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Old 06-09-2016, 07:42   #1
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Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

We have two labs. One is a 95 pound chunk. The other is going to be 12 years old in November and has arthritis in her hips. My sweet and well-meaning wife wanted to introduce them to our new-to-us 1986 Chris Craft Catalina. It's a 42' long aft cabin and we're berthed in a marina with floating docks so the deck level is about three and a half feet above the dock. We have a set of dock stairs with four steps. The dock stairs make it easy for humans. Turns out the labs don't like it much. Neither had ever spent any time around boats before.

To be fair, we live in a large house on an acre of property with very little in the way of steps or stairs and they're used to lots of room to roam around.

To get to our slip, it's about 1/10th of a mile walk from the nearest grassy area. The walk is along a concrete dock. It's Florida... in September... by midday, the concrete was really hot on their poor little paws. We didn't take that into consideration. We also didn't think about the distance and the arthritis issue.

Within a minute, the first lab (the 95 pound one) leaped into the water to try and drink the raw water coming out of the air conditioning outlet. The water is a good foot or more below the finger dock so she started to panic when she couldn't find a way back up and lifting her out of there turned out to be a chore but we finally did it. There was no easy way to get them on board or off load them to take them for a walk. We tried stairs, a doggie ramp, and manually lifting them.

The short version is that we ended up taking them back to the house. They were terrified of the boarding and disembarking process and of the other boats (of any size) passing by and they were obviously uncomfortable in the cramped-for-them space.

The vision of them cruising with us was a grand one but some dogs are not well suited for boating and the design of some boats are not well suited for accommodating large dogs. Turns out, this particular combination isn't going to work well. We still love the boat... and the dogs... but not together.
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Old 06-09-2016, 08:04   #2
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

Sad story.

I have heard of people cancelling their cruising dreams because of a dog.

Very difficult decisions.
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Old 06-09-2016, 09:01   #3
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

Probably the floating dock, my dogs hate them! One stands at the end of my dock, gives it the eyeball, crouches down and moves as quick as he can to get on board. No problems with fixed docks as soon as he realized it won't move.
Mine like the boat, the rougher/windier it gets the more the boy gets into it, Tasha fits herself between the cockpit combing and the rail on the windward side, likes having a fender left out for a pillow. I have lifeline netting and have a triangle of astro turf on the foredeck for "the business".
Luckily neither swim or even really like the water much, soon as water touches the belly it's time to turn around and head for shore!
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Old 06-09-2016, 09:12   #4
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

Some suggestion from a dog owner
Booties for the hot walk
Use a ramp for getting onto the boat. We use a plank of ply that has wood battens on it to keep the plank from sagging. Outdoor carpet is really nice on the front side to get a good grip.
Shade cover shade cover shade cover over the cockpit.
Keep a bucket tied of the stern for drenching the pups when it's hot.
The old girl will have a hard time balancing with the boat in motion. Make sure she has a soft, secure place to call her own.
Give lots of praise. Act brave in front of the pups instead of being distressed over their stress. We are all having fun here!
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Old 06-09-2016, 09:50   #5
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

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Originally Posted by Siberianhusky View Post
Probably the floating dock, my dogs hate them! One stands at the end of my dock, gives it the eyeball, crouches down and moves as quick as he can to get on board. No problems with fixed docks as soon as he realized it won't move.
Mine like the boat, the rougher/windier it gets the more the boy gets into it, Tasha fits herself between the cockpit combing and the rail on the windward side, likes having a fender left out for a pillow. I have lifeline netting and have a triangle of astro turf on the foredeck for "the business".
Luckily neither swim or even really like the water much, soon as water touches the belly it's time to turn around and head for shore!
Did the dogs take to the astro turf themselves or did you need to coax them?
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Old 06-09-2016, 10:22   #6
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

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Did the dogs take to the astro turf themselves or did you need to coax them?

We had to really work to get Lucy to go on our mat. After all, they're colorblind and the thing just smelled like plastic. What worked was to put it on the dock, lay sod on it and catch a bit of her pee and put it on. Once she figured it out we slowly removed the sod and then moved it onto the boat. By then she took to it like she was born to use it. But then again she was a Belizean potlicker, and smarter than most.


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Old 06-09-2016, 10:44   #7
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

John, just consider more training, before you give up on it.


Try replacing the stairs with a ramp. One of you on either side (to the extent possible, before falling off the boat or the dock) as you lead one of the pups up or down. 3-4' might be a bit much to solve, but a ramp with a decent tread (carpet, maybe, plus some occasional cross slats, maybe) might seem much more pleasant to critters.


Rewards (food?), as an enticement, almost always helps. "Play time" -- walkies were considered a treat, too -- always worked in our case, too.


Booties for hot concrete.


What would have been your plan for anchoring out and getting dogs to shore? Got a dinghy? Can you load dogs into dinghy while still aboard, and then launch the dinghy? Or...?


Our guys always loved dinghy time! It signified play time, and they also got to be the "hood ornament" while underway!


-Chris
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Old 06-09-2016, 11:49   #8
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

I "seasoned" the first one in the backyard for a couple weeks, rubbed it in a couple fresh pee spots and scooped a couple piles in it.
I press a couple of grommets in the cornes so I can drag it behind the boat after it has been used and toss a couple buckets of water on the deck.
I'm not sure I need the carpet anymore but it gives them grip and works.
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Old 06-09-2016, 12:04   #9
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

Thanks for the tips on "seasoning" the mat. I've been trying unsuccessfully to get a dog (any dog) to 'go' on our mat. This failure has resulted in a lot of extra shore excursions.

In case anyone was wondering, Rabbits have no trouble relieving themselves on a boat and Jack Russel Terriers can be trained to not eat rabbits

Steve

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Old 06-09-2016, 13:55   #10
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

I'll be following this thread with great interest, as we are facing a similar dilemma. We have two Rotties - a four-year-old male who weighs around 85lbs, and a 1-year-old female at around 70lbs. Our boat is a Morgan 462 with a nice big center cockpit, so hopefully that will make them feel secure. Going to install lifeline netting too.

I have the dinghy at home to refurbish it, and put it in the pool this weekend. The female happily jumped into the dinghy, out again, and back in again - the male would not go anywhere near it! I cannot imagine leaving either of them behind, but if worst comes to worst our daughters have said they will care for them when we go cruising.

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Old 06-09-2016, 14:09   #11
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

If the finger dock is very narrow...possibly an "L" shaped ramp that would eliminate a couple of the four steps. Fold it up and done.

I would be elated if I could say "do this" and problem solved.

In defense of the Labs it was their first time. Surely they will learn from the experience.

Possibly a bribe when everyone is settled on board, only when on board. A trimmed chicken thigh or their favorite fish ?

Would enjoy some photos too ! Are they Boxheads ?
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Old 06-09-2016, 15:15   #12
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

John, you're right, sometimes, it's not meant to be. 95 lbs. is a lot of not well coordinated beast to cram into a small space, I can easily see how it might be frightening for her. And the other one's 12 yrs. old, roughly 84 in people years, and with arthritis, so for that one, even trying to maintain balance and control is painful. Have you discussed meds with your vet?

Really, I can understand the disappointment, but at the end of the day, it will take a lot of work to get them to accept the boat without fear, and do you even want them terrified and hurting?

I think you have made the best decision for them. Sorry it makes you feel sad.

One time, a Customs German Shepherd in training was brought aboard our 36 footer. It was a horrible mess for him, not only was he terrified, but he could hardly turn around below decks. He couldn't manage the companionway steps, either, and was too big to be carried. I felt so sorry for him, because his handler was furious with him, and none of it his fault, imo, he'd been asked the impossible.

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Old 06-09-2016, 15:33   #13
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

"The vision of them cruising with us was a grand one but some dogs are not well suited for boating and the design of some boats are not well suited for accommodating large dogs. Turns out, this particular combination isn't going to work well. We still love the boat... and the dogs... but not together."

Word! Wrestling with this dilemma with a largish wheaten terrier.
I think food will have to be the key & gradual learning process.
He is so timid anyway. Hates confined spaces.
I am not optimistic.
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Old 06-09-2016, 19:25   #14
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

I think it also has a lot to do with how the dogs were raised. Mine have always gone everywhere and done everything since day one, new experiences just don't seem to phase them at all. As long as the people are involved and food is in the dish all is good.
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Old 06-09-2016, 20:42   #15
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Re: Introduced the dogs to the boat - didn't go so well

Quote:
Originally Posted by Panope View Post
Thanks for the tips on "seasoning" the mat. I've been trying unsuccessfully to get a dog (any dog) to 'go' on our mat. This failure has resulted in a lot of extra shore excursions.

In case anyone was wondering, Rabbits have no trouble relieving themselves on a boat and Jack Russel Terriers can be trained to not eat rabbits

Steve

Oh good lord...a bunny on a boat is better than the chicken!
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