Dog sense: How to introduce your pup to boats

Even natural water dogs need some help on their first cruise. Here’s how to keep Fido safe, calm and comfy

Fido afloat

Whether you want to spend time on the water fishing alongside your pooch or train it to hunt waterfowl, boating with a dog all begins with the same basic introduction. Here’s how to make sure Fido’s calm and comfortable on the water.

Start onshore

Dogs can be trained to ride along in everything from a stable, flat-bottomed duck boat to a tippy canoe. However, you have to begin the lessons with the boat firmly positioned on land. Climb in the boat and encourage the dog to join you. For the first few training sessions, reward the dog with a food treat for coming onboard.

Stay calm

If your dog can sense nervous energy, it will get nervous, too. If you remain calm and confident, on the other hand, your dog should as well. On board, work on obedience, reinforcing the sit and stay commands, and continually provide positive reinforcement.

Hit the water

With your boat securely moored, call your dog onboard. It might be nervous—the once solid surface is now moving—so have patience as your dog gets accustomed to this new sensation. The time required to condition a dog’s steadiness on a boat will depend on its disposition. Repetition builds confidence. Introduce forward motion next, followed by engine sounds. Each step takes time and training.

Stay safe

While dogs have an inherent ability to swim, it’s a good idea to invest in a flotation jacket to help your dog stay safe in the event of an overboard emergency. Hazardous objects such as fish hooks, knives and firearms should be stowed away. You may also want to restrain the dog with a leash in case it gets excited or spooked and tries to jump overboard.

   

OC's Saskatchewan-based Dos Sense conributor Lowell Strauss has also written about training dogs for shed hunting