At Ruff Wear, we are big believers in “Leave No Trace.” That goes quadruple for our four-legged friends.  A general respect for other people, dogs, and the environment can go a long way towards securing future dog-friendly places.  Here are a few canine water etiquette reminders to prevent your dog’s four paws from becoming “faux paws.”

1. Before setting out, evaluate your intended behavior and company.  The more music, people, and pets, the more chaos for fellow recreators.

2. Remember, sound travels exceptionally well over water.  Respect others’ right to peace and quiet, and keep barking at bay.

3. Following local leash laws will keep your dog out of danger and shows respect for other outdoors people.  If dogs are allowed off-leash, make sure they are under voice command.  Dogs see, hear, and smell more than we ever will; a leash can help redirect that energy.

4. Check ahead of dogs are allowed.  Some areas consider dogs a nuisance to nature.  There are plenty of other dog-friendly locations, so frequent those and use your voice to help promote responsible pet ownership and more dog-friendly recreational areas.

5. Don’t let your dog poop in the water. Dog owners who want acceptance from other paddlers should treat their dog’s waste according to the prevailing rules for human waste. If you are in a pack-it-out zone, then stow the dog’s waste with your own.

Otherwise, dig a cat hole and bury it deep.  Remember to bury waste according to the local rules, usually 200 feet from the water edge.

6. A paddle in backcountry areas may mean a face-to-face encounter with porcupines, snakes, and bears. Training your dog to heel before a wild run to shore is a must.

7. Dog gear can be contaminated by destructive species such as mud snails and zebra mussels.  Taking gear and equipment from one waterway to another can spread these invasive species, causing devastation to marine habitat and fishing.  Organisms such as mud snails, mussels, hydrilla, and mitten crab remove nutrients from the water making it difficult for native species to survive. Clean all your dog’s gear, especially after swimming in foreign bodies of water, to prevent the spread of non-native species.  You can do this by using the “Freeze, Soak, Spray” method: freeze overnight, wash in 140 degrees, or spray and soak in disinfectant for 5 minutes.  Click here to find out more about invasive species prevention.

8. Minimize impacts to shore during put in, take out, portage, and scouting.  Keep your dog away from spawning beds, nesting areas, and other delicate eco areas.

9. Give fishermen a wide berth, and prevent disturbing the water around them. A cast is not an invitation for a game of fetch.

10. Make sure your dog can swim well before attempting a lengthy water outing.  A panic-stricken dog can cause chaos and disruption on the water, sometimes resort to tipping a canoe, or pushing a human under water in an attempt to “climb” out of the water.

11. Keep a lifejacket on your dog at all times.  This can be a lifesaver in case of an emergency, but is also helpful in assisting a dog in and out of the boat.  The bright colors also assist in visually alerting oncoming paddlers of a dog swimming in the water.

12. Don’t tie your dog to the boat in case it capsizes.

13. Carrying a whistle to alert on-comers of your dog is a good idea if your dog tends to be out of the boat or craft more often than in it.

Have fun, and “Run, Jump, Play!”

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