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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Safety

Tips for safe boating with your dog

Many dog owners take their companions on boats during the nice weather, but they need to take precautions to keep their pets safe, experts say.

"There is no better way to enjoy the great outdoors than to go sailing or kayaking with your best furry friend,” Natural Dog magazine Group Editor Ernie Slone states in a media release. "But not all dogs take to the water.'' 

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Dog owners must make sure their pets know basic obedience commands because they can be easily distracted and jump overboard when they see floating objects like a buoy, stick or water birds, Natural Dog magazine advises in its complete guide to holistic dog care. Natural Dog also says a dog must wear a life jacket, known as a pet flotation device. PFDs should be brightly colored in case the dog goes overboard in rough or low-visibility conditions.

Natural Dog magazine also advises:
  • Selecting a PFD with a locator beacon or device that triggers an alarm when it gets wet. If your dog goes overboard, you will know right away. 
  • Being aware of heatstroke symptoms, which include heavy panting, lethargy and drooling. If you see these signs, wet your dog with cool (not cold) water, head for shore and shade, and call your veterinarian immediately. 
  • Never hook your dog’s lead to the boat. This can be fatal if the boat sinks or capsizes. Attach one end of the lead to your dog’s harness or pet flotation device. 
Progressive Insurance offers these boating safety tips for dog owners:
  • Make sure your dog's personal flotation device has a lifting handle to make it easy to hoist your dog from the water. Give your dog time on land to get accustomed to wearing it.
  • Help your dog get his sea legs by gradually introducing your pet to the boat and the water. Give your pet a chance to explore the surroundings while the boat is docked. Turn on the engine so he get accustomed to its sound, smell and feel. Take short cruises and gradually build up to longer trips. 
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  • Protect your dog from the heat by providing shade and plenty of water, and wash the deck with cool water to protect his paws.

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