Paddle sports and activities continue to grow in popularity, with recreational kayaking seeing an 11 percent growth from 2009 to 2013, reports the Outdoor Foundation. Wanting to include your pup in these fun outings makes sense, but doing so requires precautions to keep everyone safe and having fun.

1. Outfit your dog with the right personal flotation device.

Pet PFDs come in several types and varying levels of quality. Any life jacket you choose should have multiple adjustable buckles to allow a proper fit and full range of motion, whether on land or in the water. Another must-have: a handle on the back that you can use to pull your pup into the boat after a swim. And a brightly colored vest with reflective strips helps you spot him in the water at any time of day.

In terms of material, choose the one that best suits your boating conditions. Is the water cold? Neoprene provides warmth. Materials that dry quickly are also a plus. With weaved fabrics, look for a high denier count of at least 1,000; the higher the denier, the sturdier the fabric.

Keep Your Dog Safe in the Sun

When shopping for a pet PFD, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft recommends taking your companion along to the store. That way, you can test-try on and adjust before buying. You certainly don’t want to find out a life jacket doesn’t fit just before launch.

2. Make sure he has ID.

The PFD will have a leash ring on the back, allowing it to double as a walking harness while on land, but do not leave your dog’s collar and ID tags at home or in the car. If you were to somehow become separated, such as during a potty break on shore, his rescuers would have no way to contact you right away. Invest in a waterproof collar for boating if the everyday collar doesn’t cut it.

3. Pack sunscreen and water.

Despite their coats, dogs can get sunburned too. Veterinarian Carol S. Foil recommends using an SPF 15+ on dogs who have light-colored noses and skin with thin, very short or missing fur. Look for pet-specific products that don’t contain fragrances and other ingredients that can irritate your dog’s skin. Reapply as directed.

Also, drinking lake or seawater could make your pup sick or dehydrated, so bring along your own supply of H2o. A collapsible bowl will save space on board.

4. Add a non-slip surface to the inside of your vessel.

The movement of waves may make your dog feel unsure on his paws, which water on the floor will only make worse and could lead to an unsafe situation such as a tip over. Give him something to grip onto with a non-slip rubber mat. You can install specially made mats if you own the kayak, canoe or other boat. If renting, bring along a rubber car mat for his spot.

5. Create rules for your pup and discuss them with fellow boaters.

Training your dog to stay in one place while on board helps keep a smaller vessel steady and also decreases the risk of injury. Give the “stay” command and return him to his spot if he strays. If you are out on the water with a group, be sure that anyone he rides with understands your rules. Do not let your dog ride with inexperienced or intoxicated boaters and make sure that any boater your dog rides with has been trained in paddle boat safety.

Filed under: Dog Care

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