Boating with your dog


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Boating holidays with your pet could be one of your most stress-free breaks ever...

Taking to the water can be the perfect way to have a relaxing break with your dog. A slower pace of life - eating, sleeping and stopping when you feel like it - can be a wonderful way to spend quality time unwinding with your four-legged pal.

When Rachael Manns, from Llanfair Caereinion, Powys, went on a Valley Cruise holiday with her partner, Chris, and Border Collie Meg, she wasn't sure what to expect, but reckons it was one of the best breaks she's ever had.

"We were worried Meg might want to jump in the water all the time, but she was perfectly happy to stay on-board watching the world go by" said Rachael. "Not only was it perfect for her but incredibly relaxing for us; we felt as though we'd had a much longer break than a week and came home wonderfully rested."

Should you feel more adventurous, get your dog a pet passport and take to the waterways of France.

Louise Sievers, marketing manager for Le Boat, which offers holidays abroad and in the UK, said: "We know from our guests that many don't want to leave their dogs in kennels, so we welcome pets and provide details of local vets and good places to stop.

"France is a great country to explore by boat - you and your dog can wind down as the beautiful scenery drifts slowly past, while towpaths through unspoilt countryside make for perfect dog walking."

What to pack when boating with your dog
  • As well as bedding, food and water bowls, grub, first aid kit, poo bags, and grooming equipment, include a lifejacket for your dog and plenty of towels in case he accidentally takes a dip.
  • Take his collar (with waterproof ID) and lead as there will be places where you may need to keep him under very close control for his own safety - and a spare lead just in case you lose one overboard.
  • You may also find that life afloat feels chillier at night than you might expect. Rachael commented: "We were surprised at how cold it was in the evenings until we got the heating going. We'd packed Meg's Hotterdog fleece jumper, which kept her warm until the fire was lit and was perfect for her last thing walk."
Etiquette when boating with your dog

Take care when meeting other towpath users with dogs who may not be friendly.

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  • Stay away from anglers - quite apart from being a nuisance to them, hooks and lines may cause injury to dogs.
  • Don't allow your dog to disturb wildlife and keep him on a lead if you can't guarantee manners and obedience.
  • Tuck him in safely to the side of the path until cyclists have passed.
  • Scoop the poop - in rural areas, there may not be many bins and you may need to pile up bags on deck until you reach one. Rachael's tip: "Make sure they're behind the helmsman - when you get moving, the breeze created by the moving boat can waft smells over him!"
Make a checklist for booking a boating holiday with your dog
  • Before booking, check that your dog is welcome. Company policies change at short notice, while some operators allow dogs but fail to mention this in their literature. ‘Dogs welcome' doesn't mean they are specifically catered for; take their own beds and other creature comforts. Most companies don't provide much doggy information either, so ring and ask.
  • A charge per dog is usually levied to cover cleaning - generally £20 – £35.
  • Check limitations on the number or breeds of dogs you can take.
  • You are usually requested not to let your dog on furnishings or bedding, or to leave him in the boat on his own.

Toni Shelbourne, a TTouch practitioner who works closely with Greyfriars Hydrotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey, explained; "Dogs can get tired very quickly, especially in cold water, particularly breeds with low body fat or older dogs who may be arthritic. And if your dog stops swimming, he will start sinking.

"Most jackets have a handle, so it's easier to get hold of him and lift him out safely; they're also usually highly visible, so it's easy for you to spot him and other water traffic to take evasive action if needed.

"It also means you're less likely to panic and throw yourself straight in after him - it gives you a few seconds to assess the situation and behave sensibly. If your dog does accidentally go overboard, encourage him to swim close enough to lift him out, or use a boathook to reach the handle on his lifejacket.

"Most dogs don't seem to object to wearing one, but buy it in advance of your holiday so you have plenty of time to accustom your dog to it. It also means you can get all the straps correctly adjusted before you need it.

"It shouldn't rub or restrict movement, but needs to be a snug fit - if too loose, it will float up away from the dog when he's in the water. It shouldn't be too tight around the neck, though, as he'd need to be able to extend it when swimming."