What Makes A Great Boating Pet?

Published in the September 2020 Issue August 2020 Feature Brady L. Kay

Every time I hear the word “pet” I think back to high school when a friend of mine – who let’s just say hadn’t mastered the English language quite yet – got a little confused when he noticed a pedestrian crossing sign. The sign read, “PED XING” and my friend stared at the yellow sign for a few minutes and then strongly stated, “That sign is so stupid, like pets know where to cross.”

I guess he thought you spelled pet, P-E-D and was wondering out loud why our pets needed their own crosswalk. We laughed hard at that one and of course like good friends do, we never let him live it down. All these years later it still makes me smile whenever I see a pedestrian crossing sign and I like to joke with my kids to watch out for pets crossing the road.

Speaking of peds, ahem, I mean pets, in a recent staff meeting as we were discussing cool must-have pet products for our roundup in this issue, we quickly got off topic and began to debate on what makes a great boating pet. It led to a weird discussion with someone in our group claiming they were once asked if they could transport a camel across a lake on their pontoon boat. When we asked for photo proof he explained he was only asked to do it and he didn’t actually transport the camel. Riiiiiiigh.

We could include cats, birds and for some boaters a pet pig might even make the discussion, but to simplify things for this column we’ll just focus on dogs as pets of choice for boating. So what’s the best breed? The easy answer on what type of dog makes the best boating companion is whatever breed you currently have that enjoys being on the boat as we would never want to discourage any four-legged family member from joining you.

However, for those in the market for a new dog there are a few things to consider. While size definitely matters depending on your pontoon or deck boat, you will also need to think about temperament, energy level and swimming skills.

Some breeds are happier in the water than they are on land, and could adapt well to a boating situation, while others may get nervous, need to move around too much, or even get sick. Sticking with breeds comfortable with the water can make your experience that much better.

Now you can’t go wrong with a Labrador Retriever or Shipperke, both are excellent and popular choices for boating dogs. And with water dog in their name, the Portuguese Water Dog makes a lot of sense too as they not only like to hang out on the boat, but also tend to jump in the water for a swim whenever they can. With a waterproof coat and webbed feet, they're built for the water.

The American Water Spaniel is another breed with a waterproof coat and webbed feet and is known for their ability to jump in and out of your boat. They may even be able to help you catch some fish. 

What about a Newfoundland? You bet it made the list. This big furball was bred in Canada as a water dog to help Canadian fishermen catch the ones that got away. And with their waterproof coat and webbed feet they’re even capable of saving a drowning victim, which is good quality in family pet.

So who did we leave off the list that should have made it? I’m sure Jack Russell Terrier owners as well as others are ready to make strong arguments for their current pets. Head over to our Facebook page and post your pics as well as why you feel your pet is the best boating dog as I’m guessing this could turn into quite an enthusiastic debate.

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