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Old 02-03-2016, 15:33   #1
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Big dog on board - questions

We're looking at purchasing a 48' Navigator cruiser and will start with some day & weekend cruises in the great lakes area, working up to week long trips. We have a 3 year old Bernese Mountain dog (75 lbs) who will be joining us and we want to help her be the best boat dog she can be.
She doesn't care for the water or swimming (we live on a lake and she's never once gone in the water). She's a pretty laid back, well behaved dog. Not afraid of anything. We take her with us when we travel by car and she's stayed in hotel rooms with us. I figure if we take her bed & toys with us on the boat, she'll just think it's another hotel room. :-)

We definitely need a life jacket for her. I'm afraid of swadling her in a thick life jacket since she's a black, long thick haired dog as I don't want her to overheat. Are there any life jackets out there that are light weight - or perhaps only inflate when they hit the water?
When we're docked, we were thinking we could make a gangplank to get her from the dock to the boat (there's a door on the starboard side that leads into the interior cockpit)
Also, I've searched the threads for ideas on how to get big dogs in and out of dinghies and can't find anything. Any ideas?

Thank you!
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Old 02-03-2016, 16:28   #2
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

I don't know your boat, but if you have a swim platform your dog can probably jump in and out of a dingy. Mine did until real old age and cancer. Traction is the big issue. Fiberglass is slick for dog feet. Indoor/outdoor carpet glued or fixed to a landing/jumping place helps a lot. I have a traditional wood stern. My dog could get on and off the swim platform with a couple light boxes making a stairway. From the swim platform I carried a 2x12x8' plank w/cleats that allowed people or dogs an easy path to the dock. At anchor I lowered the plank in the water so she could get aboard alone. My deck height is about 5' and a little high for an old guy to lift a big dog.
Your dog may not like pooping on the deck because of housebreaking. A tray of dirt, or better yet, grass will get them over the transition. I carry a squirt bottle with a weak bleach solution for sanitizing the deck before washdown.
I don't think you need a life jacket. Even dogs that hate water can dog paddle.
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Old 02-03-2016, 20:07   #3
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

We have a 75lb pitbull that is kinda a princess. We have a harness on her in case we need to lift her out of the water. She hates the water. I tossed her into the dingy (3' drop?) and I tossed her up one time. After that she did it herself (princess didn't like getting tossed). Today we had 2 dinghies in the water, the big one (12' center console rib) and the new little one (10' hp floor). She did the dinghy crawl today, boat to big dinghy to small dinghy. They learn fast. Don't over think it.


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Old 03-03-2016, 00:38   #4
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

I wouldn't worry about it to much with a big mellow dog, I sail with a really big husky (93lbs) and a greyhound/husky cross on a 25' boat.
Traction is a problem, I use rubber backed carpet runners in the cabin, I already had dry deck in the cockpit, cut a piece of cheap astro turf style stuff to fit the foredeck, installed a few grommets on each side and lace it to the toe rail, traction and "business" area. Scoop and bag the "business" then tie a line to one corner of the turf and drag it behind the boat for a few minutes to "wash" it.
To get the idea across I rubbed the first piece in some fresh pee from another dog, put it on the deck and let them "discover" it, they claimed it for their own, no problems.
I have lifeline netting 360 around the boat, had to put it around the pulpit, the cross decided she was figurehead. She would lean so far out over the bow I was sure she was going to fall in.
Always check you bilge for fur buildup!
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Old 03-03-2016, 01:06   #5
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

+1 to everything others said. I had a 75lb west siberian laika dog aboard my 27' for 4 years. Before the boat we were on a farm but he adapted well. Now with his grandparents while I cruise the islands, the boat very much misses it's first mate.

On the lifejacket, I got a Critter's Inflatable for him and attached an AISMOB beacon on it that would auto deploy if he went over. Same setup as the humans. It was a bit more comfortable for him to wear than the outbound hound jacket we had used prior.

I would lift him off and on the boat. Not always the best solution
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Old 03-03-2016, 05:40   #6
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, CottageGirl.
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Old 03-03-2016, 07:03   #7
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

We've had good success with big dogs on boats (Pretty Good Pyrenees, a couple big Golden Receivers), but we also bought (chose) our boats with big dogs in mind from the gitgo. Swim platform, transom door, easy dinghy launch and carry, easy access from boat to dingny and back, easy internal companionways, etc... and more recently, stairs to our flying bridge (not a ladder).

Seems as long as the dogs could be where we were at any given time, they've been happy. The GP wasn't used to water, but his natural curiosity apparently eliminated any real hesitation he might have had about getting wet, swimming, etc.



Doggie PFDs with lifting handles and wrap-around (underbelly) support are very important.

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Old 03-03-2016, 07:15   #8
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

Make sure you have a harness with a lift handle on the back so that when,(not if), she falls in you can lift her without pulling on her collar. Dinghy to swim step will be easy, make a carpet covered covered gang plank for ship to dock. Enjoy your best friend!
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Old 03-03-2016, 08:31   #9
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

Thanks for the warm welcome everyone!
We're buying the boat a few years before we thought we would, so we've picked the Navigator particularly for it's "one level" design - other than the pilothouse. We took Zoey the pup into consideration when picking a boat.
The Critter Inflatable looks like a good choice for her.
The boat does have a wide swim platform and a 12' center console dinghy. I think we'll have a nonskid carpet to help her get from the platform into the dinghy. Luckily the interior of the boat is carpeted so she'll have traction there.
The side rails of the boat are pretty narrow so I'm doubting she's even going to be able to get around to the bow.
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:26   #10
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lepke View Post
Traction is the big issue. Fiberglass is slick for dog feet.
+1.

My dog (about 75 pounds) did not like the fiberglass decks...too slippery for her dog feet. She tended to stay in the cockpit or below. With a little instruction she came with me on several different boats, with no issues.

My only complain was that she loved to swim. That meant wet, stinky dog below. Count your blessings.

As for lifejacket...the old style keyhole lifejacket works very well on dogs, worn upside down...head through the hole, the bulk of the jacket on their back, tied around their tummy (not too tight). The neck part keeps their head up. It sounds funny, but I've done this with my dog and seen it on other dogs, and it really helps them in the water.

Just like with humans, better than a lifejacket is a harness which will keep them from leaving the boat accidentally.

For the most part, my dog slept in my bunk when we were underway, but loved the places we visited. In particular, the american towns on the south side of Lake Ontario do not have "leash laws", so the town dogs run free...she loved making new friends with the local dogs and running free with them.

May she rest in peace.
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:51   #11
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

I have an X large Ruffwear vest, only worn once (too large for my Border Collie). $50 if you are interested.

Michael
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Old 03-03-2016, 10:28   #12
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

Agree with other posters above, all good recommendations.

You definitely want some way to grab the hound if they go overboard... not familiar with the auto inflatable vest, but I do have direct experience with a few traditional PFD's and will say that this Ruffwear is hands down the best we've used... much more comfortable for the dog, good weight distribution on their belly if you do have to lift them by the handle.

Other recommendation is, while I COMPLETELY agree that dogs want to be with their owners and will adapt to do the things you want to, just plan to take it easy at first. A few "isn't this fun" trips to the marina, then to the boat itself still at a slip, and THEN out on the water will go a long way toward not scaring (hence scarring) them about boating... first ever on the boat in bad weather and big swells not the way to go.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by captmikem View Post
I have an X large Ruffwear vest, only worn once (too large for my Border Collie). $50 if you are interested.

Michael
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Old 03-03-2016, 10:47   #13
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

We have a 75lb golden mix. in his bare paws, he is very tentative on steep ladders or jumping on/off the boat. We have some rubber boat shows for him. When he has those on, he is a very different dog. He walks around the whole boat without fear.
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Old 03-03-2016, 11:00   #14
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

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Originally Posted by rthompsona View Post
We have a 75lb golden mix. in his bare paws, he is very tentative on steep ladders or jumping on/off the boat. We have some rubber boat shows for him. When he has those on, he is a very different dog. He walks around the whole boat without fear.
What brand / style shoes do you have for him? I've seen some that have very smooth soles (these are mostly the winter style designed to limit ice/snow build up) that would not be very effective, would like to see some that had some grip. Thanks.
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Old 03-03-2016, 11:07   #15
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Re: Big dog on board - questions

Welcome to the forum, CottageGirl.

We found some books written by a cruising Veterinarian who goes by Capt'n Dr. Dave.

They helped guide us through the process with our feline crew.

Pets On Board? Adapting Your Pet to Travel By Boat or RV

Where There Is No Pet Doctor

In case these are of interest.

Best wishes with your adventures.

Cheers!

Bill
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