel bowl. Water bottles are also a good option to keep your pooch hydrated.

5. Bladder Relief
Give your dog the opportunity to go ashore before you jump aboard. And if your boat allows, you can train your dog to do his business in a designated spot.

If you have any other tips or suggestions, please post a comment below!
(these tips were gathered from




Great post, especially about the sunscreen issue.  Do you know whether all dogs get sunburned or whether darker-haired or darker-skinned dogs don't suffer as much?

Dorothy Stover's picture

Nice Post Ema!

Ema Hudson's picture

All dogs are able to get suburned if they are exposed to the elements for long periods of time (days on end).  However, dogs with dark and/or longer fur are better protected.  I do reccomend using sunscreen on their bellies, legs and ears if you plan to spend the day at the beach with them.  And ALWAYS provide shade, no matter what color or length of the fur.