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Tips to find the perfect four-legged first mate!

by John Jamieson on 18 May 2012
Fitting the dog to the size of the boat is also important .. .
Dogs have served as mascots on square riggers, merchant vessels and warships. But how can you find out if your own four-legged friend would be happy on your cruising boat?

If you're in the market for a new canine companion, use this short list of well-seasoned boat dogs to get you started:

* Portuguese Water Dog
* English Springer Spaniel
* Golden Retriever
* Labrador Retriever
* Border Collie
* American Water Spaniel

Look for These Water Dog Characteristics:

Does your friend take to the water or not? To find out, engage in a game of fetch with a rubber ball, throwing it into the water. A great water dog fetches the ball with gusto every time! But if he or she shies away from the game, leave Fido with a friend before you cast off.

Consider These Dog Buoyancy and Health Facts:

All dogs are not created equal, which means some swim and some don't. The less body fat, the less buoyancy. A tubby pooch may float like a cork. Dogs bred for water fowl retrieval have more body fat. On the other hand, leaner dogs like the Doberman or boxer often sink like a stone.

Older, overweight dogs or those with health problems could be in trouble if they fall overboard. All dogs experience fatigue after short periods in cold water, high sea waves or strong currents. Those out of shape or unhealthy, succumb much faster.

Life Jackets for Dogs:

Many marine authorities around the world set personal flotation device (pfd) standards for humans, but not for canines.

Every owner must make their own decision as to whether to carry a dog lifejacket. Look over these fast facts about flotation devices for our four-legged friends:

* Dog life jackets keep the dog horizontal, without tilting the head back. This keeps the canine in the normal swim position, where the dog lifts the nose to breathe.

* Most dog life jackets fasten at the chest and around the neck. For comfort, look for a vest with chest straps wider than 1'.

* All dog lifejackets come with a lifting strap on the back. Work out a recovery method with heavier dogs. Retrieval may prove difficult in all but the calmest sea conditions.

Take care in your choice of a canine companion to bring aboard your cruising sailboat. After all, he or she--like any sailboat crew-- will depend on you for safety at sea.

John Jamieson (Captain John) shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need beyond sailing school at www.skippertips.com.



Valuable advice message from Reader:

Sender: Art S

Message: Hi,
You forgot to mention Giant Schnauzer. They love water. plus they are low shedding. which IMHO is very important in small spaces as in boat. They don't smell. Which is great if you are prone to sea sickness. They one of the top 5 best protection dogs. (besting german sheppard) would protect your boat and you in strange port.They are easy to train and great in a boat. I have one. at first I was afraid I'll have to carry it always in and out. As ladder is very steep and have 6 steps. In forums I saw people building ramps or carrying dogs in on their hands. which was not an option for my GF. as our dog is over 35kg. and on the way it could be difficult. I was very much against building a ramp as in a pictures I saw it would interfere with crew movement. And I was pleasantly surprised when after a month My dog learned to go in and out without any help.
I have no experience with most of the dogs in your list, but I know about retrievers. they smell. and shedding like hell. They are not protection dogs. only plus is they are good around water. as other breeds you mentioned.

Regards.
Art.
Aboard Westsail 32 OKEANOS

Zhik ZKG 660x82InSunSport - NZSouthern Spars - 100

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