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Old 27-06-2013, 09:01   #1
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Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

Hi all,

We have been living aboard with our puppy for a year and a half, quite successfully, always at anchor. For the first time, we will be living in a marina starting in August due to my new job. Does anyone have any tips on training the pup not to leave the boat unattended? When we are gone, the dog is crated, but I would like him to be able to move around above decks while we are down below. I would also like to avoid having to keep the companionway shut whenever we are home. I have seen articles no how to keep a dog in the yard, but he will have to know not to jump to the finger dock WITHOUT us, but that is is ok to do so with us...

Thanks!
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:11   #2
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Maybe have him on a leash whenever you take him off the boat. Then he'll know that without the leash, he should stay onboard. Also, you could possibly run a jack line on deck as a lead for him. Granted, I haven't trained a boat dog, so this is just speculation based on having trained a few on land.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:22   #3
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

Can he jump over lifelines? Maybe you start by keeping him in the cockpit. Food is a great training tool. We have trained the dog with some scat mats and he avoids them at all cost. We have in the past placed the scat mats on the side decks next to the dodger to keep him from leaving the cockpit.

We keep our 60lb mutt inside the boat while we are away for a couple of reasons.

1 - When it is hot he needs the AC.
2 - Sometimes he will bark at folks walking by and we do not want to discourage this built in security alarm.

He has the entire boat to roam when we are home. I have also been training him to stay on deck when I leave for a couple of minutes. Each time he is successful I leave again for a little longer. I give him a treat when I return.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:39   #4
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

Yes, unfortunately he can jump the lines- incidentally he can also easily jump over the companionway doors if top hatch is open.

I agree completely with keeping the pup below decks while we are away- our pup has been crate trained since he was a puppy and whimpers much less if we leave him in the crate than if we leave him out with the companionway shut.

Do you simply pick up the scat mats when you want to take him for a walk? Does he get nervous crossing the area where they normally are even with you?

Thanks so much!
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:44   #5
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

First of all, he should be trained to "stay" whenever and wherever he is told to. This can come in handy when the human crew needs to maneuver without tripping over the canine crew. Train him to get on his bed or a certain out of the way spot. I find that once the dog learns "stay" then telling him to "stay" as you are leaving the boat is adequate.
But - one thing you must not do - NEVER allow him to disembark without being told to. This is crucial if you want him to stay when you are out of sight. Teach him "stay" and "go ashore", that way he will wait for an order to go ashore. NEVER allow him to go ashore without the command, or he will promptly unlearn staying onboard when told. You can ask my ex how she knows that.
We did the same sort of thing with swimming. Our dogs were taught to never go in the water from the big boat, only from the dinghy. This constantly reinforced command prevented them from jumping off to play with dolphins while under way.
I would not put him on a jackline. I once had a shore bound friend who had a similar arrangement on his porch. He came home one day and found his dog dead, hanging from the rope.
Our dogs were never caged, and onboard they always had access to the deck or to shelter. I feel that we are responsible for our pet's safety, and if we aren't around then we need to give the animals as much freedom as possible so they can (hopefully) get themselves out of trouble. That may not be feasible in your situation, but it's worth thinking about.
Enjoy your pet's companionship.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:45   #6
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

We only used the scat mats on deck a couple of times and that was a couple years ago. There are some places below where we used to place the mats that we no longer do and he is fine with those areas. He associates bad with the mats themselves, not where they were.

BTW, while at anchor he has free roam of the entire boat when we are not there as he is trained not to go in the water. A largish black dog on deck will make your average petty thief skip your boat.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:56   #7
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

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Originally Posted by FSMike View Post
First of all, he should be trained to "stay" whenever and wherever he is told to. This can come in handy when the human crew needs to maneuver without tripping over the canine crew. Train him to get on his bed or a certain out of the way spot. I find that once the dog learns "stay" then telling him to "stay" as you are leaving the boat is adequate.
But - one thing you must not do - NEVER allow him to disembark without being told to. This is crucial if you want him to stay when you are out of sight. Teach him "stay" and "go ashore", that way he will wait for an order to go ashore. NEVER allow him to go ashore without the command, or he will promptly unlearn staying onboard when told. You can ask my ex how she knows that.
We did the same sort of thing with swimming. Our dogs were taught to never go in the water from the big boat, only from the dinghy. This constantly reinforced command prevented them from jumping off to play with dolphins while under way.
I would not put him on a jackline. I once had a shore bound friend who had a similar arrangement on his porch. He came home one day and found his dog dead, hanging from the rope.
Our dogs were never caged, and onboard they always had access to the deck or to shelter. I feel that we are responsible for our pet's safety, and if we aren't around then we need to give the animals as much freedom as possible so they can (hopefully) get themselves out of trouble. That may not be feasible in your situation, but it's worth thinking about.
Enjoy your pet's companionship.

Just a fine point here -- crating isn't "caging." Well trained as a puppy, dogs LIKE their crates and view them as their den. I often watch as a friend's dog carefully chooses from his toys, takes two or three of them into his crate, and then curls up in there to sleep. Crates shouldn't be too big for the dog or it won't feel like a den to them. It's not "mean" or restrictive to put a dog in his crate. You're the alpha dog, and you're telling him "Now is the time to sleep safely in your den. Come on back when I, the alpha dog, am here, and then you have the delight of being with me." And that's what they do -- go into their den, as far back as they can go, and curl up and sleep. They're happy to come out when you get home not because they're being released from a cage but because you are there now.

That said, the rest of the boat is the boat's territory, and dogs like to frequently check out their pack's territory. Part of the training plays on this dog's trait, to have him see the boat as "his territory" and the dock as "not his territory," hence, no need to patrol it. A good watch dog barks only when someone approaches your boat, not when that person is, say, 20 feet away from it. Not his territory; not his alarm to call.

It's all about the training. If you struggle with it, you can hire a dog behaviorist. Look at your training from the dog's point of view so you're capitalizing on his traits and not trying to fight them. If he sees the dock as part of his territory, he will try much harder to get there.
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Old 27-06-2013, 10:16   #8
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

Fully agree about the crate - our dog often chooses his crate over sitting in the room with us sometimes in his bed. Or when we eat, he'll go lay in his crate. It's his home and he often prefers it. I don't know why people wouldn't crate train as a puppy.

Going to have to follow this thread as we take our dog sailing on our small boat and will live aboard with him on the big one eventually.
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Old 27-06-2013, 10:22   #9
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

After a year and a half, I doubt if it's still a "puppy." Training a dog on a boat should not be much different than anywhere else. Our dog was trained not to go into our living room (mom had a thing about her carpet), and one day one of her stupid friends brought her little dog over and into the living room while sorely tempted, our well trained dog never got more than his paws on the edge of the rug.

The "stay" post was exactly what is required.
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Old 27-06-2013, 10:44   #10
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

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Originally Posted by maytrix View Post
Fully agree about the crate - our dog often chooses his crate over sitting in the room with us sometimes in his bed. Or when we eat, he'll go lay in his crate. It's his home and he often prefers it. I don't know why people wouldn't crate train as a puppy.

Going to have to follow this thread as we take our dog sailing on our small boat and will live aboard with him on the big one eventually.

Depends on the size of the dog, too. I know a couple who keep their dog on the boat quite successfully with a combination of behavior training and netting. She's a springer spaniel and can't get over the netting, but shows no inclination. They carry her on and off the boat.
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Old 27-06-2013, 11:59   #11
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

Dog size definitely makes a difference. Our black standard poodle was 60 odd pounds and had legs of spring steel. He could leap tall buildings at a single bound.
He could also take up most of the space below the dinette when he stretched out so a crate would have been a tad largish.
Nobody ever burglarized the boat though.
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Old 27-06-2013, 12:10   #12
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

There is a thread on electrified lifelines. They could work.

Just kidding. As a dog lover and owner, I have had the same issue. Keeping lifelines up keeps her in the boat....she is always looking to get off the boat if the lines are down. I have seen her take jumps that make me wonder if she can make it to the pier, but she seems to be a good judge.
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Old 27-06-2013, 13:06   #13
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

This reminds me of one of the first cases I had after graduating from vet school. An old Rotty jumped off his boat. His hind limbs missed the dock and he landed on his belly, rupturing his bladder. After surgery and a few days in the clinic and he went back to boat living. His owners built a ramp so he wouldn't have to jump anymore.
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Old 10-02-2014, 18:42   #14
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Re: Training a dog to stay on board in a marina

Just in case anyone came late to this thread, here is a great technique for teaching invisible barriers.

(And if you don't clicker train, you can use a marking word like "Yep!" instead),

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