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The dog days of summer are perfect for a lazy afternoon on the pontoon boat, but the turn of phrase is even more appropriate when you can share beautiful days on the water with your favorite furry friend. 

The roomy deck and relaxed nature of a pontoon boat make this craft ideal for bringing your dog out on the water.

In this article, we’ll talk about the ways you can make the most of your summer boating days with your dog safely. 

We’ll also highlight three ramps to help you find the best boat boarding ramp for dogs that fits your dog’s needs and your boating style.

Taking your dog boating

Any dog can grow to enjoy the water and boating, but some dogs were born for the water.  Certain breeds are more muscular and athletic. 

Some sport coats that seem engineered for the water, with waterproof underlayers and insulating characteristics.

And, some of these breeds seem driven to the water by an insatiable need to swim.

The best dog breeds for boating may come as no surprise.  Labrador retrievers are the quintessential waterfowl hunting dog, not just because they are crazy for birds but because they are avid and able swimmers for quick retrieves.

Portuguese water dogs are a medium-sized breed that was developed over time to aid fishermen on the water. 

These enthusiastic swimmers were used to drive fish into nets and were even irreplaceable communication aides, carrying messages between ships and boats before the advent of radios and cell phones. 

Portugeuse water dogs are so perfect for the water that they even sport a waterproof coat and webbed feet.

Chesapeake Bay retrievers, like their cousins the labrador and golden retrievers, are enthusiastic swimmers with an athletic build. 

The unique characteristic that makes the Chesapeake Bay retrievers stand out is their dense, waterproof coat.  This coat gives the Chessie an adaptive advantage because they are able to swim and retrieve even in cold, icy water.

One of the best small breed dogs on the water may come as quite a surprise: the poodle!  Poodles were originally bred for the water, used in Germany to retrieve waterfowl. 

These dogs are now bred in small, medium, and large builds, but all three are excellent swimmers and make great boat buddies.

How to choose the right boat ramp for your dog

Choosing the best boat ramp for your dog’s days on the water requires factoring in your dog’s health and abilities with your boat’s construction characteristics. 

For many boat owners, the final decision between boat ramps comes down to attachment.  Some loading ramps designed for pets are detachable and meant for occasional use. 

Others are meant for permanent installation.  Those ramps you can attach and detach at will are handy when you want the ability to take your pet out on the water without permanently altering your boat. 

On the other hand, permanent ramps are both durable and sturdy.

Another important consideration is your dog’s health and mobility.  For older dogs, joint pain and loss of easy mobility could mean missing out on sunny days on the water. 

A solid boat ramp with a gentle angle allows older dogs and those with a history of joint damage to get onto the boat with minimal pressure on the joints and pain, making the water more accessible even when senior dogs develop arthritis and don’t get around as easily.

Best Boat Boarding Ramp for Dogs

Great Day Load-A-Pup 14x20in Robust Safety Pet Loading Platform – for The Boating Dog – Off-White Powder-Coated Finish – Intended for Use in Fresh Water, LP500

Dogs that thrive on the water will appreciate the Load-A-Pup by Great Day because this robust ramp will allow your pooch to board and leave your pontoon boat at will. 

This level of independence means you won’t have to tug, pull, or carry your dog aboard anymore because he will be able to climb into the back of the boat himself.  

The Load-A-Pup combines safety features and robust construction to ensure your pooch can move aboard your boat safely. 

Wet surfaces can be slick and dangerous but the Load-A-Pup ramp features gripping ridges, strategic texturing that ensures dogs can quickly get solid footing. 

This is especially important for those dogs that love to swim because it makes entering the boat from the water much safer by reducing risk for slips and injury,  

Though the ramp is lightweight, it is built from aircraft-grade aluminum that ensures the ramp is lightweight without sacrificing strength or durability, weighing in at only 7 pounds with a roomy platform measuring 14” by 20”. 

Finished with a white powder-coat enamel, this ramp is designed for use year after year.   

Easy installation allows this boarding ramp to work on most boats fitted with a boarding ladder because the Load-A-Pup simply hooks on to the ladder. 

For those pontoon boats the Load-A-Pup isn’t immediately compatible with, adapter kits ensure the Load-A-Pup works with a wider variety of boarding ladder builds.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and strong due to aircraft aluminum construction
  • Generous ramp area features gripping ridges to prevent slips and falls
  • Fits most pontoon boats with a boarding ladder and an adapter kit ensures this ramp works with more ladder styles

Cons:

  • The adapter kit is sold separately.  Check manufacturer recommendations and specs to determine if your pontoon boat will work with this ramp to avoid purchasing the adapter kit unless necessary.

Avery Dog Ramp – Boat

Avery’s dog ramp is built with hunting dogs in mind.  This ramp ensures your boat is easily accessible for your hunting buddy, combining solid construction with essential safety features that make loading and exiting the boat safe even when the ramp is wet or your dog is wet after a successful water retrieve.

The Avery dog ramp features a roomy platform that makes boarding and exiting easy for dog, measuring 24”. 

The ramp features grip steps with strategic texturing that create positive traction – an important safety feature for water retrievers and avid four-legged swimmers.

This is a solid construction that is both lightweight and compact. 

Weighing in at only 6.5 pounds, the Avery dog ramp folds to a convenient 14”, allowing for easy storage when your pup stays back in the comfort of your hunting or boat camp.  Installing the ramp is quick and easy. 

This design hooks to your boat’s sidewalls, meaning you don’t have to worry if it will be compatible with your loading ladder. 

This attachment mechanism also means your loading ladder remains unobstructed so both humans and pets can board and exit your boat any time.

Pros:

  • Lightweight construction weights in at only 6.5 pounds
  • 24-inch ramp featured drip steps for positive traction
  • Compact design folds up to 14-inches for easy storage

Cons:

  • This ramp is meant to attach to your boat’s side walls.  This works best for pontoons that sit lower on the water.

Harbor Mate Aluminum Pontoon Boat Ramps

Harbor Mate’s Aluminum Pontoon Boat Ramp is a great ramp option for pets but its benefits extend to humans, too. 

This ramp’s sturdy design makes it perfect for large and giant breed dogs and also works well for loading coolers and gear as well as boarding adults and children that may be unsteady on a boarding ladder. 

With a 600-pound weight rating, this ramp is up to the task for any breed dog as well as any of the gear or afternoon boating buddies who may benefit from an easy boarding platform.

The heavy-duty design of this ramp is complimented by the traction  afforded by the ramp’s textured surface.  The entire ramp is covered with a high-traction grit coat.

This surface is meant to minimize risk of slips or falls even when the ramp – or paws boarding the ramp – are wet. 

The ramp is 7-½ feet long, longer than many other pet ramps, but this length creates a more gradual loading angle, which is especially helpful for older dogs whose joints don’t tolerate climbing or steep angles.

Fitting the Harbor Mate Aluminum Pontoon Boat Ramp to your pontoon is relatively easy though it requires a few more steps than the removable models meant for occasional use. 

Universal mounting brackets and all of the necessary hardware comes with this ramp – including self-drilling screws. 

A rubber handle prevents the ramp from rattling while the boat is running. 

Pros:

  • 600-pound weight rating
  • Extra ramp length for a more gentle boarding angle
  • Comes with all necessary mounting brackets and installation hardware

Cons:

  • This is a permanently installed ramp, but it slides back under your pontoon boat when not in use.

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