Last week I saw a woman walking down the street with her teacup-something breed dog inside of a baby carrier strapped to her front. Obviously, she liked taking her dog along.

We like taking our dog along, too. However, at 110-pounds, I’m not exactly open to the idea of strapping him into a Puppy Bjorn and hoofing it anywhere. For people like us, taking pets with us on recreational outings opens up a world of new opportunity.

Americans love their pets like a member of the family, so it’s no surprise that many of us are hesitant to leave the house if our furry friends can’t tag along. When it comes to outdoor recreation, especially something like boating, there’s no doubt that the family dog would love to come along. Maybe not the cat or hamster, but the dog is all in for the chance to cruise the lake for hot dogs and chicks. And if your cat is into it by chance, more power to your feline friend.

The issue with taking dogs boating is often concern centered around the comfort and safety of our K-9 companions. To ensure that everybody has a good time, preparation for having pets onboard is an absolute must.

According to pet trainers, the best place to start is with preparing pets before you even leave home. Because boats may be a new environment for your pets, get them used to the atmosphere while the vessel’s still on land. Find an easy way for dogs to get on and off, and practice a command to have your pet wait for your permission to get onboard – something that will come in handy when it’s time to get everyone in at the dock so that nobody else risks getting knocked over by an over-zealous pet.

You can also use this time to evaluate whether or not boating with your four legged pal is a good idea. Even after some time, many pets may feel anxious in the boat and simply be ill-suited for the activity. In this case, you may be kinder to leave Fido at home with a cool bowl of water and comfy place to lay rather than cause excess anxiety for them (and you) at the lake.

After you get to the water, safety on the lake can be as big of a concern as it is for your human compadres. Fortunately, a number of companies are making life vests for dogs of all ages, which can be ordered online or picked up at your local pet shop. Even the most athletic Labrador may benefit from a life preserver just in case they fall overboard and become fatigued, so consider a vest even for strong swimmers.

Also take note of how slick your boat is. Paws can slip easily on any wet surface, making it difficult for pets to find firm footing. And once you know everyone can stand stably, be sure to make shade for your pet. Dogs and cats, and anything else you may bring along, have a harder time cooling in the heat, so a reserved shaded spot and clean, cool water is a must to keep any heat related pet problems at bay.

Boating is undoubtedly fun for the whole family, and with the right preparations and precautions, it can be fun for your furry pals, too. Just guard the cooler. Guaranteed they’ll try to swipe your sandwiches if the opportunity arises. Or maybe that’s just my dog…?