Boating with your dog

Paws for thought before cruising with your furry friend!

Wideshot of two dogs on a dock wearing red life jackets


If you enjoy boating, you probably enjoy taking your friends out on your boat to share the exhilaration of getting afloat. Especially if those friends happen to have four legs and a fluffy tail! 

But before you do it’s important to think about the steps you can take to keep your pet safe and happy while out on the water.

Top tips

Before setting off, give your dog a chance to get acquainted with your boat. This will help them to familiarise themselves with a new environment and ease their anxieties. Once on the water, try to keep your first trip a short one, as this will help your dog get used to the boat’s surroundings and movement. 

Always have plenty of fresh drinking water onboard and provide a shaded area for your dog to keep cool. When boating with your dog, keep the soles of their feet protected. Heat is absorbed through the pads on a dog’s feet, meaning boat surfaces can get uncomfortably hot for them in the sun. 

Life jackets or buoyancy aids can also help keep your pet safe while on the water. This applies both onboard and on dinghies for trips to and from the shore. Before boating with your dog, give them a chance to get used to wearing a buoyancy aid and allow them to practice swimming while wearing one.

A buoyancy aid with a light attached to the top will also help you to spot your pet if they take an unplanned swim in the evening.  



A dog sits eagerly waiting at the coast next to boat gear

Meet flat-coated retriever, Rowan. He’s an 8-year-old salty-seadog who loves nothing better than hopping onboard a boat for an afternoon at sea. Rowan got his sea legs at a young age, with his owner, Lucia Knowles. His current boat of choice is a 37ft Sunseeker, however, he has also been known to frequent dinghies and paddleboards. He just loves getting on the water! 

However, safety onboard is always key to a fun day of boating with your dog, as Lucia explains: “When Rowan joins us onboard, he is always decked out in his buoyancy aid and a long lead. Although he’s a strong swimmer the buoyancy aid gives us extra reassurance that he’s okay should he get into difficulties.

“Rowan’s been joining us on boats ever since he was a pup, he’s well acclimatised to life onboard and loves all the different sights and smells! One of his favourite things is to feel the wind in his ears, he’ll put his paws on the side of the cockpit overlooking the side of the boat and you can see his ears flapping in the breeze! He also loves watching all the bits of seaweed and twigs passing by.

“For anyone considering taking their dog on a boat I would say go for it. I think the earlier your dog is introduced to a boat the better but ultimately owners need to be mindful that it just may not be for them.

Travelling further afield

 Dog on a boat with wind blowing its fur

If you are leaving Great Britain with your pet, you should ensure that it is correctly prepared in accordance with the rules of the destination country. Details of approved routes and how to prepare your pet can be found on GOV.UK. Further information is also available from the Pet Travel Scheme.

Find out more…

The RYA aims to provide members with practical advice on all aspects of boating. This ranges from boating with pets, boating abroad, legal issues relating to registration, consumer disputes and salvage – to name a few. 

Become an RYA member today and help us to protect your boating rights and freedoms. Take advantage of free advice and support on all aspects of boating, while enjoying a range of fantastic personal member discounts.