As the summer is winding down, you may feel increased pressure to get the most miles you can out of your boat. If you have a pet, maximizing your boat and using it as frequently as possible can sometimes be challenging if your dog isn’t comfortable in the open water. Here are some tips to help you help your dog feel more at home on a ship, and to have the best time possible!

Get Your Dog Comfortable on a Boat

Getting your dog to be comfortable on your boat will vary from dog to dog. But one of the best ways to start is to simply bring your dog aboard the boat when it is docked. Take your dog around the boat on a leash. Then, over time, let your dog roam the deck more freely and explore the surface for itself. Performing this same process over and over will help the place become familiar bit by bit. Then, take your dog on smaller sailing trips to better understand how your dog feels about being on the open water. Doing smaller trips can help you gauge your dog’s comfort levels and better assess how to best proceed.

Dog-Proof Your Boat

Dog-proofing your boat is an essential step for any boat owner. This is especially true if you have beautiful wood finish or nice custom seats on the boat. Understand that you are going to be putting your pet in a more stressful situation than normal. When your dog is stressed out, it is likely to perform more actions that are annoying at best and destructive at worst in order to cope. With this mentality in mind, go through your boat carefully and try to eliminate or protect any vulnerable areas of your boat from your dog’s claws, paws, and teeth. Putting laminate covers over leather seating is an excellent example!

Bring Dog Supplies

Have dog supplies on your boat to help your dog feel a base level of comfort. You might consider getting duplicates of some of the same dog supplies you have at home. For example, having the same toys that you have at home, the same dog food, and the same dog bed can all help your pup feel more comfortable on the boat. Be sure to do your research about the best dog food and water bowls—you might have to get specific no-spill options, as the boat will certainly be moving more than a kitchen floor!

Consider the Breed

Of course, it’s important that you think about the breed of dog you have or want to get. The type of dog can play a large role in the dog’s comfort level around water. If you’re in the market for a dog and anticipate bringing it on a variety of water-related or boating related activities, be sure to do your research on different breeds. There are many puppy breeds with different personalities and temperaments, so understanding different temperaments is essential. Such knowledge can help you not only find a good match for your personal personality, but also find a dog whose personality will accommodate for situations that initially put it outside of its comfort zone.

Teach Your Dog to Swim

Teaching your dog to swim is another aspect to consider. A large number of dogs are already relatively comfortable with water and are able to comfortably doggy paddle in different bodies of water. Other dogs struggle significantly to learn how to stay afloat. Make sure to check out if this is a problem at a shoreline or backyard pool before breaking waves with your pup. Depending on your dog’s situation, you might need to do some research about how to help your furry loved one learn to swim and be comfortable around big bodies of water. But doing so will make a big difference in your pet’s enjoyment of activities on and surrounding boats!

Adjust Your Route

Adjusting your sailing route is one way your pet’s discomfort can be minimized and your pet will be less likely to start yapping on a voyage. Being on the water for long periods of time can be especially unnerving for your dog. If you are simply doing leisurely sailing, this could mean only taking shorter trips with your dog aboard. This is also one way to work up to longer trips with your pet. Also, you can avoid larger ships whose sounds may be intimidating, and stay away from swamps that could be hard to swim in or clean up after should your dog jump out. Ultimately, adjusting your trips will be best for everyone involved—it will minimize your pet’s discomfort and will likely minimize yours and your guests’ discomfort at the dog’s whelping or barking.

Take Breaks

Another way to help your dog feel more comfortable on the water is to actually take breaks during each voyage. The functionality of this idea really depends on the type of sailing or boating you are doing but can make a big difference for your pet. For example, if you are boating in a lake, take some time every now and then to stop the boat and potentially let your dog out for a swim. If possible, adjust your route to allow for momentary breaks to go back on land. This could mean simply stopping at an island for a couple of hours and then resuming the voyage to the destination. Doing this will help your pet feel more safe and comfortable being surrounded by water while they are on a boat.

Train Your Dog with Rewards

In addition to easing your dog into the process of sailing, you may also want to reward your dog’s willingness to go on the boat with treats and praise for good behavior. Making it a fun, interactive, and rewarding experience for them will improve their attitude towards the activity, until your dog looks forward to it as much as walks! Repeating this process during each voyage will eventually help train your dog to be less anxious and better manage when out on the water.

Helping your dog feel more comfortable on a boat will truly vary by dog. It’s important for you to decide how important it is to get your dog boat-trained and boat-happy. Not all dogs will reach a place where they are fully comfortable on a boat. If it’s a priority for you, however, be patient but consistent, and most of the time your pet will eventually look forward to boating as much as you!

Read this next: Why a Boating Trip to Chicago Should Be Your Next Summer Vacation

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