Picture this: your best friend sitting on the bow snug in his life jacket, tongue lolling, the breeze whipping through his fur. Many dogs absolutely love boating, but when a canine is your first mate, Florida boat safety takes on a whole new dimension. Prepare both the vessel and your furry friend before you leave the dock so you can, in the iconic words of Styx, sail away.
First, can your dog swim?
Before you and Fido hoist anchor, check your pup’s swimming prowess. Does your dog like to swim, and is he able to do so comfortably? Though conventional wisdom has it that all canines instinctively swim when placed in water, size and breed often dictate how easy it is for them to do so. A retriever may give an Olympic swimmer a run for their money, but a pug is likely a born sinker.
If your dog is unfamiliar with the water, you’ll want to introduce the concept slowly. Try visiting a dog beach and throwing a stick into the water until the dog seems comfortable. You may discover your pooch is more a landlubber than a Michael Phelps. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to take him on short boat voyages – he just may not jump off into the blue beyond.
Purchase a dog life jacket.
This holds true regardless of the dog’s swim ability. A human life jacket won’t fit your dog correctly, so if you plan to take him out on the water it’s important to purchase a life jacket just for him. It’s all too easy to lose sight of your dog while boating, and if your best friend should fall off the boat, a life jacket is imperative.
Familiarize your dog with the boat before your first voyage.
Introduce the dog to the boat slowly. Let him walk around and sniff every crevasse. If the craft is docked in the water, he’ll be able to get his footing as it sways. Secure a mat or a piece of carpet on the deck and show it to him. This will be his place of security, a spot where he may rest in comfort.
Stock your boat with dog-friendly gear.
If an emergency occurs, you’ll be far away from a veterinary office. Make sure your first aid kit includes seasickness pills and that you know your dog’s dose. It’s also a solid strategy to keep a copy of his veterinary records on board.
Once he’s ready to set sail, keep a water bowl and canine-friendly sunscreen close at hand. Apply the sunscreen regularly, no matter how squirmy the dog is; canines with short hair are especially susceptible to burns. Fill the bowl with fresh water and keep it in an easy-to-find spot. That way, Fido won’t feel the need to drink salt water, which can be extremely dangerous.
Clean up at the sandbar.
While most people enjoy watching your dog frolic with glee through the shallow water and wet sand, it’s a sure bet that no one wants to step in their mess. Therefore, be prepared to, as they say, “scoop the poop.”
Bringing your dog along on your boating adventures is a great bonding activity for you both. Proper boat safety is the best gift you can give that best friend of yours. For other protection for the vessel and its human passengers, contact one of our marine insurance specialists. We’re happy to help!