Boaters are like cowboys—they are all about their ride and the tasks it enables them to perform. But let ol’ Rex pick up some burrs or get bit by a crab, and you’ll see even the gruffest old salt melt like April snow. Boaters love their dogs and love bringing them aboard the boat. For these reasons, we compiled and assessed the following gear that will help your cruising canine have a better day afloat.
Solstice Pup Planks
$179 to $239; solsticewatersports.com
This semi-rigid inflatable dog-boarding platform has mesh steps that sink into the water, giving your dog an easy leg up to the boarding platform. The dog can sit there to drip off and dry. A duck dog may just hang there for the hunt. D-rings and a pair of 8-foot-long ropes included secure the platform to a boat, dock or poolside. It’s available in three styles. A mini size ($179) is designed for smaller dogs to 30 pounds. An XL will handle dogs to 200 pounds, as will the XL Sport in camo designed for waterfowling (both are $239). The manufacturer says the platforms are tougher than toenails, and considering its success in paddleboards, we wouldn’t argue a bit.
We like this device above all the rigid ladders we considered because it is easier to deploy and less likely to mar a boat’s sides.
Goggles for your dogs? Absolutely. Your dog might resist wearing them in the living room, but if you introduce them during a speedboat ride or a windows-open car ride, they’ll see the advantage right away. There are four sizes: XS, small, medium, large and XL. To fit your dog, measure the circumference of its snout in front of its eyes. Then measure the circumference of the dog’s head at the crown. We did so, and ours fit perfectly with the adjustable elastic head and chin straps. The goggles come in 11 colors, from tech police dog to hip psychedelics. Each goggle comes with a clear shield and a dark-gray one for bright light.
Our test dog resisted at first but appreciated the goggles as boatspeed increased. Bird hunters have discovered Rex Specs prevent eye injury to their dogs as they burst through brush.
Bluestorm Gear Dog Paddler
Bluestorm makes USCG-approved premium inflatable life jackets and foam life jackets for extreme watersports like whitewater rafting and paddling, so it should know a thing or two about keeping your dog safe in an emergency. The Dog Paddler is built with the same care as human personal flotation devices. The collar is adjustable with both Velcro and 1-inch buckled webbing. Two web straps across the backbone wrap around the belly and fasten on one side, where the flotation padding overlaps for size adjustment. Webbing down the backbone supports a corrosion-resistant D-ring for a leash, and there’s a single grab handle on the small and medium PFDs, and two handles for large dogs. Reflective tape on each side of the backbone makes the dog easy to spot at night. Sleek saddle bags on both sides hold small items, like plastic bags or treats.
The smallest PFDs do not have side pockets. The XL size has two lift handles. On camo models, the reflective tape is removable.
We found the dog easy to lift with the jacket fully adjusted, and she didn’t complain about any stress points. The stainless-steel D-ring was sturdy and located right over the shoulder, making the jacket a balanced harness for walking from the car to the dock. This vest was the easiest to adjust and put on thanks to the side-saddle location of the belly buckles. A size medium fit our 40-pound English setter. It comes in four colors, plus camo. Sizes are XS, small, medium, large and XL.
Yeti Rambler Jug
$100 to $140; yeti.com
Water you or your dog from these insulated jugs. No need to ice them down if you’re using cold water; they’ll hold that temp all day and longer. The jug comes in half-gallon and 1-gallon sizes, and seven colors. You can customize the jug if you order it from Yeti (starting at $6). Add your dog’s name so nobody filches his water. The jug has a large lid for wide-open access, and a sippable screw top is ideal for pouring or drinking straight from the jug.
The gallon jug is so versatile. Use it for your pet’s water supply, human water, or even an ice bucket for party drinks. The stainless-steel bail makes it easy to carry the insulated stainless-steel jug.
Yeti Dog Bowl
$40 to $50; yeti.com
It’s not always bad to serve dog food in the galley—just ask your dog. These Yeti bowls are nonskid and resist tipping. If they spill, blame the skipper, not the bowl. I doubt that most dogs could tip them over. They are insulated with Yeti’s proprietary vacuum process, so they maintain the temperature of your dog’s food or water. A four-cup version is $40, and an eight-cup boomer bowl is $50. Add your dog’s name or any other design starting at $6 per side.
The rubber rim on the bottom isn’t a suction cup; instead, friction holds it firmly in place so the dog doesn’t have to chase it around the floor. The bowls come in seven colors.
1st Mate Marine Safety and Security System
$473.90, additional fobs $98; 1stmate.com
Judging from the way my fleet-footed dog scampers about the boat, there’s no crewmember more likely to go overboard than her. When I installed the 1st Mate security system on my boat, I realized the passenger’s man-overboard fob looked exactly like a dog tag, so I snapped it on her collar and off we went. The 1st Mate system is available for all major engine brands and comes with a fob and a wristband. Additional fobs and wristbands are available, and the device will monitor up to seven passengers. If one goes overboard, the boat stops, the waypoint is marked on the GPS system, and the captain can turn about for a pinpoint rescue.
1st Mate also works as a security device, preventing engine start-up in the absence of the skipper’s device. It also satisfies USCG regulations requiring the skipper connect to an emergency cutoff switch.
Ruffwear Float Coat
I think Ruffwear has been at this K-9 project the longest, and it has always provided a reliable product. The neck collar on this vest is adjustable, and one side of the closure slips into the other side, secured by an adjustable web strap and a snap buckle. Two web straps wrap over the back beneath the fabric to make them snag-free. The belly flaps overlap to adjust to the girth of the dog, and the buckles fasten under the belly and are adjustable for a secure fit. The lift handle is padded, and a plastic leash ring is underneath.
A size small vest adjusted to our 40-pound dog, but we could have stepped up to a medium. We found it tough to buckle the belly straps because they came together directly underneath the dog, where they were hard to see. The padded lift handle is more comfortable than the other candidates we tested. We would have preferred a stainless-steel leash ring over the plastic one. It comes in three colors. Sizes are XXS, XS, small, medium, large and XL.
EzyDog DFD X2 Boost
$85 for XS to XL, $55 for 2XS to 4XS; ezydog.com
The DFD X2 Boost has a shape that extends farther back to the dog’s haunches. The neck collar adjusts over the shoulder instead of under the neck. Belly buckles come together under the belly. An anodized D-ring is properly located to avoid neck injury while attached to a leash and is balanced so owners can use it to lift a dog, if necessary. The unpadded lift handle is integrated into the collar’s adjustable strap.
The neck adjustment over the shoulder was easiest to manage because it was not hidden under the dog’s neck. However, the belly straps were out of sight and hard to connect and adjust for that reason. The small-dog version fits dogs as small as a teacup, such as Yorkies and possibly gerbils. If your dog loves swimming, the unpadded handle will dry the fastest. It comes in red and yellow, and is available in XS, small, medium, large and XL. For smaller dogs, sizes 2XS, 3XS and 4XS are available.