Dogs Aboard 101
Dogs are a man’s best friend, and most Loopers who are dog owners wouldn’t dream of doing the Great Loop without them. With just a little preparation, you and your pooch will be set to enjoy the many perks of Looping with your best friend aboard!
Like most things in life, preparing your dog for the Great Loop will be easiest if you start with the basics. Take him aboard and practice simple commands such as stay, sit, on boat (while showing him how to board), off boat (while showing him how to safely leave the boat), etc.
Of course, if your dog is a land lubber, you’ll have to give him time to become accustomed to the water and living aboard. If your pet has never been on a boat, take him for a short outing and see how he does. It’s very common for dogs to get seasick. But luckily for Fido, some of the same medications used for humans, such as Benadryl and Dramamine, also work for pets. Another task for your preparation checklist! Consult your vet on what medications, and what dosage, to use for your dog.
One of the biggest questions about bringing a dog along, is where will they “go to the bathroom”. Teaching your dogs to “do their business” on the boat, may take a lot of work, but if you plan to anchor out, not having to run to shore a few times a day will make life a bit easier! With a piece of AstroTurf or a box of sod on the deck (and a lot of encouragement!) you may be able to teach your dog to take care of business aboard. Then simply hose off the area. Puppy pads are another great tool to use while on the boat. Some dogs simply will not get use to the idea of using the boat for a “potty”. Since there are very few areas of the Great Loop where you’ll be out of sight of land for more than a few hours, bringing your pooch ashore is quite possible throughout your trip.
Dogs may unexpectedly find a way to jump off the boat at a dock and even while underway, so using a harness instead of a collar is safer. The harness should always be hooked to something on the boat while the boat is moving. Before it happens, pre-determine a safe way to get your dog back aboard should he decide to take a swim. Also, do not encourage your pet to drink the water from lakes or the ocean. Freshwater lakes can be contaminated from factories and boats and can contain harmful bacteria. Instead, make sure your dog always has enough fresh drinking water available on the boat.
Another helpful tool is a life jacket. This not only protects your dog from drowning but also gives you something to grab when you need to pull him out of the water.
A few miscellaneous supplies can also help make things run more smoothly for you and your pooch. Using a non-slip mat for under the food and water bowls can help avoid slips and falls, and having a first aid kit specifically for your pet is important. And don’t forget the sunscreen! Yes, dogs need sunscreen too, on unusually hot and sunny days. Make sure you choose a neutrally scented sunscreen, which is less likely to irritate your dog than one with a strong scent. Lastly, doggie waste bags are a must to pick up after your dog when you’re on land.
Remember, every dog is different! But if you plan ahead and give your pooch time to adjust to life on board, he will enjoy the Great Loop as much as you do!