Boat Dogs

You don’t leave your best friend home when you head out on the water, do you? Well, if one of your best friends is a dog, why would you leave him at home? The answer for many is simple: they don’t.


Any dog that loves to swim will happily trade their ordinary landlubber status for a day on the water. Labrador and golden retrievers are shoe-ins to join you on your boat. One perfect retriever example is Finn, Stephanie Vatalaro’s Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Finn absolutely loves going out on the family boat not just because the breeze cools him down but because he loves the water. There are some important considerations though. According to Stephanie, “my husband Michael and I don’t fish when we’ve got Finn on board. Whenever a plug or a lure hits the water Finn wants to jump in the water and retrieve it.” To give him a little exercise on the boat, Stephanie and Michael built Finn a ramp so the pooch can easily climb aboard after a swim. They’ll toss a ball for him to retrieve and when Finn gets back to the boat he uses the ramp for easy access. Check it out.


Another angler who loves taking his dogs on the boat is Britton Riddle from Charleston, South Carolina. Britton frequently cruises the inlets of Charleston with his Boykin Spaniel, Banks. Here’s a picture of the two of them back at the dock after fishing through a downpour. From the looks of things it seems as if Britton had a difficult time getting some of his fishing buddies to head out on the water; Banks, on the other hand, didn’t flinch at the prospect of getting wet and lends credence to the handle of man’s best friend. Just a minor observation here: it looks like Britton’s friends missed out on some good Carolina redfish. I hope they got a good night’s sleep.


There are some precautions for having a dog on board. First, you’ll need to make sure that they have plenty of fresh water and a shady area so they don’t overheat. Next, be sure that all of your fishing tackle is stored out of their reach, and that anyone who is casting is conscious of the fact that a dog is onboard. Another thing, a stop or two so they can stretch their legs and relieve themselves is an absolute must. Finally, if your dog likes the water, but is still trying to find his ‘flippers’ so to speak, buy them a doggie life jacket like Rowdy here. Rowdy, a boxer, loves the water. With the help of his life jacket, he was able to get accustomed to the water and learn to swim.


And with all that being said, some dogs just don’t cotton to a day on the water. If yours is high-strung or prone to nervousness then they’re best left at home. Bringing a dog on board shouldn’t be stressful or distracting to either you or your dog. Introduce them at a young age, and if they fit the bill then you’ll find that they add a new dimension to your day on the water. After all, they’re your best friend.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at