Doggone it! How to Boat Safely With Your Pet

Featured pup belongs to the Galley Pirates!

Planning on taking your four-legged friends boating with you? Before getting underway, make sure you’ve prepped your pet for safe sailing. We have a few tips to get you started, but be sure to always check with your vet beforehand!

Slowly acclimate your pet to being on a boat

Let your pet explore your boat while it’s secured at the dock so they can get familiar with their surroundings in a controlled environment. Also, try running the engine to make sure they’re comfortable with the noise. You wouldn’t want them to panic at the sound of the engine right before heading out!

Teach your pet safety commands

While you may be hard-pressed to find a cat that will listen to verbal orders, it’s always a good idea to teach your dog basic safety commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “on/off boat.”

Buy a pet-friendly life jacket

Just because your dog or cat can swim doesn’t mean he doesn’t need a life jacket! Your pet might fall overboard and panic, or inclement weather and tiredness could make swimming too challenging. To keep them safe, get a well-fitting life jacket with a handle on it so you can easily pull your pet out of the water. Take some time before your voyage to let your pet practice swimming with the life jacket on.

Have plenty of water to avoid dehydration and overheating

Carolyn Shearlock, blogger at the Boat Galley says, “Out in the sun, it’s easy for pets to get dehydrated. Water should be available all the time, but sometimes that’s not really feasible when underway. Our rule is that if we get a drink for ourselves, we make sure to get a bowl for the dog, hold it where she can reach it and encourage her to drink.” In other words, don’t forget the water dish!

Have seasickness medication on hand

Humans aren’t the only ones who get a bit queasy when cruising. Pets can get seasick, too! Check with your vet to see what medications you should have on hand, just in case.

Keep an eye on your pet

Make sure you know where your pet is at all times, just as you would a child! The Boat Galley’s Carolyn opts for a leash, to ensure that her pooch doesn’t fall overboard: “We use a leash to make sure that our dog can’t fall off or get into potentially dangerous areas of the boat. If they do fall or slide, a collar could injure a dog’s neck, so we use a snug-fitting harness. Underway, we tie the free end of the leash to a secure point on the boat. Make sure your dog can reach a shady and secure place while hooked up.”

Watch their footing

Carolyn shared one last piece of advice for boaters sailing with pets: “If you watch your dog, you’ll notice where he or she doesn’t feel very sure-footed on the boat. We use adhesive non-slip strips made for the shower to give our dog better footing in those places.”

Remember, some animals just don’t handle water well. If your pet seems to have an intense fear of water, it’s best to leave them at home.

Carolyn ShearlockCarolyn Shearlock is an author and blogger who shares boat-friendly recipes and other sailing tips over at The Boat Galley.

Can’t get enough of pets on boats? Neither can we. That’s why we dedicated a whole Pinterest board to our favorite four-legged boating companions.

Follow Boat Ed’s board Pets and Boating on Pinterest.


  1. I like the vest shown that keeps the head up… My dad brought his dink up to docks and his Boston Terrier would just jump onto the dock. One time he jumped too soon, and my dad tied off, assuming Jiggs would just come to the surface and he’d just lift him out by his harness. But Jiggs kept sinking like a rock! dad had to reach full-arm length down into the water to pull him out.! Jiggs shook off and headed for home at a fat-dog waddle– he was DONE with fishing!

  2. Thanks for useful info . We were trying to take inboard our cat but it seems that cats are more difficult than dogs in terms of boating…

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