I'll answers some of the questions people have about sailing dogs. If you have one that you don't see here, just send me an email and I'll have my mom add it to the page. And if you want to include a picture of you - I'll have her add that in addition to your name. But if you'd rather remain anonymous, just let me know and I won't even tell her who you are...
How do you deal with the potty stuff?
This isn't my most favorite topic, but here goes:
First, I learned the difference between 'inside' and 'outside'. This was done over about 3 weeks time - every time we went inside (stepping on the boat) or outside (stepping off the boat) the boat, we said, 'Let's go Inside!', or 'Let's go outside!' This was to help define to Matey that there was an inside (not ok to go potty) and outside (ok to go potty). We didn't want her going in the cockpit unless the Astroturf was in place - so basically, the Astroturf was to be labeled as 'outside' - but that part will come later.
When I had that down, I learned to go 'pee pee' and 'pooh pooh' on command. This is a beneficial command regardless of what you use it for. I cannot tell you how many times I was thankful she knew this. Whether in the rain, just before hopping in the car for a long road trip, or to be sure she empties her system before a ocean sail.
It's really easy to do, when you know she has to go, take her out on leash, stand in one spot, eventually after all the smelling, she will get bored and go. At this time you make an absolute fool of yourself with the biggest happy dance you can muster: 'Good, Girl, Good Pee Pee (or Pooh Pooh)' and give lots of liver treats (or cheese, rotisserie chicken, lamb - something REALLY GOOD). Do this religiously EVERY time she has to go - always on leash, if possible. But if not - make sure you do the happy dance and give her HIGH VALUE treats every time she goes - and repeat "Good Pee Pee or Good Pooh Pooh".
When she starts to go faster, and you are able to predict it, start saying, "Go Pee Pee" just before you know she is about to go. When she is really good at this, you are ready for the hardest part - the power of the wills....
When I was really good at that task, mom and dad took a little baggie sample (let me tell you i thought they lost it when they were sticking the little baggie under me while I was peeing. We really did this. Dr Dunbar (a fabulous animal behaviorist/trainer we spoke with about this beforehand) said some people even as part of the 'on cue' training in the section above, put a symbol (a plastic purple flower for example) down where the dog usually goes potty every time they go. Then when it comes time to go on the boat, they put the symbol down on the Astroturf. We were in a rush and decided to go with the 'fresh sample' option.
We went out for a sail to Angel Island, anchoring in Hospital Cove and they took out my toilet. Now, this is the hardest part, so be sure to leave the dinghy at home, the reason we went to Angel Island is because we knew she wasn't even allowed on the Island - so it was kinda defining for us. At 'going outside' time, we asked, she said she had to go, we went into the cockpit, took out the astroturf, put down the sample, pointed to it and said, 'Outside, Go Pee Pee'.
We did it a number of times throughout the night, we also didn't sleep very well, every time Matey got up, one of us got up with her to show her the new toilet. We also HAD to be there if she did use it - because when she does go, it's the biggest happy dance of all - great treats, everything to let her know she is one good girl!!! (or boy if you have a boy doggie). Then clean it up right away!!!
By morning I had given them the presents they were waiting all night for.
Although this does seem like a lot of trouble - this is very worth going through and I think a responsible part of bringing your dog sailing. We have been on even day sails of 6 hours where Matey for whatever reason, didn't or wasn't able to go before we left shore and we have had to use her toilet underway. It's a very comforting feeling as a doggie mom to see your dog able to relieve herself in a place that she knows is okay.
Not to mention the freedom of not HAVING to go to shore. Usually when we are anchored and the dinghy is in the water, we bring Matey to shore. She loves the beach and we love to watch her play. But it's a great feeling knowing that we don't have to.
Since I only use my toilet on overnights where we are at anchor, I still hang on to the hope of going on land. I'm much better at #1 than #2. We are thinking that Matey will become more used to it when we take off for our year long cruise. When we did a trip to Catalina in which we sailed straight down the coast - 3 days of 24 hour sailing, by the 2nd day, Matey was regularly using her toilet as she would land - except no one had to bring her - she just walked out on her own when she had to go.
But we still do a happy dance and give her treats when she uses it now. Since we are most often at the dock nowadays, she still needs a bit of reminding when we go out. But when it comes down to it and she has to go, at least I know she recognizes the Astroturf as the place to go.
How do you make a doggie sailing toilet?
Here is a picture of the toilet in the cockpit. We cut a piece of Astroturf the size of the space we wanted, lashed it to a backing of dry deck to weigh it down in the wind. Tied a long line to it for dragging overboard during cleaning. That's it.
How do you stay feeling safe when it gets rough?
I go down below in my aft cabin: My bed usually goes in here when we sail and I normally keep lots of pillows for lounging in there anyway. If it's going to be a rough day, mom will sometimes put her ipod in there with little speakers that play calming music. It's actually a cozy little room. This is where I also run to when there are fireworks.
Will you tell me what Matey is wearing on her paws while steering? (from Mom's friend Priscilla)
In addition, I also wear sailing shoes: These are muttluks and great sticky booties. I also have a pair of ruff wear hiking boots, but these are much better sailing shoes. As long as you don't try to take them off - these are the stickiest!!!! They give me the confidence to walk easily (even run) around the deck, and to go down below whenever I want and return to see what's going on.
Do you have some sort of netting around the boat? (from my friend at West Marine)
yes: The netting starts at about the dodger and runs up to the bow pulpit. Since I'm so big, and don't hang out too much near the anchor, mom and dad stopped it at the pulpit. This is only an issue when dolphins are around - then mom gets worried I might jump in.
And after the dodger is the cockpit, since our combing is so high, I'm safe in there.
To put it on, mom just bought the netting off the shelf at West Marine and looped it on with the little plastic rings that they also sell there.