Fido as First Mate: Pets on Board

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 12:00AM

Dogs are said to be man's (and boaters') best friend. So, unless you have a dog that's deathly afraid of water, there really is no reason not to take your best friend with you on your Monterey, because as all dog owners know, they love going places with the family. Any place!

Fortunately, most dogs love the water, are instinctive swimmers, and have a good sense of balance. They can also curl up in tight quarters and be perfectly happy, so they don't take up too much space.

To ensure smooth boating on your Monterey with a canine first mate, follow two simple rules: comfort and safety. If you're going out for a day trip, take your pooch out for a long walk beforehand so he can  get some exercise and relieve himself prior to boarding.

Safety is always important on a boat, and it is no different if your dog is on board. First, make sure Rover has a good ID tag and properly-fitting life jacket. You can find canine life jackets at boating stores and pet shops. Although most dogs are excellent swimmers, rough water or fatigue can signal trouble. If your dog ends up overboard for any reason, you'll be glad you got that life jacket. Don't forget to only let your dog swim when there is no chance of him scaring or otherwise stressing or annoying wildlife, such as ducks, dolphins, turtles or manatees.

You'll also need to train your dog not to drink water from the ocean or lake, because it might make him sick, especially salt water. Try hydrating your dog before letting him in the water, and take a container of fresh water for him. Since it can often be hot and dry out on the water, your dog is at risk of getting dehydrated, just like you.

Short haired breeds can get sunburned, so bring a neutrally-scented sunscreen, or just make sure Fido doesn't spend too much time in the sun and retire him to a shady spot. All dogs appreciate protection for their paw pads from hot decks. Cool the deck off with water or make sure Spot walks on mats or a nonskid carpet. Waxed fiberglass decks and running dogs don't mix, so be sure to acquaint Rex with the boat while it is still docked so he is not so excited when you actually set out.

Your dog will need to relieve herself somewhere. Take plenty of doggie waste bags and newspaper or puppy pads with you, and don't forget an odor neutralizer.

To avoid unexpected splashes, teach Fluffy basic safety commands, such as "on boat," "stay" and "sit." While the same sea sickness medications used for humans also work for pets, consult your vet.  A dog bed, cushions or a carrier near the boat's center of motion will help your pet feel better.

Be alert even at the dock, because that's where many accidents happen. A Terrier can slide down a slippery catwalk, and end up in the drink. A Labrador can be trained to grasp a mouth-size float on a rope so that he can be pulled to safety, and a long handled net can be used to scoop up a drenched Dachshund. And don’t forget to give Lassie a thorough freshwater washing after he goes for a dip to avoid skin irritations. 

Bottom line is, the younger your dog is when you bring him aboard, the better. You can work through any trepidation by bribing Ozzie with treats and then rewarding him. If you follow these guidelines, you and your dog will both enjoy the great outdoors and time spent together on your Monterey.

There are some great sites that sell pet products for your days out on the water. How about a nice nautical dog collar, as a reward for good behavior? What a good dog.

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