Many boat owners are also pet owners. And as valued members of the family, pets are often included in boating outings. A vital recommendation for safety of your pet onboard is the inclusion of life jackets. Many think all dogs are natural swimmers. While a dog most likely “dog paddle,” many dogs are not good swimmers. Even those that are can get tired in a long swim, get injured in an accident and be overwhelmed by rough waters.

Important features to look for in a dog life jacket are sufficient flotation, adjustability for the many different body shapes, rugged attachment hardware, durable covering material, a leash attachment point and a sturdy grab handle. Some jackets wrap the flotation, or at least extend the fabric, around the dog’s body. Durable materials and rugged construction are important for these active animals. A grab handle is essential for lifting your dog into the boat and holding on to them at times. One important safety note, never tie your dog onto the boat, at least in any condition that could lead to a boat upset.

The boating world has joined the ranks of promoting the well-being of our four-legged friends. BoatUS has recently launched several programs for dog and pet owners, including new pet insurance coverage. Effective June 1, the program automatically includes $1,000 of coverage for injuries as the result of an on-the-water accident, as well as a death benefit, for no additional cost. As much as we don’t like to think about the possibilities of an accident, we do know we have to be prepared. Sadly, pets can be injured in a boating accident. If your boat suffers a covered loss and your (or family member’s) dog or cat onboard suffers an injury, coverage up to $1,000 will be allowed for veterinary expenses, or for final arrangements should the worst happen, for each pet aboard.

The BoatUS Boating Pets website offers a pet photo gallery, a collection of boating pet articles, a “Pet Shop” with products such as GPS-enabled dog trackers and boarding ramps, information on canine water training programs, how to earn “merit badges” from Dog Scouts, and a list of pet-friendly marinas. Additionally, a pet message board to ask questions about taking pets boating is available for BoatUS members.

Boating with your dog or pet can be a great experience, but there are important things to consider before including them next time you go out on your boat. Like some people, there are pets that just don’t make good boating companions. It is best to introduce your pet to a short boating excursion to see how they acclimate. Having your pet onboard will most likely add to the family time together and doubles the pleasure but make sure your four-legged friend likes the water.

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“Boating Safety for ‘Man’s Best Friend'” At Web. 16 July 2012.

“Boat Insurance: BoatUS.” Boat Insurance: BoatUS.. Web. 16 July 2012.