For most of us, our pets are part of the family, so it’s hard to leave them behind when we’re out on the water having fun. In fact, many boat owners choose to take their furry friends with them. According to a recent cruisersforum.com survey, about 62% of those who cruise with pets choose dogs as their sailing partners, while cats account for roughly 36% of seafaring pets. Whatever your preference, here’s how to make sure the experiences you have with your four- legged mates are pleasurable and safe…
Help Your Pets Get Their Sea Legs
As with any new experience, your pet will probably need time to get comfortable aboard your vessel, so ease them into the sailing experience. On your first outing, take them aboard your yacht and just hang out with them. Let them sniff and snoop around so they can get used to the surroundings. Next time, turn the engine on (but don’t leave the dock) to adapt them to the noise and vibration. When you do this, be sure to hold them-or use a leash-to avoid a mad scramble to get away. Gradually work up to a short (two- to four-hour) maiden voyage, then a day trip, then an overnighter… and so on. Once your pet feels at ease, the sea’s the limit!
Important: Some pets prefer to be landlubbers, so know when to “abandon ship.” If you’ve tried several trips and your pet simply doesn’t like being on the water, leave them on land with a sitter. A miserable animal can be unpredictable and could even jeopardize the safety of others on board.
How Safe Is that Doggie (or Kitty) on the Water?
If you think all dogs are innately strong swimmers, think again. Truth is, some breeds just don’t take to the water very well. And even if yours is a good swimmer and loves splashing around, a short doggy paddle in a pool, pond or nearby lake is a far cry from swimming through Inflatable paddle board strong currents in open waters. Under these conditions, drowning is a risk because your pooch could panic and become fatigued and/or disoriented. For this reason, a pet flotation device (PFD) is a must. These are available at most boating stores and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Before you buy, talk to other boater/pet owners to get their recommendations. Better yet, take your dog in for a “fitting.” Look for breed- or size-specific devices. A PFD that’s too small will restrict your pet’s motion, and one that’s too large might slip off. Also check where straps and buckles fall and make sure these aren’t rubbing sensitive parts.
Go for brightly colored PFDs that have reflective tape so your pet will be easier to see. The PFD you choose should also have a handle on the back that rests between your pet’s shoulder blades and will enable you to lift your pooch out of the water, should the need for rescue arise.
It’s important to get your pet used to wearing a PFD before venturing out for a cruise. Start by putting the device on your pet at home for brief stints, then let them swim with it on for short periods of time.