Setting sail with your dog onboard

Our dogs are our best friends and part of the family. When planning a sailing trip, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to join and be part of making memories on the water with us.  

We thought we’d put together 10 top tips for taking dogs on a boat, to help you when preparing and taking your canine companions onboard, so you can feel more at ease with the experience.

  1. Safety First

Before welcoming your dogs onboard, it is important to make sure you’ve put safety features in place. First things first, it’s important to have a high-quality life vest for your four-legged crew members. Vests that secure tightly around both the waist and the neck and come with handles make it easier to retrieve your pet in an overboard situation. 

A sea fence is also a great idea to add extra security and peace of mind, they sit around the entire perimeter of the boat and can handle impacts that will also protect humans and any equipment sliding overboard. It is also good to have a heavy duty harness with tethering lines to be able to keep them secure in the main cabin – in bad conditions this can help you to focus on safely sailing.

It is very important that your dog follows key demands from you prior to taking them onboard. They should be very familiar with Sit, Stay and Heel – these directions will stop them falling overboard, walking over anything hazardous and just generally getting under your feet.

  1. Take an introduction trip

When planning your first trip out on a boat with your dog, it’s best to keep it fairly short, around 2-3 hours, to let them familiarise themselves with the experience and see how they react in this new environment. 

Although many dogs will love this new adventure on water, it’s good to look out for signs of stress, such as tail tucking, trembling, cowering and indicators of anxiety that may suggest your pet isn’t enjoying it.

  1. Make a checklist

It’s a great idea to make a list of all the things you’ll need to consider taking onboard for your dog ahead of your trip so you don’t forget anything, for example…

  • Dog food and/or treats (dependent on length of sail)
  • Water bowl
  • Puppy pads
  • Toys and distractions

  1. Keep them hydrated

Bring plenty of water with you. Dogs can’t sweat and therefore can’t cool themselves down in the same way we can – so make sure you have a big full water bottle to decant into a bowl whenever you dog needs. It’s also important to make sure you have a shaded spot for them, when it gets too hot on deck.

  1. Pet first aid

Most experienced sailors will have a first aid kit on board, but when taking your dog, it’s a good idea to make sure it caters for them too. Include a few dog appropriate bandages and treatments for scratches and scrapes. You could also include some doggie sunscreen for those hot days on the water.

  1. Create a Toilet spot

If you’re not planning to return to land for several hours, you may want to make sure they have a corner of the deck where your dog can relieve itself. You could buy a mat or piece of artificial turf and pop it in a large tray – puppy training spray can help attract them to the area where they can go.

  1. Keep an eye on them at all times

Much like children, dogs like to get up to mischief, so keep an eye on them at all times to make sure they’re safe and out of trouble.

  1. Be aware of requirements and documentation

If you are planning on taking your pup on a lengthy sailing trip, where you will be visiting different countries, you’ll need to check the requirements for dog entry, the worst possible scenario would be that your dog has to be quarantined or not allowed entry at all! It is important to do your research before you go. 

The three main requirements to organise ahead:-

  • Health Certificate – approved by a licensed vet and an official health department signature and seal.
  • International Microchip
  • Rabies Vaccination after the microchip has been implanted
  • In Europe and some other countries you’ll need to obtain a pet passport

Some countries also require: Rabies titler, Flea and tick treatment, Heatworm treatment and De-worming treatment – it’s best to check country requirements in advance.

  1. Capture the moment

Remember to take lots of sailing snaps of your dogs, they make the cutest photos and will capture all the memories of you and your canine friend on the water.

If you’ve yet to take your four-legged friend onboard, we hope these top tips will help you feel more confident about sharing time on the water with them. Dogs are welcome here at Sutton Harbour Marina, so the whole family can make the most of time on the water.