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Old 07-02-2007, 23:55   #1
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need help getting pooch to do her duty on deck!

Hellllp! I realize this is a tired subject in pet forums, but we need to try again because we're desperate to get our dog to do her business aboard.

We sailed from Oregon to Valdez, Alaska, last summer with our 6-year-old, 60lb Samoyed. She's exceptionally well trained and learns new things all the time, so we thought we'd have no trouble getting her to do her business on deck. We tried a fake grass welcome mat, even putting her own toileting scents on it. And then tried again, with other boat dog smells. No luck. She just sits down on it and smiles. We finally committed to dinghying her to shore morning and night, no matter what. But there were three stretches where this was impossible (Astoria-Neah Bay, Elfin Cove-Yakutat and Yakutat to Prince William Sound).

She did her best to last. Her longest attempt was 50 hours without peeing or pooing. When she finally gave in, she was mortified. We're very worried about her. At those times we praised her to no end, pointing to her business, loving her and giving her treats. She still won't warm to the idea of soiling her home.

Can anyone please help? I've even tried Calling All Pets, but no word from them yet.
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Old 08-02-2007, 07:42   #2
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You have to understand the thinking of your dog. Right now your dog considers your boat as his den. He learned this from years and years of doggy history and by you when you potty trained him/her. He is a 'den type' animal. These animals are very particular about dooing in their own den. So he isnt in the mood to crap in his own bed, so to speak. I would suggest taking him/her to a dog behavoir specialist, explain what you are having a problem with and maybe........MAYBE........they can solve the issue.

I wouldnt force the dog to doodie anymore on the boat since it upsets him/her as you can see.
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Old 08-02-2007, 11:01   #3
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50hrs can't be good.
Do you have a transom plateform?? Maybe (I have no clue, just suggesting) you could set somthing up on that. It's kinda "off" the boat and close to water and so on. He may view it differently.

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Old 08-02-2007, 12:12   #4
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At those times we praised her to no end, pointing to her business, loving her and giving her treats.
I ain't no dog training expert............but was this wise?

I would train her at home (or when ashore) to use a "special box" in her usual places, and with a voice command / reinforcement........and then coupled with praise / rewards.

When she gets used to using her "special box" onshore / at home try using it on deck onboard.........downside being that wherever you are yer end up with a box of dog cr#p as YOUR reward
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Old 08-02-2007, 12:16   #5
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I would train her at home (or when ashore) to use a "special box" in her usual places, and with a voice command / reinforcement........and then coupled with praise / rewards.
I've heard of this one before. It works if you train them at home then you have at least a chance it will work aboard.
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Old 08-02-2007, 13:36   #6

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It will help if her spot is as far removed from the rest of the "den" as possible, i.e. perhaps the foredeck. Using a box, or some astroturf, to mark the area as special will help. As will picking up some of the earth she relieves on, on shore, and placing it on that mat so she knows the scent and recognizes that it's ok there.

I wonder if a vet could suggest a simple diuretic to give her, something to relax the bladder muscles and give her a bit of extra incentive to "pee now" so she decides that special spot is better than the cabin and just DOES it?

I've also heard--but haven't seen--from folks who rigged a simply platform outboard amidships, i.e. folding up against the lifelines and folding down as an outboard extension of the deck, making that the dog's special place so they could also easily wash it off into the sea. Not good in foul wx...but perhaps easier on your steel boat than on a frp hull.
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Old 08-02-2007, 14:39   #7
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We have the same problem and have found with time the dog will become less ashamed of doing it on deck with time. The key is keeping it habit so once she has -- try and seperate walks ashore from doing 'business'.

We have not succeeded on that but still working on it. Our dog will now go offshore easier buy anchored she still wants to go ashore.
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Old 08-02-2007, 15:42   #8
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Most of what I can offer is sympathy. We have been through it with Toby and wrote an on line article about it at

All I can say is that over time, the dog becomes more comfortable with using the deck but wrestles some with the difference between “on” the boat and “in the boat.

We still take many more trips to shore than is comfortable because we want him to be a happy dog. He now whizzes without excess bother, but #2 is still a big deal.

Starting with a mature dog is IMHO a big part of the problem. If you start with a pup, they learn the rules just fine. The adult dog had defined his den, and when he/she can't walk off the boat into the grass/woods/whatever, they assume they are in the den.

Good luck. Many boaters have faced this problem with varying degrees of success. Some end up with large sized old dogs that they have to physically lift to and from the dinghy and take ashore at least twice per day.

She took my address and my name
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Sunspot Baby, sure had a real good time
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Old 08-02-2007, 17:43   #9
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I am potty training our 6 mo old lab at the moment. We are not training her for a boat yet, but she thinks it is ok to poop/pee on out deck, rather than walk down the stairs to the grass. We have a dog door, so she goes whenever she wants.

How we fixed the problem was by putting her in her kennel (den) during the day, letting her out when we get home, and immediately take her down he steps to potty. Took time, but has worked nicely.

Perhaps you can kennel you dog for a few hours, take them out on the deck and say the command; I think you will see results.

For those that think that the cabin is their den, from what I gather of dog books, a den be just large enough for them to turn around in it. If too big, they will just go. Maybe that is why dogs have no problem with going in the cabin.
Sell the house.
Keep the dog.
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Old 08-02-2007, 20:57   #10
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Several years ago we had a Shitzu, the smartest dog we've ever owned.
He was not a very good boat dog, as he hated every minute of it.

When he had to go, he would hold it forever, to the point of his eyes turning yellow.

When he finally "got it" that it was ok to pee and poop on the foredeck, we praised him.
Only one problem, he must have also decided it was ok to crap on our enclosed patio at home! It took quite a long time to fix that!

Now we have cats.
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Old 24-02-2007, 10:05   #11
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Emergency Options


Everything I've read in the replies to your intial concern is correct with regards to the behavior and the thinking patterns of dogs. I think you've received some very good ideas on how to overcome this training problem.

Here is some information to fill in the gaps:

You were concerned that the dog went 50 hours without peeing. You were right, this is NOT good. When a person, or animal cannot pass his water, say from an obstruction or, fortitude, or whatever, the urine backs up. It literally fills the kidneys and causes the structures that form the urine to become damaged and the result can be Kidney failure and death. Even though the dog may finally go, simply because he can't hold it any longer, does not mean that damage did not occur.

So, here are some suggestions when faced with a long passage that you might want to employ.

First, try to find a dogfood that is low in salt (sodium) Dogs get plenty of salt, just from being on the water, and licking the deck, or the stanchion, or themselves...salt, finely coats everything as you know, so no need to give him extra in his food. Cheap dog foods tend to have a higher salt content, but I've heard that some of the better dog foods, like Eukanuba for example, may also be higher is salt. Ask your vet for the real facts, or choose to feed your pet a bland assortment of people-food during the passage, one that you can regulate the boiled chicken and rice, no salt added.

Second, you can limit his water intake for that time period. I know in humans that 2 oz an hour is a sufficient quantity for life. There are many patients that are put on water restrictions for various reasons, but the prime reason is kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.

My last suggestion is to be used as a last resort. Ask your vet for a Urinary Catheterization Kit. Now, don't freak out, this is not really as big of a deal to do, as you might think, and although everyone expects this to be painful, it simply is not. There are people that self-cath 4-5 times a day every day for various medical reasons. To do it on a dog, would probably require 2 people, one to do it and one to hold the dog, but its super easy to "straight cath" a dog, and something that I would do in an instant if the dog had held his urine for more than 36 hours. If you get a kit from your vet, or from someone that works at a hospital, they come in a sterile package, which is about the size of a pencil case. They contain everything that you need to do this mini procedure, and this package can be easily added to your first aid supplies. Ask your vet to show you how its done. There are also books on it, and if you can't find it, write to me and I'll help you find it.

If your dog, not peeing for super long periods is really a problem that you are facing and you love your about this possiblity to your vet. And remember, not passing urine during a certain time frame is considered an emergency. Your vet can also help you determine what size kit you need, depending on the breed of your dog.

FYI, I lived aboard for 2 years with 2 large Golden Retrievers. I would never sail without them, as they earned their passage more than once by alerting me to thieves while at anchor. They could sound intimidating if need be, and were perfect to have aboard, since we were not marina dwellers, but preferred to live on the hook, when we were in port. Keeping a soft muzzle in my first aid kit was important, I felt, in case the dogs were ever injured, and I would need to stitch something or splint something...We, as people, often are great about outfitting our emergency first aid kits for humans, but a muzzle should not be left out if you are crusing with dogs.

Hope this helps,

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Old 24-02-2007, 20:09   #12

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Wouldn't a diuretic plus a muscle relaxant work to make the dog let go? Without needing to risk internal bleeding and damage from a catheter?
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Old 24-02-2007, 20:42   #13
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Diuretics can make you urinate, but they are so extremely dangerous as they alter the electrolytes in your body. The biggest danger is losing too much potassium, which causes cardiovascular collapse. When a human is started on diuretics their blood chemistries are monitored regularly for changes. Diuretics, though effective for managing high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, are extremely dangerous if not backed up by regular lab draws.

Catherization is an extremely safe procedure with minimal training. I have never seen internal bleeding result from a catheter in 17 years of healthcare. I have seen trauma done to the urethra (the tube that releases urine from the body), when a FOLEY catheter which has a balloon attached, has been inflated incorrectly. Straight catheters have no such balloon. They are made of silicone, or rubber, and are very soft.

As I said in the post, catheterization would be a last option, and only done in an emergent situation. It is something to explore with your vet. The best solution, IMHO, if you have to get to this step might be to leave your dog with relatives on shore, if possible, and not subject them to any of this....

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Old 24-02-2007, 20:43   #14
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Also, muscle relaxors have no significant effect on the urinary sphinctor that I am aware of....
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Old 25-02-2007, 07:21   #15
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I hav had well trained rtrievers for 12 yrs now. They have been hunting dogs and we ran them in field trials. Part of their training was a command "High On" don't know where it came from but it means time to poop or pee. If you don't have a puppy I imagine that this training would be hard to accomplish on an older dog but it is worth a try. Whenever the dog needs to go outside for a pee repeat the phrase "high on" or whatever specific phrase you want to use. After awhile the dog will associate the command with the action. It is very useful on road trips and the like.

I live in the country and when we drive up to the gate the dogs come and greet us. Often my ten yr old son gets out and pees (OK I do it too) at the gate as we drive in. Our male retriever comes over and sniffs it and then pees on the same spot. The female Great Pyreanease (sp?) just sniffs. Perhaps you could lead by example on a piece of astro turf? It is worth a try.
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