Dog Days of Summer

Boat safety tips for dogs…

Taking your pup out for a put around the bay is a great way to keep them entertained and happy. My dog Stanley is a great boat dog and started hanging out on board of my Sailboat at 10 weeks old. He is very well behaved and loves to be out in the water. I’m sure there are a lot of our members out there who enjoy hanging out with their furry friends as much as I do, and for those who are thinking about it but aren’t sure, I wanted to offer a couple of safety tips.

Get your dog a life jacket!

One of the most important things to remember with dogs is that they can be careless when they are having fun. They also get distracted and do not think about the consequences of their actions. They are happy go lucky dogs! They can be on the deck barking at a boat one second and then swimming to that same boat the next. If your dog likes to jump in the water, always have a life jacket on him. Even if he is not the type of dog to just jump in, he could accidentally fall in and the life jacket can save his life and keep you from getting soaked as you try to lift him out of the water.

A few years ago a friend of mine took his family to Catalina. They did not want to leave their beautiful Golden Retriever at home, so they took him on the boat. He was a bit hyper and liked to bark at anything that moved from the aft deck. Half way to Catalina, my friend noticed that the barking had stopped. He went down to the aft deck on his Carver 35 to look for his furry friend only to find an open gate and no dog. They looked around the boat and found nothing. They decided to turn around and head back to Long Beach and maybe, if they got lucky, they would run into him. Of course this did not happen, and once they got back to Alamitos Bay they had to accept the fact that their friend was gone and had probably drowned.

This is a scenario that any one of us could easily face. NEVER, EVER, EVER leave a dog unattended. He deserves as much care as your children do. His life depends on your vigilance. If my friend had made sure that the gate was locked and made sure that his dog was within sight then he would have never lost him. If all that fails, a life jacket could be the only thing saving your dog.

A dog can get hypothermia just like you and me. Swimming in open water, even for experienced and strong swimmers, is a treacherous task and when your pets body is spending energy trying to keep warm, fatigue will set in that much faster. Most people who drown are strong swimmers that did not want to wear a PFD. Your dog is no different with the exception that he cannot choose to wear a PFD… that’s a choice you have to make for him.

Your dog has to learn to swim just like you do. He also needs to get used to wearing the PFD and learn to swim while wearing it. As with anything else on a boat, the last place you should learn to do something is in the event of an emergency, so make sure your dog is used to wearing his jacket, is used to swimming while wearing it, and is a good swimmer. Take your dog to the beach and swim with him while he wears his jacket. Make sure that the straps fit and are securely attached. Look out for chafing or loose straps. Make sure you learn how to adjust the jacket to your dog, and make sure it fits snugly enough that he wont slide out of it. Remember that your dog cannot adjust the jacket on the go, so you need to do that for him.

My friend had a very bad experience that weekend. Fortunately he received a call three days later. A local boater found his dog swimming close to the jetty and rescued his dog. He had apparently jumped in the water shortly after leaving the harbor and nobody noticed until they were half way to Catalina. He was lucky that he was close enough to swim closer to shore and that someone found him. He had been in the water for a while and was shaking and exhausted. The man who found him was so upset that the dog wasn’t wearing a life jacket that he decided to wait a few days to make sure my friend was convinced his dog had drowned. He did this to teach him a lesson and told him so on the phone once he finally called him. He told him to get a life jacket for his dog that would fit him, and only until he showed him the life jacket would he release the dog to him. That was one very harsh lesson, but one that they all lived to tell about it. This story had a happy ending but it could have just as easily been a tragedy.

If you don’t have a life jacket for your dog, it could end up costing him his life. Make the right choice for him. He needs it!

Happy boating!

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