By Minnie Garza
Last year 651 people died in boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). While there are no reliable statistics for dogs involved in boating accidents, but it does happen.
Many breeds aren’t powerful swimmers—their paws push little water and make poor paddles, and their bodies create lots of drag. If you want to boat with your dog this year, protect your pet by following these boating safety tips for dogs.
Use a Doggy Life Jacket
The USCG reports that 71 percent of fatalities on the water are caused by drowning, and 84 percent of the victims had no life jacket. The best piece of equipment you can buy for your dog is a doggy life jacket. They range in price from $23 to $35 at waterdoggy.com.
Since dogs come in all shapes and sizes, there is no one-size-fits-all life jacket. Before you buy one, make sure it fits perfectly. It’s a good idea to let your dog swim around in the life jacket in a shallow area before you head out, so you can troubleshoot issues like a loose strap before they become a real issue.
Safe boating will reduce your chance of having an accident on the water. Before you go out, review all of your state’s safety regulations and complete any required safety courses, if you haven’t already.
In North Carolina, the safety course is the first step in getting your NC boaters license. This is true in most states. Each has its own course, and most can be accessed online.
Make a Plan of Escape
Be prepared for whatever might happen. Lead your dog to your boat’s exits with your call and run him through a few dry runs from every part of the boat. You’ll be surprised how many obstacles are in your way.
Since dogs are creatures of habit, always give your dog time to adjust to your boat before you set sail. Let your dog jump around a little and run up and down the length of the boat. After a few minutes, he’ll get acclimated, calm down and find a comfortable spot.
Make Your Boat Dog-Proof
While your dog gets accustomed to your boat, look out for potential danger spots or things that might injure your dog while on the water. Here’s a list of things that could harm a dog on a boat:
- Fishing gaffs
- Fishing nets, tackle and poles
- Loose deck ropes
- Exposed deck cleats
- Vinyl seat cushions (when wet, these are extremely slippery to dogs)
- Water-level doors or “fish doors”
Once you locate problems, stow and secure anything that might harm your dog. Remember, items will be tossed around on rougher water, so stow securely.
Don’t forget items that will make the trip more enjoyable: Dog treats, suntan lotion for his groin and nose, extra towels or a mat for him to rest on, doggy toys and a waste bag to handle waste at sea.
Minnie Garza is a writer an animal advocate who enjoys hiking with her golden retrievers on the weekends. And no, her favorite animal is not a mouse.