We have several couples in our club and some of them like to take their furry children fishing with them. I tapped Caitlin Bissen and Brian Kruncos for some pictures and tips about bringing dogs in the boat. The Bissen’s dog is Elvis, a French bulldog, while the Kruncos’ have a black lab, Samson. These are very different breeds: frenchies are not swimmers and can be cold sensitive, whereas labs are water dogs and a sporting breed with a remarkable tolerance for cold and wet weather (if they have any problem it’s with heat). Differences in breed aside, I’m told both are good boys.
So starting with the obvious, it’s good to get them in the boat young. Keep the boat very clean–we’re not talking about dirt, but rather hooks and tools. Anything that could hurt your buddy, or at least disrupt the smooth handling of fish, should be tucked away in storage. It’s helpful to bring along a chew toy or two for the pooch, it keeps them away from those tasty looking bucktails and bulldawgs. Labs with their strong retrieving instinct may need to be trained to stay put and not chase the bait on the cast. Bring treats to reward good boat behavior.
Earlier it was pointed out that frenchies are not swimmers. If your dog isn’t a water dog, give them a lifevest. If they are cold sensitive, this will also help keep them warm. For all dogs, it’s a good idea to give them a shaded area and water to prevent overheating on those warm, sunny days. Looking through the pictures, I noticed the Bissens make Elvis a nice little space under the console, with a light colored pad. Boat carpet tends to draw a lot of heat when it’s sunny out (so does aluminum or fiberglass), so providing a cooler pad tucked away from the direct sun is a great idea.
Caitlin had another great suggestion. Keep a seatbelt for your dog when you’re handling a fish at boatside. Have a leash or tether attached to a cleat or rail and hook up your dog’s collar to keep them out of the way while you deal with the fish in the net. Once the fish is free and the hooks/tools are out of the way, your buddy can be let off for pictures and kisses.
Finally, think about how long your dog can handle the boat. Potty breaks on shore should be taken every few hours, so that can be a consideration limiting where and how long you can fish. If you have a lab like Brian, it might be a nice break to throw a retrieving dummy a few times (remember a tired dog is a good dog). It’s a lot like fishing with a small child; they might not be able to handle all day. But prepare, train them and know their limitations, and it’ll be a nice outing with your buddy.