SEATTLE — Summertime is boating season in the Pacific Northwest and safety is a top concern – but have you ever considered the needs of your four-legged passengers?
Cathy Madson, a certified dog trainer with Preventive Vet, has five tips for dog owners to keep their pets safe and secure on the water.
Tip #1: Invest in a canine life jacket
"Even for dogs who do know how to swim, a life jacket is a great idea in case they do get tossed from the boat and they weren't expecting it, or if they're swimming and they get tired,” Madson said.
They range in price from $20-$50 and come in different sizes for different breeds. It may take a while for your dog to feel totally comfortable wearing the jacket and Madson suggests giving them as much time as they need on land so they won’t feel stressed out on the water.
Tip #2: Sunscreen
“It’s so important for dogs, and the thing to remember is that human sunscreen is toxic to dogs,” Madson said, "You want to get an FDA approved dog sunscreen."
You should focus on the parts of your dog’s skin that are exposed to the sun, where there's not a lot of fur. In particular, apply sunscreen to the bridge of the nose, inside of ear flaps, and on the tummy.
Tip #3: Bring a non-slip mat
"It can be as simple as a yoga mat or just a kitchen mat, something where your dog can settle and have a grip for their feet because that fiberglass on those boats is super slippery for a lot of dogs and you don't want them sliding all over,” Madson said.
Tip #4: Hydrate
Salt water is very bad for dogs so you should avoid any chance of your pet taking a drink from the Puget Sound. Pack fresh water and a portable water bowl.
Tip #5: Make sure your dog can swim
The ability to paddle isn’t natural for all breeds. Madson suggests taking your dog on a test-run at a beach, before setting sail on open water.
“Make sure they're comfortable going into the water, how they feel about it, make sure they can handle all that stuff before you just go on a boat and toss them into the lake,” she said.