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Old 28-09-2005, 20:11   #1
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About dogs.....

We plan on leaving this spring for some extensive cruising. Unfortunately, our dog died recently, but I wasn't planning on replacing her because of the hassles of keeping a dog on board. However the kids really miss not having a dog, so I'm re-thinking this whole thing.

What has your experience been cruising with dogs? Are the customs hassles really that bad? Is it worth it? What breeds tend to do best on boats?

I'm all ears, please do tell me what you think.

Regards,


TJ
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Old 28-09-2005, 21:27   #2
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Dogs

Some dogs seem to like boats while others don't. Some get seasick. Some like water others do not.
We had two brothers, both shepherd cross, one would get sick, the other was happy, the sick one did not like to swim while his brother loved it.
My X has two Border Collies, same thing, one is like a fish the other stays on shore.
How will you know in advance if the dog will like the boat? Maybe if you borrowed some from the SPCA you could find out.
Some dogs will walk on the deck and stay there while others walk right off the side. Get a PFD with a handle on the top to hook the dog. But if you are going at six knots chances are you will lose the dog if it goes over. You will need a safety harness.
Michael
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Old 29-09-2005, 14:04   #3
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After our first year sailing with the dog, I wrote a LONG report on it. Since we can't post attachements here, and I don't have this published on our web site, here is the whole thing. Sorry about the length, but you might find it useful.

A SERIOUS LOOK AT TAKING A DOG ON THAT FIRST CRUISE

We donít think of ourselves as dog people, but life doesnít seem complete without that four legged member of the family. A dog has always been part of our cruising plan and after years of dreaming and preparation, we finally took that first long cruise aboard Sunspot Baby, our 38í Prout catamaran. Departing in February and returning June, 2004 we cruised from New Bern, NC to the central Exumas and returned. Toby, our four year old Entlebucher went with us. Knowing how to sail does not mean you know how to cruise. Neophytes afloat we learned a lot about ourselves, our boat, and our relationship with Toby. This article summarizes our pet related experiences and offers advice to other new cruisers.

Toby was not deck trained. There was no doubt in our mind that he would figure it out and we expected a few bad choices on his part. There didnít seem to be any rush because we planned to go down the ICW, anchoring each night and Toby could go ashore morning and evening. He functions pretty well on two sessions a day. Boy, were we naÔve. Suitable anchorages on the ICW are fewer than we expected, and fewer still are good for landing a dog. Each day we combed the cruising guides to find an anchorage with good shore access and spent many nights in marinas simply so we could manage dog duty.

The first time Toby missed a shore visit was on our passage from Bimini to New Providence. The second night, He could hold it no longer and we awoke to the sound of running water in the cabin. Well, we expected some bad choices at first. Through the remainder of the cruise he would, when desperate, whiz on deck but never rewarded us with #2. We continued to take him ashore as often as reasonable and twice most days when we were near shore.

Size is relative and after owning two Rottwielers, Toby seemed small to us but he comes in at 55 to 60 lbs. He is athletic and eagerly leaps into and from the dinghy with ease. Some fixed docks at high or low tide were more difficult and we sometimes wished he was of a size that could be handed or carried across easily. Believe me; we got over thinking of him as a small dog.

Intact male dogs, including Toby, are sometimes aggressive toward each other. We never had a real problem but were always careful when meeting other dogs. Many islands had free roaming dogs that came to check him out.

With a short, flat coat, Toby doesnít look like a dog that would shed much but looks are deceiving. Everyday we cleaned up dog hair. Our shower discharge became clogged with dog hair and he was seldom in the head.

Despite our best efforts including sea water sluices with a fresh water rinse, he always brought sand aboard after a trip to the beach. He then distributed it liberally in the cabin and our berth. Small vacuums lack power and it is a big job to vacuum up hair and sand in the cabin. We think we maintained our sense of humor, laughed about changing our names to Harry and Sandy, and joked that our cockpit had shag carpeting.

We didnít joke about the possibility of a dog overboard situation. While making crossings Toby wore a float jacket with a water activated strobe. He was allowed to go without float gear when we made short hops or were at anchor. At one anchorage we missed him and found him swimming near the sugar scoop. He probably jumped to the dinghy and missed. He loves the dink and bounds in given any opportunity.

After that episode, we rigged a tether attached to his harness allowing him access to the cockpit and surrounding deck but too short for a trip overboard. He figured it out quickly and only occasionally got the tether tangled in the winches. It was, however, an excellent trip point for the two legged crew. The harness provides a handle to pull him aboard. It sometimes snagged on the life line as he went to or from a dock, but if he missed a leap he was easy to retrieve.

Entlebuchers are not couch potatoes. They love and require exercise. I donít mean a walk around the block on a leash. They want to run. If Toby doesnít get a chance to let it out he goes into what we call Ya Ya Overload. Unless he gets that endorphin fix he is bouncing off the bulkheads and pesters us endlessly letting us know he needs to play. Even if he had been completely deck trained, we had to exercise him and found no good on board option.

We took enough food for Toby as part of our provisions. Filling valuable stowage space with bags of dog food could be a problem on some boats. Our fall back plan if we ran out of food was rice boiled with a little meat.

Toby is a good watch dog and takes his job as head of security seriously. He has a big bark and an imposing physique. Behind his bluster he is overly friendly and is much more likely to knock you down licking you than to bite. We wished sometimes he wouldnít announce his position of authority to every one who stopped by the boat, but his presence was a positive deterrent to unwanted visitors.

Toby impacted every facet of cruising. He even affected our float plan in the Bahamas. We didnít think he would mix well with iguanas or free roaming pigs so we skipped a couple of islands.

We have both the boat and dog activities pretty well in hand now. We will continue to learn on every voyage, but the curve shouldnít be as steep. Toby is a good crew member and will go on our next cruise, but on balance, we would have been wiser to leave him at home the first season. We were learning to handle a lot of new situations. Stress and exertion were not uncommon. Some days were downright trying and after a hard day on the water a dinghy ride to shore with a dog on ya ya overload was not something to anticipate, especially in a marsh with nothing but muddy banks in view or in choppy waters and big wind.

In summary, we pass along these opinions. Leave the dog at home the first year. You will have enough on your plate. After the boat drill is second nature, you can better deal with the four legged crew. Of course, if someone told us that before we left, we would have disregarded it. We are attached to Toby and didnít even consider leaving him behind. I, therefore, offer these other bits of advice.

When choosing a dog, consider some desirable attributes. A small dog is easier to land and requires less food to stow. All dogs need exercise but a dog that doesnít require a lot is good. A miniature breed might get enough exercise fetching a toy in the cabin.

A female or neutered male may get along better with new dogs they meet.

A non-shedding breed or mix would be a blessing. Poodles, Schnauzers, and Portuguese Waterdogs are breeds that come to mind but there are others.

Check with your Vet. Make sure the dog is healthy enough to travel. If you go to a country like the Bahamas you must have a health certificate anyway. Get your vet to make up a dog first aid kit for you. Our vet was very helpful stocking the kit and also advised us on dog sized doses of human medicines. Hopefully you wonít need it, but be ready. You may be days away from a veterinarian.

Dogs get sea sick too. For years we have given Tums to dogs susceptible to motion sickness. Given before the crossing they work well and the dog is not as drowsy as if given a small dose of Dramamine. Wrapped in a piece of cheese, Toby wolfs down chewable Tums.

Whether you get a new dog or are taking old reliable Rover, deck train them before you go. We met cruisers with a little box of sod. We tried the fake grass mat without success but others have made it work. We tried the scents that are supposed to signal a dog to go there, but Toby thinks they stink and wonít go near them. We met a couple who had a stinky shrimp net their dog used. No amount of pleading would entice them to sell me half of it. Whatever you try, stay with it until you find something that works and teach the dog to go on deck. Take them on the boat and stay afloat until they learn. As long as you take them ashore at all, they will try to wait you out. At least Toby did.

In the ICW, anchorages near a public launch ramp give an easy place to go ashore. Charts of the ICW show the location of most of these. Cruising guides often did not include the fact that an anchorage is near a ramp.

If your dog will be in the water, rig a ramp or some other method that the dog can use to get on the boat. Train the dog to use it. Leave the device down while at anchor so that if the dog falls in, it can self rescue.

Rig a tether to keep your dog from going overboard accidentally. Get a dog life jacket that fits and use it when appropriate. If the jacket is off, a harness is a better handle than a collar. Remember you could be retrieving your retriever with a boat hook.

The one aspect of our first cruise that was not pretty much what we expected was dealing with our dog. Cruising is wonderful; dogs are great. They go well together but we suggest you break the learning curve into bite size chunks.

Sunspot Baby
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Old 29-09-2005, 15:12   #4
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What about cats? I imagine cats would pose far fewer problems than a dog, but what about a cat falling off the boat? tethering a cat like a dog is not practical. Or do you just keep them inside all the time?
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Old 29-09-2005, 22:31   #5
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Hey Sunspot! Great post, I appreciate your information, thank you very much. Have you had any contact with folks who've gone further afield? I've heard that taking a dog to the South Pacific is problematic. I'd sure like to hear from someone who'se been there and done that with critter.

Much thanks,

TJ
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Old 30-09-2005, 02:27   #6
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Our much loved dog was a labrador - these are great as boat dogs in that when they get wet, it only takes a quick shake or two and they are nearly dry - no horrible wet dog smell. They are also great swimmers, so that provides another way to give them that much needed exercise. The hair is short so the amount of dog hair is reduced , but you do really need a proper vacuum - we carry a 900 watt mains which we run from out gennie. Getting them to recognise that one spot on the deck is the required aim point is dificult, but can be eased by carrying a piece of astroturf - rigged so that you can drag it behind you through the water aterwards! Our dog never liked fouling the boat, and theonly time that he really left a solid mess for us, he was so upset, that it took a complete day for him to recover despite our best efforts.

Boating when the dog becomes old is much more of a problem. Ours started having problems with his back hips so had to be lifted on and off-board, and had to reduce his exercise as well, but he still loved the dink.

Now gone to that great forest in he sky and much missed.
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Old 30-09-2005, 02:31   #7
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Sunspot Baby

George & Lynn:
Thanks for the informative & interesting post.
BTW: I loved your great website @ http://www.stateham.com/sunspotbaby
Regards,
Gord
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Old 30-09-2005, 09:02   #8
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A couple more comments.

Swimming: Yes swimming is good exercise but we didnít want Toby to get used to swimming off the boat. We didnít want him deciding to take a swim when we werenít watching and/or were under way.

Further a field: I have met and talked to cruisers who have done it all. There always seems to be a good percentage that cruises with a pet. The opinion seems to be that the British possessions are the toughest place to take a pet. Most places have a few hoops to jump through but the pet ownersí consensus was that they would put up with a little red tape in exchange for their companion.

Cats: You see lots of cats cruising. They are quite happy to use a cat box (no deck training hassle), are sure footed, and unlikely to take a voluntary swim. We met one couple who had the neatest cat box built in the dead space in the forward hull of a 35í catamaran.

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Old 01-10-2005, 02:32   #9
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If you train the dog so that he only ever goes swimming from the tender, that should resolve the problem.
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Old 06-10-2005, 22:03   #10
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Thanks everyone!

There was some great information posted and I appreciate it. I did a lot of research since I posted this and sadly I've concluded we won't bring a pet of any kind with us. The insurmountable problem turned out to be Australia and New Zealand. Their regulations are very anti-pet or any kind. The restrictions are so great and the hassle factor so huge I've concluded it's just not worth it. How sad.

From what I've read it's all about Rabies. Given rabies vaccinations I don't understand the logic, but then I'm a shrink not a vet. In any case, thanks again for all the posts, I really appreciated the info.

Regards,

TJ
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Old 06-10-2005, 23:51   #11
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Yes unfortunetly, NZ and Australia are both difficult countries to bring animals into. Rabies being one of the biggest concerns. However, I have heard of the same issues with other countries as well. Like some parts of Europe and England. I have just read a story about a woman trying to get her cat home to England and that it has to go into quranteen for 6 months. So it's not just NZ and OZ.
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Old 14-10-2005, 08:54   #12
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getting dog back onboard

Forthose cruising with a dog, I thought you might be interested in a doggy ladder:


more details at http://www.pawsaboard.com/
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Old 30-06-2007, 20:35   #13
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We have a 100 pound lab and are considering getting a cruising boat now in preparation of a departure in 3-5 years. Some of the boats that have caught my eye, e.g. Endeavour 43, have my wife asking how the dog is going to get on and off the boat and down the cabin. This seems to be a problem with just about all of the monohulls in the 40-45 range. This has the potential to strain our relationship. *smile*

Are there any boats or modifications that lend themselves to life with a big dog? Catamarans seem ideal for a dog but I would have to change my mindset and open the wallet that much further.

The dogs about 4-5 years old- so he's still got quite a bit of life left in him. *chuckle*
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Old 02-07-2007, 17:24   #14
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From the research I have done it really is best to keep dogs out of the South Pacific entirely. We plan on taking off in two years and believe it or not are actually planning our cruising route around the dog. Due to the difficulty bringing the dog to the South Pacific we will be heading through the canal over to the caribbean and then to the med.
Once the dog becomes part of the family I guess you have to make things work, but at this point if for some reason I was to loose my dog I doubt very much that I would get another until we were done cruising.
Jackie
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Old 05-07-2007, 12:17   #15
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I have two Golden retrievers that we will also be planning our route around. They are my "four-legged children". I would even consider cruising without
taking my family with me. So, as much as I would enjoy Australia and NZ, if my family is not welcome then I am not going...

One of my girls is somewhat "gavity impaired" so the doggy ladder looks great. But how about getting her down into the boat? I have been considering rigging a harness & lift but the more I contemplate the more I think there has to be a better way. Suggestions???

Thanks

Steve
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