David Land, 45, of Orland Park, said he was fishing with Lucy, his 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier, early Tuesday when rough conditions led to a wave knocking him out of the boat, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday.
Land said he was able to swim to a buoy and catch a glimpse of his drifting boat but he couldn't tell if the dog was still inside.
Kaitlyn Stallings, 11, said she and her dad, Donald, spotted the boat beached with its engine still running and the small dog curled up in the back.
"She was acting like she wanted to jump out of the back of the boat," the girl said.
Land soon arrived at the beach, swimming the distance from the buoy, and was reunited with Lucy.
"He was more worried about his dog than anything," Donald Stallings said of Land's arrival at the boat.