95% of dog owners say that their dogs help to improve their mental health and wellbeing generally, according to a survey conducted by the American Kennel Club (AKC). A further two in five add that their dog helps to ease feelings of loneliness, making Fido the ideal companion for outdoor activities like an upcoming fishing trip. Bringing your dog along can allow you to spend quality time with your furry friend while benefiting from the surrounding nature, but remember--there are a variety of safety considerations to keep in mind — from the hidden hazards of your tackle box to the importance of packing a canine life jacket. 

Fishing from shore vs. open water

Planning to bring your dog along on a fishing trip can be a great experience. However, it’s imperative to consider what type of fishing trip you’re going on, with fishing on boat and land bringing their own concerns. Ensuring that your dog is comfortable around water is just one primary concern, and if they’ve never been on a boat before, opting for a fishing trip from shore may be more comfortable for both you and your pup.

If you do plan on taking your dog aboard a boat, there are several safety considerations to keep in mind and prepare for. Investing in a canine life jacket is perhaps one of the most important aspects of having a safe trip — according to Discover Boating, a canine life jacket is important even if your dog is a great swimmer. “Even though most dogs can swim, high seas or fatigue can cause drowning in even the most avid of swimmers, so don’t risk it, get your dog a life jacket,” Discover Boating stresses, going on to point out that “Even if your dog doesn’t drown if he goes overboard for any reason, excessive fatigue can cause numerous problems.” In addition to ensuring that the life jacket fits your dog properly, Discover Boating further mentions the importance of applying sunscreen to your dog, as well as ensuring they don’t take a sip of the lake or sea water.

When planning to fish from the shore, ensuring that there is plenty of shade for both yourself and your dog can help minimize sun exposure. Other aspects of the location, such as aiming to pick a secluded fishing spot that is farther away from other people will keep your pup from bothering others. And, if you’re fishing from a dock, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye out to make sure that your dog doesn’t jump in (especially if there’s algae or otherwise dirty water present). 

What to pack (beyond the tackle box)

Bringing along the appropriate supplies is a must when taking your dog along on a fishing trip, regardless as to whether you’ll be staying on the shore or not. In addition to the standard fishing supplies and packed lunch, bringing along a portable water bowl and plenty of water will help both you and your dog stay hydrated. Dog food, a few treats, and a first aid kit (just in case) can further keep your dog happy and comfortable. When out on a boat, packing a canine life jacket and sunblock is a must — in addition to some cleaning supplies and a training pad or two to ensure that your dog is comfortable and the boat is kept clean.

Keeping Fido out of harm’s way

Ensuring that your pup is out of the way when you’re casting is yet another commonly overlooked safety consideration to be aware of. Whether you’re a pro or a beginner fisherman, getting your hook caught on something can be a concern when casting your line. In addition to exercising an abundance of caution while casting out, consider training your dog to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ a safe distance away while you do so, or having a friend hold the leash a safe distance away from you. When on a boat, Outdoor Canada recommends avoiding mishaps and potential injury by training your dog to stay off the casting decks while you’re actively fishing. “Trips and tumbles can result if the dog gets in the way during an epic fish battle, for example, or if it steps on the electric motor pedal and causes the boat to suddenly lurch.” The post further recommends using lure wraps on rigged and ready rods, which can help in preventing your dog from getting hooked.  

The hidden risks of fishing supplies

Regardless as to whether you choose to take your dog on a fishing trip that involves getting out on the water or not, there are a few more safety concerns worth keeping in mind and preparing for. For example, certain aspects of fishing — such as the bait you choose to use — can easily be overlooked when it comes to the safety concerns involved. Keeping Fido away from the tackle box altogether is always a good rule of thumb to abide by, whether you’re using cut bait or plastic lures. Soft, plastic worms, tubes, and similar items are just a few types of bait that can pose a safety risk to your pup, just as they can to children. This is largely because certain brands can carry health warnings, making it a good idea to check the package before bringing them along. Lead fishing weights can also be a commonly overlooked safety concern due to the health effects associated with the material, making for another item worth leaving at home if you plan to bring your dog along.

Bringing your pup along on a fishing trip can make for a wonderful experience and memories to last a lifetime. However, the decision to bring Fido along shouldn’t be made lightly or without preparation, whether you’re taking a boat out on the water or fishing from shore.