Tips and Gear for Boating with Dogs

tips for boating with dogs


It’s great when you can bring the whole family boating – and for us, that includes our dog George. George is a Hungarian Vizsla, and like all Vizslas, he loves the water. However, bringing a dog on board means there’s a few things you need to remember.

First, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. If you’re boating in salt water it’s important to remember that, just like humans, dogs can get salt water poisoning. This usually means that if your dog drinks too much salt water, they’ll have it coming out of both ends in short order. On a boat, this can make everyone’s day really uncomfortable. Keep lots of fresh water around for your dog to drink to ensure they’re not tempted to go to town with salt water.

Having a dog on board also means you need to keep an eye out for them. They can get underfoot pretty easily if you’re rushing around while anchoring or coming in to port. Our dog is well behaved and has “his spot” on the boat. This is a spot he goes whenever we need the deck clear for any type of maneuver we need to accomplish. Even though he’s well behaved, I always keep an eye out for him just in case.

Once you get out on the water, that’s when the fun begins. There are a couple products we use to make our life a little easier.

Dog Life Jacket:

It may seem silly to put your built-to-swim dog into a life jacket, but just like humans, dogs can push their limits, get tired, and panic. We always have our dog in a life jacket if we’re going to shore or any time he’ll need to swim an extended distance. Most dog life jackets also have handles on them so you can haul your best friend into a boat as needed.

dog life jacket

Dog Ladder:

We invested in a dog ladder for our boat just to save our back and knees from hauling him out every few minutes. He loves to chase the ball, which means a constant game of in and out of the boat. Easy for the dog, hard on us. Easily one of the best purchases we’ve made for the boat.


I’m listing this here, as many people just go out on the boat for the day / don’t have a dinghy, but it changed our life while boating with the dog. In early spring or late fall the water isn’t very warm, and your dog still needs to get to and from shore to take care of business (unless you’ve trained them to go on the boat – which is a whole different article). We used to plan all our boating trips around various docking options, or use questionable floatation devices to get our dog to shore. Having a proper dinghy gave us a lot more options.

It’s important to remember that when swimming with your dog, they may get excited and want to be near you / on top of you like they do on land. Their legs move constantly when swimming and this can lead to injuries, floatation punctures, etc. It wouldn’t take much for them to step on a child and push them under or injure them. We’ve never had an issue, just make sure you keep an eye on them.

dog swimming by boat

If you’re a long term cruiser, there are few more things you need to consider, especially if you’re crossing borders. Many countries have restrictions on animals, or require a lot of paperwork. Make sure you know what each country requires before landing, or your dog may be quarantined.

Other than that, just enjoy your time with your best friend! Being out on the water is extremely enjoyable, especially when you bring along the whole family.

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