The bark side of boating

The bark side of boating

Canine friends have long served as trusted companions on the water. 

For centuries, these four-legged sidekicks have joined as first mates on the lake or an early morning fishing expedition.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Meaney McDonald

Whether that's in a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or bigger boat, whatever draws you to the water, the quality of time greatly increases with your dog by your side.

Dogs over the years have been no stranger to cruising the waterway. 

World War II was flush with animal mascots joining the ship's crew. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, one of the well-known dogs of the sea was Sinbad, whose fame extended to sailors of all countries that plied the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Sinbad, a black and tan husky mutt with white eyebrows, was smuggled on the USCGC Campbell in Staten Island, New York, one night in 1937, according to an article by the Institute. His fame attracted newspapers, which began to run notices anytime Sinbad was in port. He even appeared in newsreels like this one here, had a book written about him, and starred in a movie short. Sinbad went on to retire from the Coast Guard in 1948.

Dogs have long entertained, kept us active, and unconditionally loved their owners. So, it just seems right to bring them along as you head out with friends to enjoy a boat ride, or a cuddle, on the water creating memories. 

Photo courtesy of Nancy Abel

Many people may not be strangers to having their dog at their side while traveling throughout Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury or Lake Limestone.  But for those not as versed, here are a few tips for boating with your pet from United States Coast Guard's information on boating safety and Discover Boating.

•    Always dog-proof the boat before loading. Look over the space to ensure there's nothing the dog can get into that might cause problems. Stow away fishing equipment to keep Fido from stepping on a fishing hook and properly secure any bait or food for the journey.

•    Bring more drinking water than you think you need. Don't let your pet get dehydrated. The pup may need more water than you realize, and items such as collapsible bowls are recommended for easy travel. Don't encourage your dog to drink from the lake or river.  Remember, if drinking untreated water can make you sick, it can also make your dog ill.

•    Boarding ramps are recommended, especially for larger dogs. The boarding ramp allows the dog to both enter and exit the boat safely or reboard from the water or a sandbar.

•    Be patient. If your dog has never been on a boat or near the water, give your companion time to acclimate and get comfortable before setting out for the day.


•    Have a plan in place before setting out if the dog goes overboard for any reason. Consider investing in a canine life jacket. The dog may be a great swimmer; however, water and weather conditions can cause unexpected problems for even the strongest swimmers. Make sure the life jacket is a bright color, so it's easier to spot the dog in choppy waters. Also, be sure the life jacket has a means on the top to allow you to grab and lift the dog out of the water and onto the boat. Do not jump in after a dog. Animals, like people, can panic and drag you down while they struggle to stay above water. 

•    Some dogs may be reluctant to "go" aboard a boat. Pets can be trained to use carpet scraps or puppy pads when nature calls. Be sure to pack plenty of doggie waste bags, paper towels, and odor neutralizers to clean up afterward so the rest of the guests aren't holding their nostrils closed the rest of the day.

•    Remember that dogs absorb heat through the pads of their feet, and boat surfaces can get hot quickly in the sun. Protect their feet while out on the water. Shade can sometimes be scarce. 

•    Never tie your pet to your boat. If you encounter rough waters or the boat turns over, your pet won't be able to swim to safety.

•    Don't forget the leash. You may not need it on the boat, but you have to get to the boat somehow, and all Brazos River Authority public use areas require dogs to be on a leash.

Take the time to prepare for your journey with your dog, so everyone is sure to have a fur-tastic time.