Does your dog give you a sad look when you hitch up the boat, and leave him home in the crate? If he’s like my golden retriever Copper, his head hangs low and his tail stops wagging. Fortunately, dogs and boats go together quite well—as long as you know the ins and outs of having a pup aboard.
IN – Carpet remnants. Take one about five feet long and three or four feet wide, and lay it in the cockpit so the dog has a place to stand. Many breeds have trouble getting a firm paw on fiberglass decks, and their claws make them skid and slide every time the boat takes a wake. With the carpet remnant on-deck, however, they’ll have a firm footing.
OUT – Baited hooks or lures, left swinging from the rod tips. Most pooches will see these as yummy toys, and could get a mouthful of trouble. Be very, very careful to de-bait and secure all hooks and lures, every moment they’re not in use. And don’t leave extra bait sitting un-guarded on the cutting board, unless you want to give the dog an extra-special snack.
IN – Treats, and lots of them. On a boat, you have to be able to control the situation at all times. If a large wave is coming, a storm is brewing, or a mechanical issue arrives, you have to know that you can control the dog in a heartbeat. As most canine owners already know, a sure-fire way to accomplish this is to have some of the dog’s favorite treats with you at all times, so you can grab his attention and hold it, at any time. If your dog is so amazingly well trained this isn’t a worry, of course, you can leave the treats at home (and, how much do you want for him?)
OUT – Leashes, once you’re off the dock. The dog will be curious, especially at first, and he’ll want to look over the side and stand as high as possible on the deck. But it’s extremely rare that a dog will actually take a flying leap. At least, it is for most dogs—some poorly-trained duck hunting dogs may break at the sight of a paddling mallard. But in both cases trying to tie the dog down often does more harm than good.
IN – A well-filled water dish. On freshwater lakes, this is no big deal. But the saltwater environment dehydrates humans, much less dogs. On any saltwater body, make sure you have plenty of the fresh stuff and a dish to serve it up.
OUT – A sad pooch, left at home in the crate.