dogs on boat

Whether you’re taking your dog duck hunting, fishing, or on a family boating trip, it’s important to plan ahead to keep your dog safe. When you take the right safety precautions, dogs and boats can be a fun combination. If you love boating, surely you’re going to want your furry friend to be a boat dog! Having all the necessary equipment is vital to ensure the fun and safety of not only your dog but everyone involved. Using this article as your guide, you’ll cover all the bases when it comes to dog boat safety.

Table of contents

Dog Boat Safety Tips Before You Head Out

It is important that your dog is comfortable on the boat to ensure they will still listen to you. An easy way to adjust your dog to the boat is to expose them to it before you go out on the water. If possible, take your dog on the boat a day or two before you plan on going out riding. Let them walk around the boat and get used to their new surroundings. Then when you actually take them out, keep the first ride short. This will help adjust them to the motion of the boat and be a good test to see how your dog will react on the water.

Having key products like a dog life jacket, dog boat ramp, sunscreen, and more are going to make your seaward outing a heck of a lot easier. Dogs can not navigate boats like humans do and boats are not specifically designed to accommodate our furry friends. Luckily, there are some handy products out there that allow your furbaby to tag along. We took a look at safety, pricing, functionality, and fun to bring you the ultimate dog boat safety.

Life Jackets For Dogs

As the weather begins to grow warmer, you might be packing up to go on the boat. Bringing your dog along sounds like a good idea, but it is important to make sure you plan ahead for your dog boat safety needs. The number one thing on your dog boat safety list should be a dog life jacket. Even if your dog is an excellent swimmer, it is imperative that they wear a life jacket when boating. Currents, the temperature of the water, long days, and other unexpected factors can inhibit your dog’s ability to swim.

Dog life jackets ensure your pup will be safe and stay above the water no matter the circumstances. Life jackets also come in handy when getting your dog on and off the boat. Most doggy life jackets have handles on the back so you can more easily and safely assist your dog back on the boat. Trying to pull a soaking wet, squirming dog, no matter how small, over the side of the boat can be dangerous for you and your pup. When they are wearing the life jacket, the handle allows you to lift them without hurting yourself or them.

Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket

Our top pick for dog life jackets is the Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket. Outward Hound is the number one brand for doggy life jackets, so you can trust that any of their jackets will be of top quality. As mentioned before, handles can make or break the quality of a life jacket. Located on the back and centered between your dog’s shoulders, the thick handle lifts your dog’s head out of the water first while still stabilizing the rest of their body. The Dawson Dog Life Jacket also offers maximum buoyancy with two neoprene foam panels on each side and one in the front to support your dog’s head. The neoprene used to keep your dog afloat also helps keep them warm. Neoprene is a natural insulator meaning it will help your dog stay warm in those colder waters.

The insulation feature also makes this an ideal life jacket for bird dogs. Retrieving birds in frozen or partially frozen lakes and rivers can be dangerous, but this vest will help protect your pup. In addition, it has two straps that buckle underneath your pup’s belly and a strap that keeps the neck flotation in place. Another key feature of the Dawson is its bright color. Available in red or orange, the vibrant color and reflective elements of these jackets make your dog highly visible in the water. Visibility is crucial so that you and other boaters know where your dog is at all times. 


To make any life jacket as effective as possible, it is vital to measure your dog correctly when sizing them for a life jacket. Outward Hound recommends measuring your dog’s girth to find the best fit for your dog. Coming in a range of sizes, this life jacket is based on your dog’s girth measurements.  You can choose from these size options, including:

  • X-Small: 11-15”
  • Small: 16-20”
  • Medium: 21-27”
  • Large: 28-32”
  • X-Large: 33-44”

We recommend the Outward Hound life jacket for dog owners looking to ensure the safety and comfort of their dogs. If you want to do more research on which life jacket is best for your dog, head on over to our article on The Best Life Jackets for Your Dog.

Doggy Sunscreen

The best time to go boating is when the sun is hot and the water is refreshing. However, while you may be worried about your tan, your dog is not. Just like humans, dogs can get sunburned. Sunburn for dogs is very painful, causing sore, red, inflamed areas of skin and can even lead to skin cancer. Putting sunscreen on your dog is important anytime they are going to be in the sun when the weather is warm. When you’re on the water where the sun’s harmful rays are magnified and reflected, it’s even more important to protect your dog. Although we give two prime dog sunscreen options below, you can always check out our full recommended line-up at The Best Dog Sunscreen.

Specifically, dogs with shorter hair and lighter hair colors are more susceptible to sunburn. However, all dogs should wear sunscreen,especially on their noses. The hair is usually shortest right on the bridge of your dog’s nose, leaving them dangerously exposed. Fortunately, dog sunscreen can keep your pup protected from the harsh summer sun.

While some human sunscreens are safe for dogs, it is better to use canine specific sunscreens to ensure there are no harmful ingredients. Zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), common ingredients of human sunscreen, are TOXIC to dogs. If doggy specific sunscreen isn’t an option, we recommend using a broad spectrum, baby sunscreen that is fragrance, zinc oxide, and PABA free. Before applying a dog sunscreen to your pup, you should test it on a small patch of skin first. Once you know your dog won’t have a bad reaction, it will be safe to apply it all over. To help you protect your dog’s skin, we want to show you some of our favorite dog sunscreens on the market.

Petkin Doggy Sunscreen

Petkin Doggy Sunscreen comes in three, easy to use forms. With a mist, a stick, and even sunscreen wipes, Petkin Doggy Sunscreen is serious about protecting your pet’s skin. Comparable to SPF 15 for humans, this sunscreen offers excellent coverage for your pets’ sensitive areas. All three forms are made with a non-greasy, non-toxic formula that is easy to apply. To use, simply mist your dog’s belly, ears, nose, and entire coat for lighter, shorter haired dogs. Or, if you are using the stick or wipes, simply rub all the areas prone to sunburn.

While we have no complaints about the mist or stick, we have found that the wipes tend to dry out pretty quickly. This makes the wipes less effective in covering your dog with sunscreen. After applying the sunscreen, you should watch your dog carefully so they do not try to lick it off. The sunscreen needs to set for a few minutes to make it the most effective. When playing in the water, reapply sunscreen when your dog gets out and dries off. In the end, Petkin sunscreen is great to have for dog boat safety.

Epi-pet Sun protector Spray

Epi-Pet Sun Protector is a veterinarian developed skin treatment that is FDA compliant for use on dogs and horses. This sunscreen protects your dog’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays, even through their coat of fur. In an easy to use sleek bottle design, this can be sprayed from an angle, making application easy. Spraying your dog’s belly, legs, feet and other hard to reach areas is simple with this conveniently designed spray valve.

Made with a non-greasy, non-oily solution, Epi-Pet Sun Protector offers full sun protection without making your dogs fur/hair gross. While not waterproof, this sunscreen does seem to last through a dip or two in the water. However, be sure to reapply as you feel necessary. Similar to PetKin Sunscreen, it is important to let the sunscreen soak into your dog’s skin for effectiveness. Simply distract with a treat to deter from licking the sunscreen off and you’re good to go!

Other Sun Protectors

The sun’s harmful rays are going to be intensified on any boat trip because you’re floating on water. In the end, you may find yourself wanting a bit more protection for your pup (that never needs re-application). For example, lightweight and stylish dog clothing will be sure to protect your dog from the sun.

Louie de Coton Sun Protection Shirt

If your dog is extra sensitive to the sun or sunscreen is not an option, there are a few other options for your pup. Wearing sun protective shirts is a great way to make sure your pup is covered. Made in the USA, these shirts are lightweight and breathable, perfect for those summer days. They are also made with human grade, anti-odor quick drying technology, keeping the shirts fresher for longer. Blocking 98% of the sun’s harmful rays, this shirt is a no-brainer for dog boat safety. Plus you never have to worry about reapplying! Made with four-way, stretchy fabric, your dog will love wearing this as much as you love that they are protected.

Eye Protection

While you’re traveling at high speeds on your boat, water and debris can fly through the air. Us humans have sunglasses to shield our eyes, but our pups need some eye protection as well. If you’re planning a boat trip, you will definitely want to look into a pair of doggy goggles for your dog boat safety needs. By using a pair of dog goggles, you can protect your dog’s eyes from the sun, water, and debris.

QUMY Dog Goggles

Another important dog boat safety item is doggy sunglasses. These can be especially helpful for those windy days out on the water to protect your dog from the wind. Made by Qumy, these adorable doggy sunglasses have shatterproof lenses. Protecting your dog’s eyes from wind, water, the sun, and debris, these glasses are a must-have if taking your dog on a boat. The only con to these glasses is that they are made for larger dogs, weighing at least 15 pounds. Coming in six different colors with elastic bands to fit on your dogs head, these are glasses will be perfect for your pup! If you’re interested in seeing more goggle options, head on over to our article on Must Have Dog Goggles.

Portable Water Containers

Every boater knows how dehydrating it can be out in the hot sun all day. Even though you’re surrounded by water, it seems like water is what your body craves the most. Of course, our pups are going to need water too. Just as you don’t rely on the lake/ocean/river to quench your thirst, you shouldn’t expect your dog to drink it either. In fact, it might even be harmful to your dog to drink the natural water. On average, a dog needs at least half a cup of water every two hours. Remember,  heat and sun exposure can increase the amount of water your dog will need. Having dog-friendly and effective water bottles and bowls on the boat will help keep your dog hydrated and safe.

Buddy Bowl Spill Proof Water Bowl

A spill-proof bowl is an excellent way to give your dog water on the boat without worrying about the mess. Buddy Bowl’s Spill Proof Water Bowl is a go-to choice. Made with durable plastic and a unique design, this bowl is perfect for bumpy, fast boat rides. While it claims to be spill proof, you can certainly still manage to spill water out. However, this bowl is the closest thing to spill-proof there is. It will keep water in if tipped over and even completely flipped! The unique design of the lid catches any water that would spill out. This bowl also helps keep the water inside clean by covering most of the opening.

The only con to this bowl is that it is not slip resistant. It will slide all over the boat floor if not held or restrained. However, this is a minor detail compared to all the good this bowl can do. Coming in a 32-ounce or a 64-ounce size, Buddy Bowl’s Spill Proof bowl in an excellent choice for boating.

Highwave Auto dog mug

100% made in the USA, these dog water bottles are what every owner needs! Perfect for all outdoor adventures, the Highwave Auto Dog Mug is both a bowl and water container for your dog. Coming in a variety of colors, the 20 oz. water bottle has a unique and effective design. Fill the water bottle like a normal bottle, then squeeze it when you want to fill the dog bowl. The water will fill the bowl allowing your dog to drink normally. When you release the bottle, the remaining water filters back in the bottle, never wasting a drop! These water bottle bowls are food safe, BPA free, and almost 100% leak proof.

Featuring a removable velcro strap, this water bottle is a must-have when you’re on the go. Not to mention, they fit in both car or boat cup holders for easy storage, making it perfect for having accessible water out on the boat.  Plus, the special valve on the bowl means that you do have to continue to squeeze and hold while your dog is drinking. However, once you release, the water is drained back into the bottle for safe keeping.

Boat Ramps for Dogs

Most boats come with a ladder on the back for humans to easily get in and out of the water. Unfortunately, these ladders are not suitable for dogs. Unless you want to have to hoist your dog back into the boat everytime they go for a swim, we highly recommend getting a dog boat ramp. Listed below, we have compiled our favorite dog accessible boat ramps to make your life easier.

Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder and Ramp

The Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder and Ramp is the perfect access ramp to help your dog back on the boat. Set up is simple; all you have to do is attach the Paws Aboard Boat Ladder to your boat ladder and it is good to go! While the ramp it is suitable for pets up to 130 pounds, humans should not try and use this ladder. When you need to use the boat’s ladder for human access, you can remove the dog ramp and still hook it to the side of the steps. This ladder attaches to almost any boat ladder with three or more steps.  


The portable design allows for the ladder to be folded in half when not in use. Although not easily read in their instructions, you actually can adjust the ladder’s width by sliding in its arms. In addition, this ramp is UV resistant, rust, and corrosion proof, and slip resistant. The steps of the ladder have a ribbed texture to provide safe entry and exit for your dog. You should expect to help guide your dog up and down the steps as a safety precaution. However, this is much simpler than trying to manually lift a dog in and out of the water.

The Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder and Ramp should be stored when the boat is moving. For boat ladders that are wider than 14 inches, you will need to also purchase the boat ramp extension. Also, you may need to help coax your dog up the ladder a time or two before they are comfortable using it themselves. However, once they are used to it, this ladder will save your arms and back from having to hoist your dog onto the boat!

Great Day Pet Loading Platform

The Great Day Pet Loading Platform (aka the Load-A-Pup) offers a unique way to help dogs get back on the boat. Instead of a ladder or ramp, this alternative is a platform that rests below the water to make it easy for pups to get onto.  Once they are on the platform, it is just a short step up to get onto the boat. This alternative may be better for dogs who are wary of steps, have joint issues, and bigger dogs. Unlike the Paws Aboard boat ladder, this loading platform is designed differently so it truly can fit any boat ladder! All you have to do is hook the platform over one of the rungs of the ladder and it is good to go!

Another pro of this platform is that it only weighs 7lbs. and is USA made! Made out of lightweight yet durable aircraft aluminum, this platform is easy to carry and take boating with you. It even folds flat for convenient storage. The 14-inch by 20-inch platform has gripping ridges to ensure solid footing for your pets. Your dog may need to get used to the platform before feeling comfortable one it but this process shouldn’t take long. Overall, adding this pet platform to your list of dog boat safety items will be a great idea.

A major con to this platform is that it does not float. You have to be careful putting the platform on the ladder if you are in the water. If you let go of the platform before it is secured to the ladder, it will sink! We suggest attaching a pool float to the ladder or having two people install it to make sure it doesn’t accidentally get loose and sink.

boat dog Leashes

Boating with your dog can be fun but again, it is most important that they are safe. Using a leash that is compatible with water is an excellent way to add visibility to your dog and also keep them from swimming off. A leash that is long yet durable, brightly colored, and can float is a necessity when letting your dog swim in the water. Additionally, a leash is an excellent product for dog boat safety in case anything were to happen to your dog while they are in the water. Being able to pull them back to the boat is much safer than trying to steer the boat to them.

SportDOG Orange Check Cord

While not designed specifically for boating, the Sport Dog Orange Check Cord lead is a safe choice when picking a leash for your boat dog. About thirty feet long, this cord allows your dog to swim freely around the boat while still keeping them at a close distance. The bright blaze orange color provides high visibility even when in the water. This cord floats, making it perfect for any boating trip. As well as being able to float, this lightweight yet strong cord is made with specific materials that won’t tangle. While it has no handle or loop like a normal leash, this lead is meant to be tied off somewhere on your boat. It does have a strong, small clip made with heavy duty brass so you can be confident your dog is secured.

For ultimate dog boat safety, do not attach any leash to your dog’s collar if they are going to be swimming. It is much safer to attach a leash to their harness or life jacket in case you need to pull them to safety.

Soft Lines Floating Dog Leash

The Soft Lines Floating dog leash was specifically made for beach use and salt water swimming. Nevertheless, this leash is the perfect leash for any water swimming! With the use of this leash, you can give your dog over 20ft of freedom when they are swimming around. Made with multifilament polypropylene fibers, the leash stays soft and pliable even in cold waters. The bright blue color adds visibility to your dog, making it visible against any background.


The leash is hand sewn and resistant to odor, rot, mildew, and alkalis (salt water). For ultimate durability, the swim snap has a stainless steel spring hook that won’t rust when exposed to water. The Soft Lines Floating dog leash floats, meaning it won’t pull your dog down or get tangled in your dog’s legs. Also, the leash does not absorb water making it quick drying and able to be stored wet or dry. Unlike the Sport Dog Cord, the Soft Lines Leash does have a loop/handle on the end for you to hold onto.

Reminder: it is especially important to have your dog on a leash and in a life jacket when boating in areas with a current. Currents can be dangerous and sweep your dog away. You always want to have a way to pull them into safety and this leash is an excellent choice.

Dog Towels

Just as you like to be nice and dry after a swim, your dog does too! As they track up water onto the boat, there is an increased danger of slipping. Plus, leaving your dog with wet fur is going to get smelly. It’s definitely not something you want in the car on the ride home. You could just use one of your towels to dry them off, or you could have a special towel just for them. Microfiber towels work the best for quickly drying a sopping wet dog.

Especially if it’s a bit breezy on the water, a towel to dry off your pup should be included in your day-pack or even permanently stored on the boat. Not every day is gorgeous on the water and the chilly air is going to make your dog shiver if their fur remains wet.

The Soggy Doggy Super Shammy

Our top pick for microfiber towels is the Soggy Doggy Super Shammy. This towel is made with durable, super absorbent microfiber chenille, which can hold up to 7x its weight in water. The 30-inch long Shammy has two convenient hand pockets for you to use. These pockets help you have control of your dog while drying them off. It has tiny, textured strands that stick out of the surface of the towel, acting  as sponges to soak up 5 times more water than cotton towels.. Even though the towel isn’t huge, the tiny strands add a significant surface area to the towel making it suitable for dogs of all sizes.

With quick drying technology, this towel doesn’t stay wet for long, eliminating the worry of wet dog smell. To provide you with convenience, it’s machine washable and dryable! Be cautious, since this towel is meant to soak up water, it usually comes out of the washer soaked. However, a quick run through the dryer should do the trick in returning it back to normal. Keeping your other towels clean and  your dog dry, this Super Shammy is a must-have on boating day! If you want to see more dog towel options, head on over to our article on The Best Dog Towels.

Dog Potty on the Boat

If you plan on docking every couple of hours to let your dog relieve themselves, this might not apply to you. However, if you know you’ve got a long day of boating ahead of you, you will need a plan of action for your dog’s bathroom needs. The last thing you need is for them to do their business on the boat deck, creating a huge, wet mess. Additionally, your pup may become extremely uncomfortable if they feel there is nowhere to go potty.

PetSafe Pet Loo

Our go-to portable dog potty is the PetSafe Pet Loo, which. This portable dog potty simulates a grassy area for your dog to go potty on. It has an innovative draining system that quickly stores urine while keeping the grass dry and your dogs paws clean.


The urine drains through the synthetic grass into a trap tray below. In the trap tray is a specially formulated Wee Sponge powder that traps moisture and odor on contact. Fortunately, tThe powder turns the urine into a gel so you don’t have to worry about it sloshing around on the boat. If your dog goes number two, you will need to pick up the poop in a doggy bag like you would at the park. Regardless, that is still better than having a mess on your boat deck!

With sizes small, medium, and large, the PetSafe Loo is suitable for most dogs of any size. The easy cleanup, and no spillage, and plus the compact size makes this potty the best option for on the boat relief. It will take your dog some getting used to and training for them to be comfortable with it, but it is so worth it! Another bonus to this portable potty is that it is environmentally friendly.freedom. Unlike other portable potties that use training pads, this synthetic grass is reusable and washable. The easy to use, easy to clean design of the PetSafe Pet Loo makes this spill-proof potty perfect for long days on the boat.  

Other Products for Boat Fun

Dog Flag

Putting a flag on your boat can be a fun way to add personality to your boat. Not only is it fun to show you have a dog on board, but it works as a dog boat safety measure as well. By signifying to other boats that you have a dog on board, they will know to be extra careful when riding around you. Also, if for some reason patrol is needed, they will know that a dog is on board. This will help them to know to look for a pup in case of emergency. The Paws Aboard Paw Print flag is a basic, well-known flag to add to your boat. Made out of durable materials, this 20-inch by 12-inch flag is sure to catch the eye of any boater passing by.

Floating Dog Toys

Last but not least, having toys on the boat to entertain your dog is just one more way to make boating the best for your dog. Water toys are an excellent way to encourage dogs to get in the water to cool off and participate in some low-impact exercise. These floating dog toys are a fun, interactive way to involve your dog in all the family fun. In fact, there are so many on the market now that the subject deserves a full article to itself. To find a great water toy for your dog, check out our article on The Top Water Dog Toys of 2018.