Salty Dog – 7 tips for the 7 seas

Steve, our Australian Shepherd, is a big part of our life. He joins us in many of our family adventures including coming on the boat, fishing, crabbing, diving or just having a fun day out.

We introduced Steve to this environment from an early age and always encouraged his participation. He has gone from laying at our feet as the boat motors around to now sitting up front letting the wind blow through his hair, coming swimming while we snorkel and watching with anticipation as we pull fish from the depths. A day on the boat is a fabulous inclusive day for all.


Here are seven things to consider and prepare when/if you contemplate taking your dog with you out on the river or ocean.

  1. Life Jacket – invest in a good quality hi-visibility life jacket for your dog and have them wear it. While most dogs can swim some breeds are better swimmers than others, age, fitness and previous exposure to water should also be considered. Steve has been swimming with us since he was a puppy and often spends more time in the water than our kids. Make sure the life jacket fits properly and if possible have your dog wear it swimming in the pool or at the beach first to test it for floatation and freedom of movement. If your dog goes overboard they may need to remain afloat waiting for rescue. The life jacket provides additional buoyancy, warmth and helps spot them from a distance.
  2. Fresh Water – as with any activity with dogs water is essential, they need to stay hydrated. On a boat often they are in sun with only limited shelter so having a ready supply of fresh drinking water helps them stay hydrated and to stay cool. While swimming in the ocean they will swallow some of the salt water, providing them with fresh water helps dilute the impact of the salt. Steve has his own water bowl in the same place on boat so knows where to go to drink.
  3. Bait Board – make certain any bait is cut on a quality bait board that is elevated and away from the dogs reach. This will eliminate the frustration of watching your dog spoil the fishing trip by eating your fresh octopus plus older bait may well make your dog sick.
  4. Tackle Storage – hook, line and sinker are not your dogs friends. Keep all new and used tackle stored and secure. Bright coloured lures swinging from a line could be an irresistible temptation to a dog and result in a short fishing trip and a long vet visit. We have a rule that no hooks hit the deck and all lines are in before swimming, keeps Steve safe but also helps maintain a clear deck.
  5. Toilet – give everyone, your dog included the opportunity to toilet prior to departure. Steve will not toilet on the boat so we make certain we take him ashore frequently to ensure his comfort. If you intend spending longer periods at sea with your dog on the boat train them to toilet in an appropriate place, if you are not sure how to do this contact your local Bark Buster trainer for help.
  6. Keep your dog off lead – most dogs will not throw themselves overboard while the boat is moving but always keep an eye on your dog. Allowing freedom of movement will let your dog explore the boat and find the spot where they are most comfortable plus if something terrible happens your dog is not tethered to a capsized or sinking boat. Steve likes to be upfront with the wind in his face while under power but then retires to the shade when we anchor coming out to check the catch occasionally.
  7. Plan your trip – something we should all do. Check the weather, consider the conditions, if the swell is up or the sea is choppy then Steve stays home. Boating is supposed to be fun, for all on board. Also around Perth dogs are not permitted on the islands, especially Rottnest Island which is an ‘A’ Class Reserve and dogs are not permitted on the Island or in its waters.

We hope this helps those of you, like us, that are lucky enough to be able to enjoy Western Australia’s many fantastic rivers, estuaries and oceans. Stay safe on the waters and watch out for each other.


If you would like more information or advice on boating with your dog or anything else dog related please feel free to contact one of our Bark Busters Dog Behaviour Therapist & Training professionals, we cover all Perth Northern, Southern and metro areas, along with the Peel region and South West. We look forward to hearing from you!

 by Hugh – Bark Busters Perth West and Perth South