Cruising with your dog 101
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
What could be better than spending a warm, Southern California day (the only kind we have here) on your boat with your most loyal companion by your side? I am specifically talking about man’s best friend. In my case, this would be my first mate, Murphy.
Before you start rattling off a list of adventures that you would rather go on (e.g., staying in an over water bungalow in Bora Bora or going skydiving in New Zealand, etc.), I should mention that I am not trying to compete with exotic locales and death-defying stunts. I am referring to a lazy summer day where you wake up in your own bed.
Sailing with a dog can be a lot of fun and extremely entertaining, but you have to follow certain protocols to ensure safe, enjoyable travels for your pet. Like we do for our human children, “dog-proofing” your sailing vessel is a must. In addition to familiarizing your pooch with your yacht a few times before you actually set sail, it is important to secure open areas (in between the life lines that encase the boat and underneath the seats, for example) with some kind of fabric netting. No dog owner wants to come to the sudden realization that Fido is no longer on board the ship, which would then most likely have to be followed by a frantic SOS call via the Marine VHF radio in a desperate attempt to start a search and rescue mission. Is this too dramatic? The good news is that this type of situation can easily be avoided with some planning and preparation.
Once your sailboat is safe for pet boarding, get your four-legged friend fitted for a life jacket (with a handle just in case) and let him / her practice strutting around and going for a leisurely swim a few times before heading out to sea. While it is true that many breeds are natural born swimmers, we never know when Mother Nature will feel like adding some excitement to the journey.
Taking a short break to share one of my favorite photos. Murphy fixed on the horizon as we pull into Morro Bay.
A first-aid kit for Fido should also be kept on the ship at all times and should include supplies like antibiotic ointment, gauze pads, scissors, and bandages. Hopefully you will not need to play doctor, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Next to the first-aid kit, you will probably want to keep a copy of your pup’s medical records and all necessary paperwork depending on where you plan to dock your boat. Make sure to check out local and foreign (if and when applicable) laws concerning dogs and boats.
Saving the best tip for last, it is what I affectionately refer to as the “poop deck conundrum.” Common sense tells us not to leave our fur babies alone on a boat for an extended period of time, but regardless there are plenty of times when Murphy has to go to the bathroom. I know what you might be thinking, but I cannot help myself to corny jokes when it comes to these posts sometimes. Anyway, it would be nothing short of divine intervention if she could go down to the head with a roll of toilet paper and just relieve herself the way humans do. However, I think that we have the next best thing, a patch of artificial grass (note: we tried a patch of fresh grass but Murphy thought it was a place to dig and hide her bones). She may not always make the grass, hence the “poop deck” reference, but the effort is always there so we are forever grateful. Besides, there is such a thing as a hose.
My daughter's dog, Paxton (aka Sharkdog, Sharkbait).
When it comes to sailing with your beloved dog, the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives. Here are a list of products that should help to make these experiences memorable (in a good way of course).
Ruffwear: Durable harnesses.
Wilder Dog: Adventure gear.
Jax & Bones: Eco-friendly, boating-themed dog toys.
Just Food For Dogs: Fresh food for His / Her Royal Cuteness.
Fresh Patch: Real grass (as seen on Shark Tank).
Sailrite: Lifeline netting.