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Does Your Dog Enjoy Boating?

I haven't taken my dog on a boat, but I'm intrigued. Have you gone boating with dogs?

 |  Jul 8th 2013  |   7 Contributions


I recently had the opportunity to drive by Lake Lanier in northern Georgia. It’s a wonderful lake that provides most of the water resources for Georgia and a couple of surrounding states. You could definitely tell that summer was in full swing by the number of people enjoying the lake. There were people fishing off the shore and in small Johnny boats. There were campers and tents lining the shoreline area designated for camping. And, there were boats ... lots and lots of boats. There were pontoon boats, speed boats, wave runners, and virtually every other type of boat you could imagine. All of them had a few people enjoying being on the water, and quite a few had their furry doggie friends along for the ride.

Most of the dogs seemed happy to be there and actually enjoyed the ride. They would stick their noses high in the air to enjoy the wind blowing by and the spray of water that would occasionally enter the boat. However, some of the dogs stayed close to the platform of the boat with their four paws firmly planted. It was evident that they weren’t too happy to be there and hoped the boat ride would end soon.

It made me wonder, do dogs enjoy boating season as much as their human companions do?

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Dogs. Boats. What's not to like? A dog wears a life jacket by Shutterstock.

Now I have to admit, I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to the whole boating scene. I’ve been out on boats to fish in the ocean. It was fine being out on the open ocean and trying to catch the big one. I was always smart enough to take my Dramamine before the trip. I’ve seen what people look like when they get motion sickness. It isn’t a pleasant sight at all. It almost happened to me once when we went snorkeling at Molokai in Hawaii. The waves were particularly high and rough that day. The trip to the site and the actual snorkeling was great. We encountered sea turtles and spinner dolphins. However, the ride back was very unsettling for me. I had to sit out on the upper deck facing the bow in order to stabilize myself and breathe the fresh air. I’ve seen many friends not survive such an encounter and feel sick the rest of the day. As I explained in my last article, our dogs can experience motion sickness just like we do.

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Awaiting a watercraft. Dog dock by Shutterstock.

I know that boating on a lake is much different than boating on the ocean. However, there are still waves and wakes that appear from other boats passing you. This is especially true if a speed boat or a “wild” boat driver passes close to you at a high rate of speed, and you’re anchored or idling your boat. This can be a little unsettling for someone who is a novice to boating. So, I know that it has to be unsettling to any dog on a boat. They have four legs to stabilize them, but they are much lighter than we are and can’t hold on to the railing to stabilize themselves.

As I glanced over at the dogs that I saw on the various types of boats, I really couldn’t tell if any of them had dog-specific life vests on. This struck me as odd, as I fully expected to see most with them just in case they fell into the water unexpectedly. I know that most dogs can swim. However, I know a few of the smaller breeds, or those with a small snout, would have more of a problem swimming or staying afloat for a longer period of time. I thought at least the smaller dogs would have life jackets.

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This guy looks like a born sailor! Boating Bulldog by Shutterstock.

I wasn’t sure of what types of floatation devices or life vests are available for dogs. So, I decided to do a little research on Amazon to find out. I found several companies that manufacture and design life jackets for dogs. All of the life jackets had similar features that would assist your dog if he fell or jumped into the water. Each had convenient top grab handles for easy rescue by hand or boat hook. They had bright colors and reflectors for better visibility. A lot of them had fun designs like Hawaiian prints, flowers, and nautical logos. They had fully adjustable chest and neck flaps to fit any size dog. They had quick release buckles or Velcro straps, making it easy to place on the dog and quick to remove. They had belly-bands to keep them secure yet comfortable. They also had front float assists to keep your dog's head above water.

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Only those with opposable thumbs shall work the oars! Doggie goes a canoe-ing by Shutterstock.

I then found myself wondering if there were any boating laws or regulations that required a dog on a boat to be wearing a floatation device, or at least have access to one. I know for people, there are requirements regarding wearing a life jacket while on the water. These types of laws mainly focus on the number of life jackets a boat must carry on board based on the number of passengers. I’m sure each state has specific laws and regulations that have to be followed. After checking with the Wildlife Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, I learned that there were no specific laws of regulation for the state of Georgia. I recommend checking your own state or county for any specific laws or regulations that need to be followed.

I’ve never had the opportunity to take my dogs out on a boat -- yet. Thankfully, since my dogs don’t experience motion sickness, it sounds like something that could be fun for us if the occasion presents itself in the future. Be certain, though, that I will have the life vests handy for each one of us. You never know if you may need them.

Does your dog like boating? Does your dog wear a life jacket when on the water? Share your stories in the comments!

Read more on getting out and about with your dog:

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