Most dogs love getting out on the water as much as you and I do—and you wouldn’t leave you best friend stuck on shore every time you left the dock, would you? So the next time you grab your sailing bag or fishing rods, also grab the lead and the water bowl. Just remember to use these dogs-on-board tips, to keep the trip a fun one for everyone.

dogs on boats

Dogs love boats too!

1. Bring plenty of fresh water. Dogs can’t perspire, and they’ll need to lap up lots of H2O in order to stay cool, especially when the sun is blazing.

2. Let him off the leash—if you trust him not to take a flying leap. Usually dogs won’t jump from a boat that’s moving (except in the case of a poorly trained hunting dog, or an inexperienced puppy), and he’ll be curious, and want to move around a lot. Note, however, that when the boat isn’t moving plenty of dogs will take an unexpected plunge.

3. Bring a piece of indoor-outdoor carpet. Lay it in the cockpit, and your dog will be able to keep a solid footing. Fibreglass nonskid decks may provide a secure footing to you and I, but they can be quite slippery to a dog’s paws.

Dog fleece

A fleece vest like this one from Equafleece is ideal to pop on when your dog gets wet - it aids drying and keeps him warm

4. Don’t cut bait, and leave it sitting out. Do so, and there’s a good chance it’ll get gobbled up. Ugh - worm breath!

5. Don’t leave lures swinging from fishing rod tips. A dangling temptation with hooks is NOT what you want your pup to go chasing after.

6. Make sure the dog has a chance to relieve himself, before you leave the dock. Nothing ruins a trip on the boat like having to go… and being unable to!

7. Be prepared to turn around on rough days. Yes, dogs can get seasick, too. It’s not as common as it is with people, but it does happen. Don’t plan on a long day in rough waters until you’ve had a chance to expose your dog to rocking and rolling, and you know for a fact that he doesn’t get green when the waves kick up.

8. Take plenty of treats. Positive reinforcement is always the best way to get a pooch to do your bidding. With a handful of treats, you can get him to stay put when you’re occupied with important tasks, like setting the anchor or tying up lines.

Dog lifejacket from Ezydog

A lifejacket like this one from Ezy Dog takes a bit of getting used to but they are becoming increasingly popular

9. Consider buying a doggie lifejacket or vest. These provide floatation, and neoprene models also provide some warmth if you’re boating in cold waters and chilly air. This is especially important for retrievers, which almost always find a way to get wet sooner or later. In fact, jumping off the dock before you even shove off is a distinct hazard with this breed!

10. Use a ramp or carry your dog onto the boat, if it sits well below dock level. Otherwise there’s a fair chance your dog will try to jump onboard, and possibly injure himself. Boarding and disembarking should always be controlled, planned motions.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.