Traveling with Dogs on Boats

As traveling with dogs becomes more popular, dogs everywhere are taking to the open seas.

Dogs have been on water for as long as there have been dogs and water. Noah probably had two of them.

These days it’s become more common to travel with dogs on boats — sometimes for trips even longer than 40 days and nights.

Dog lovers who own boats, or simply want to travel by boat with their dogs, are finding the high seas more amenable to the marriage of two passions: dogs and boats.

“We named one of our boats ‘Dog House’ because we wanted to incorporate the two,” says Tammy Holden of Calif. In fact, she and partner George Valdespino have two boats and three dogs.

Boating dog owners say they want to maintain companionship with their pets, and while enjoying the boat more. Weekend excursions are ideal. Boaters in Southern California, for instance, often take their dogs up the coast or to Catalina Island – a small island off the coast – for the weekend.

“Most dogs like boats,” Holden says. The ocean breezes and everything that grows in the water — from fish to fern — “appeal to their sense of smell,” she says.

Dog owners often report their canines watching fish and dolphins swim by, enjoying a swim — with a personal flotation device — and greeting other boats and even low-flying aircraft … by barking of course.

To meet pet owners’ needs, many companies are introducing products to help keep dogs safe at sea.

“Because people want pets to be more a part of their lives, they’re taking them where they didn’t used to take them before,” says Bob Vetere, President of American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. “Boating is another area where people are doing this.”

Vetere says products like personal floatation devices, restraint systems, and ramps for getting on and off boats are some of the most common items being released.

The most important issue for boaters with dogs is safety.

“Anything safety-related that applies to us applies to them,” says Janet Gosselin, a boater from Calif. She and her husband Mike have a White German Shepherd named Tiaré. 

Tiaré is named for a French Polynesian flower, and the Gosselins are currently planning a long trip to French Polynesia — a South Pacific island grouping that includes Tahiti.

They’ll sail 3,000 miles one-way, with Tiaré, and spend a year there. 

To prepare for a trip – both day trips and longer excursions – boaters with dogs must consider a few important things:

Training: Owners generally have to train the dog to get on and off the boat — it’s a moving target, even when docked — and retain their footing when underway. A trip to the vet is also required, especially prior to a longer trip. The Gosselins found vets who also surf and boat, which made discussing their needs simpler.

Safety: Each dog gets a personal flotation device or PFD — landlubbers call it a life vest. “Even dogs that swim can tire out or get hypothermia in cold water,” says Tammy Holden. Safely tether dogs to the boat or keep them inside when moving. Also, keep pictures of your dog and get ID tags made with the name and call sign of the boat.

Food and waste: Take plenty of drinking water and more dog food than you think you’ll need. Potty breaks are a more complicated issue. Some dogs will go on the boat, some won’t. For day trips, a general rule is “go before you leave.” Doggie litterbox products do exist. Some Boaters will take their dogs out to land in their boat’s dinghy to do what needs to be done.

With a bit of effort, cruising in the open ocean with your canine can be great fun. And most dogs love it too! As Holden says, “I tell the dogs all the time, ‘You don’t know how good you have it. Not all dogs have boats.’”

Article Categories:
Dogs · Lifestyle