Dogs have always had a beloved place on boats. From Sinbad, the USS coast guard canine sailor, to the many four-legged mascots of the military, simply having a dog on board is to carry on a historic tradition. That said, boats are dangerous enough places for people, and dogs have their own pitfalls and danger zones to be aware of. These are our 6 safety tips for sailing with dogs, covering everything from hydration to keeping them out of harm’s way.
#1. Take the weather into consideration
It doesn’t matter whether you’re cruising through the Caribbean or heading to the coldest parts of Canada, you need to make sure your dog can handle either. In freezing areas, you need to keep them sufficiently wrapped up, and to always ensure there’s a working heater on board. There’s a lot of simple, easy-to-find items to help a dog regulate their temperature in the heat, such as cooling mats, or makeshift solutions like wrapping a few ice packs in a t-shirt and using that as a cooling pad.
#2. Get a canine life-jacket
These are indeed real, and to anyone who frequents the water they’re a common sight. Dogs are some of the best swimmers, but high seas can pose a serious challenge, and a high risk of drowning due to fatigue. Even if your dog comes out of the water OK, the excessive strain caused by keeping afloat can cause other problems, so ensure they have a well-fitted lifejacket if they’re likely to take a dip.
#3. Prevent them from drinking lake/sea water
Have you ever been walking with your dog, and then watched them lap happily from a dirty looking rain puddle? Canine’s aren’t picky about where they get a drink from, but on a boat you need to keep a close eye on their source of refreshment. Lakes and river waters are often contaminated by nearby factories or the boats that pass through them, and you should really know by now why salty sea water is not a good drinking choice. Simply make sure there’s plenty of drinking water nearby to your pet at all times, and they’ll be fine.
#4. Ease your dog into life at sea
If your dog’s first time on a boat ends up being a fast-paced, rough journey, then they’re not going to get their sea legs anytime soon. Start with a few more relaxed outings on a boat, and bring a few of their favourite toys and comforts. Animals can get anxious, even violent in an unfamiliar or dangerous situation, so just treat taking them on sailing trip like you were introducing them to a new house.
#5. What to do when they’re overboard
Even with the floatation device, disaster could strike if your dog falls in the water unexpectedly or at a dangerous moment. Always keep your dog out of the way of other sailors, and it's well worth spending the time attaching a swim platform to your boat; that way if they do fall, it’ll be easier to recover them.
#6. Dealing with sea-sickness
On the water, canines are as prone to upset stomachs just like us. If your dog is battling to deal with the rocking of the boat, then take a moment to let its stomach calm down, and feed them some milk. Some dogs also find the mere notion of traveling stressful, and this can cause constipation. You can resolve this by adding a daily teaspoon helping of vegetable oil to its food.