Monday, February 8, 2016
The most talked about doggie topic when people find out we sail with dogs aboard is about how they do their business. We have a piece of fake grass that we use for them to do their business..... only on the grass..... we don't want them to go in the marina on the boat - though there have been circumstances when one was sick that we did bend that rule. Once, Clewie was on heavy doses of Prednizone for suspected MMM and needed to pee about every 2 hours. My sanity needed her to use the "fake grass" some of the time.
And for the most part, I would rather they not just go anytime we are out sailing. They are able to let us know they need to go - and we have been able to put the mat down, then pick it up when they are finished. I also think that guests find this more tolerable - at least it will give you a chance to prepare grandma or kids that the dog is about to go to the bathroom.
The biggest trick in training this is to have them know to go on command, and on a fairly regular schedule (so you can predict it). It's also helpful to have a good routine in place. for example, we regularly go out for "bathroom breaks" where we have a strict routine and distance for them to do their business. This also helps at home when the weather is nasty, or they are injured so that you don't have to go on a long walk just waiting for them to go.
But back to boat potty training, when you are all prepared and ready to try out going aboard - then, you be STRONG the first time you go out to try it at anchor. If you cave after 10 hours..... and bring them to shore, then you have taught them to wait it out for 10 hours until you bring them to shore. The first time they go is the hardest - and when they do, make it the biggest party with high value treats you can muster.
We have full details about how to train this from Dr Dunbar (above)..... who we were lucky enough to attend his community training talks when we adopted our previous dog from the Berkeley Humane Society. We asked him after one of the talks... and it has served us well... Matey was a superstar with taking care of her business while cruising and happily living aboard. We have met many cruisers who need to go to shore every morning and evening.. which means no overnight passages. It also means that in uncomfortable and potentially dangerous conditions at anchor - your dog would need to be brought to shore multiple times a day. Once down in Mexico, we were boat bound in a Norther with gusts to 50kts.... it would have been uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous to have to row Matey ashore.
Clewie is well on her way to being even better than Matey - I can usually get her to produce one and two on command (as long as she has something to do), she really gets it.... Tack is the reason for this past weekend's project. He has pee down pretty good, but struggles with the serious business. It helped a lot to actually put on their leash and say the same words/routine as when we go out for a bathroom break in the marina. He is older, about 4 years old (3 when we adopted him), so that could be the reason. But he's also a more cautious dog than courageous Clewie.
Our toilet is a purchased piece of fake grass mat ... which was pre-cut. The size is a little bit small for Tack... I believe. I suspect when he gets more experience, it will be fine being smaller, but this weekend, I thought I would make it a little bit bigger by attaching a larger piece of astroturf. Kinda like toilet training wheels.
My hope is that he will be more comfortable with the larger target and then I can trim it down a bit. But since it's been awhile since we did an overnight at anchor - they think it's a nice lawn on the back deck that I've created for them....