Safety Tips For German Shepherds & Dogs On Boats: Checklist


We’ve already written about travelling with German Shepherds in cars and trucks, and taking big dogs on planes.

But, what should you know about when it comes to German Shepherds and dogs on boats? 

Below you’ll find out about safety, equipment required, training and other important knowledge for taking your dogs on boats.


(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)

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Safety Tips For German Shepherds & Dogs On Boats: Checklist


A Few Things First…

Before you consider taking your dog out on a boat, consider whether it likes water and whether it will have any trouble swimming. wrote ‘Do German Shepherds Like To Swim? Like, Or Hate Water?‘, where you can read more about swimming training for dogs, and helping your dog to overcome it’s fear or dislike for water if it has one.

Be aware that German Shepherds as a breed generally don’t have a problem with water, but there are certain flat faced and short limbed/big bodied breeds like pugs and bulldogs that simply have their respiratory systems and body shape going against them when it comes to swimming.

The best boat breeds of dogs are breeds like the Retrievers and Labradors that were specifically bred for swamp and water swimming and are generally natural water babies/swimmers.


1) Life Jackets/Vests and Pet Flotation Devices

Pet life jackets are required by law in some countries and water zones.

Other reasons a life jacket for dogs on boats is important is if either you or your dog aren’t strong swimmers or if have a young puppy.

Some life jackets available right now are:


Measuring a dog for a lifejacket size:

Manufacturers usually include sizes, a sizing chart and measurements for dogs and life jackets.


What to look for in a lifejacket:

Strong buoancy that keeps your GSD or large dog above water

Fits your German Shepherd and is easily adjustable

Easy to put on and take off

Strong rescue handles ontop of the jacket for picking your puppy or dog out of the water

Float mechanism at the front of jacket, to keep GSD’s head above water

Bright color that is easily visible, with reflective material for darker environments

Strong and durable stitching and design, for use in fresh and salt water

Reputable company that can handle any issues you might have with the vest


Read more in this guide on the best life jackets for small through to large dogs.


2) Lots of Water, Prevent Dehydration

Especially on a warm day, your dog will lose water when it pants.

You can get doggy water bowls that stick to your boat base, or boat carpet, otherwise fill up a bucket with fresh water available to your German Shepherd at all times.

Symptoms and signs of dehydration in your German Shepherd are are vomiting, diarrhea, tired behavior, dry mouth and gums and loss of appetite.


3) Sun Damage/Heat Stroke & Doggy Sunscreen

If it’s a hot day or the UV rating is high, your German Shepherd is at risk of sunburn and sun related damage – especially to their pink areas like their snouts, ears and their underbelly if they lay on their back. The best way to avoid this is prevention, by providing shade for your GSD.

You can also get doggy sunscreen, but make sure it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals like zinc oxide.


4) Boat Potty Training

The best way to do this is to designate a spot (could be a disposable mat, piece of doggy astro turf, a newspaper etc) on the boat deck for your GSD to go potty – and ensure they are familiar with it.

If possible, take a trip in shore every 2-3 hours and encourage your dog to go to the toilet.


5) Introduce Your German Shepherd To Boating Gradually

Like training your GSD or dog to get comfortable with car travel, start dogs on boats, yachts and sail boats at the dock with the motor off.

Ensure you have a favorite toy, blanket or familiar dog item onboard to ease the transition.

Particularly watch out for other boats, people and hazards getting your dog into the boat at the dock. Some dogs can get dizzy and nauseous (sea sick), and slip around on deck.

Ensure you have some non-slip matting on deck for your dog, and see your vet for sea sick pills in the event that your German Shepherd or dog’s sea sickness doesn’t go away.


6) Basic Boating Commands and Obedience

Make sure your GSD (German Shepherd Dog) has a basic set of obedience commands – especially important for swimming and getting them to come back to you.

No matter what, your dog should know not to leave the boat without you saying so.

While sitting in the marina or dock, it’s a good training drill to stand with a leash on your GSD and let him or her explore the outer rail of the boat – anytime they go to stick their nose over the rail or jump on the rail, say ‘No’. Reward your GSD with a reward when they sit at the rail.


7) Check Marina and Open Ocean Rules and Regulations

Find out from your local government or state what the regulations are for dogs on boats and open water.


German Shepherd Dogs On Boats, Yachts and Sail Boats Checklist

Ensure your dog’s ID and contact information is up to date

Remove harmful and dangerous chemicals and objects from places within reach of your dog on deck. Dogs on boats may try to jump for rod hooks with bait on them, so make sure all fishing equipment is secured away, and sharp metal/protrusions are dog guarded.

Bring any dog medication, fresh water, dog food, dog life vest, potty turf, doggy sunscreen and dog boots.

For hot days, shading is important to keep your GSD out of the direct sun and keep their paws from the hot deck. Anti-slip mats are good to keep your GSD from slipping and sliding

Secure food and water bowls or buckets

Consider boat ladders, steps or ramps for dogs as points of entry and exit to both land and the water. Handy for bigger and heavier dogs like German Shepherds in particular!


The best boats for dogs and boat owners will make sure the above items are taken into consideration to ensure the safety of their dogs and themselves.



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