Boating with IGs

Cori on the boat deck.

By Nancy Brandt

Zeke, our first IG, loved to go boating and fishing with us. Actually, he just wanted to be with us to do whatever we were doing at the time. Aren’t all Iggies like that?!

Boating Safety

We found out early on one should not assume all dogs swim well, especially Italian Greyhounds. Zeke front paddled with a fury while the back end just hung there, back legs not moving, and weighing him down. He managed to motor a short distance, but it became apparent a life preserver would be an absolute necessity. Cori, our second IG, swims very well but I don’t think he could save himself if he fell off the pier or the boat. So, he also wears his life preserver. The small preservers have a handle on the back to lift the dog from the water should that be necessary. Years ago the only place you could purchase a dog life jacket was at a boating supply store; now almost any retail store handling pet supplies has them. Zeke had a Stearns brand. I got Cori’s at Target, and it fits really well on him. Beware if you don’t buy early in the season as most stores only get one of each size and many will not restock these products. Jacks’ life jacket is from Outward Hound purchased on also has life jackets in many sizes in another good brand. They are fitted much like coats using the dogs weight and length from shoulder to tail. Most pet supply stores allow you to bring your leashed pet in for an exact fit.

Getting Started

Zeke in the boat.
Zeke in the boat.

The first time Cori boarded the boat he had to be carried on and he was nervous. He had those iggy toes spread out in anticipation of needing a firm grip on something. Our bass boat has carpeted surfaces that go right to the side edges and now that he has his sea legs, he walks right on. Often he will lie in the sun on deck under the swivel chairs and catch some Z’s until he gets too warm. I keep the leash on for added security because he doesn’t fear falling overboard. He is more daring than Zeke. The boat also has two consoles with areas he can crawl underneath to be shaded from the sun. He makes a bed on the water ski jackets. I put sunshade for babies on my dogs’ ears and tummies to prevent sunburn. And, I have a portable water bowl filled with ice cubes and bottled water for them. A wet towel helps to keep their head cool. My dogs like to be misted with water. If your dog is not afraid of the spray bottle, it’s a nice way to get of bit of fluid in their mouth too.

Cautions for Canines

Pepino demonstrating proper fitting of a life preserver.

Boating with your dogs is fun but you must be aware that your dog can overheat in the right conditions. Boats on a lake do not have as much shade available to them, so be aware of how hot your dog is. Dark colored dogs will absorb heat faster than those with lighter colored fur. Beware of the signs of impending heat stroke. Their gums become muddy pink in color rather than the nice pink they usually are, their ears may become very bright red, they pant furiously, their heart rate goes up, they have a wild eyed look of panic in their eyes and often lay down on their sternum, gasping. They will have a slow deliberate walk that may appear disoriented. If this happens to your dog it is an absolute life threatening medical emergency requiring immediate emergency vet care. So while it’s great to take your pet along, be watchful and take precautions to prevent overheating. It can happen rather quickly.

The first time we took Cori for a boat ride he was a cautious and slightly fearful passenger at first. Be prepared for fear of the unknown. But it wasn’t long before he seemed to relax and enjoy the rocking of the boat on our slow tour of the lake. He was most curious about the loons fishing nearby. We kept the speed slow and he settled right in next to me on the seat and soon acted like a salty sea dog. Then the deer flies descended on us and even though we had insect repellent on, they were persistent in looking for one centimeter of unsprayed skin to bite. Their bites draw blood and it hurts. My dogs use a holistic blend of neem to repel mosquitoes, flies and fleas. But the swarm was so distressing we decided to shorten his maiden voyage and go fast enough to leave the flies in our wake. Well, the faster we went the more he seemed to love the wind in his ears and the spray on his face. Cori is especially cute because he has so few teeth his little tongue hangs out and blows in the wind along with his ears! Cori also likes to go with me in my paddleboat for slow cruises on calm days. And, he’s calm enough to have taken a ride in our very stable canoe. I wouldn’t recommend taking a dog in a canoe unless you are really okay with the possibility of getting dunked. Always have life jackets on and a Plan B in mind.

Jack and Pepino outfitted in their life preservers.

Jacks, our shy-boy third IG, has been outfitted with his own life preserver, but I think we will take him out by himself first just to see how he reacts to the movement and speed of the boat. He’d be the one to try to jump overboard. Right now he is more interested in staying close to me than worry about interfering with the pan fish the kids are catching off the pier. He has a higher prey drive than Cori and might get too involved in the catch before the release to go fishing with us. We will see. We haven’t tried him at swimming yet, but because he has high fright/flight triggers, I think he will give good strong efforts to swim back to me.

Cori has very little prey drive and is only mildly curious about the fish we catch or the minnows and leeches we use for bait. He is content to stay put on the seat or under the console away from the action. We take precautions not to catch him with hooks just as we would if another person was in the boat with us. We keep our fingers crossed Cori won’t have a fright fit if we catch a big Musky. But, that is why he wears his life preserver…with a handle.