Does Your Dog Trust You?

“If you promise your dog something, you have to give it to her. Don’t risk breaking her trust.”

Honey’s trainer said this to me years ago.

It reminds me to ask myself, “Does my dog trust me?”

Does your dog trust you?

Boat Dog, Meet Boat

Some of the boats on our top ten list were much more dog friendly than the one we bought.

It was a hard choice.

We ended up buying a Pacific Seacraft partly because it’s a beautiful boat, inside and out. And beauty is important.

But mostly, we ended up buying a boat that would be comfortable in heavy seas (sailors call it “seakindliness”) and safe.

Sailing boat Meander is safe and pretty. But not dog friendly.

She’s pretty. And she’s safe. But she sure isn’t dog friendly.

Unfortunately, the safest boats have features that make them hard for a big dog to navigate independently.

On Meander, we need to carry Honey up and down the companionway (opening to the cabin) ladder. It’s too steep for her to do it herself.

My husband is very good at it.

He can pick Honey up in the cockpit, step over the bridge deck (the step in the cockpit that keeps water from flooding the cabin in heavy seas), and carry her down our four-step ladder while holding on with one hand.

I’m not so strong.

In fact, my first method for getting Honey below was to pick her up on my lap while straddling the companionway and tossing her into the quarter berth (small sleeping quarters next to the entrance). It wasn’t easy to do. Honey hated it. And it was even worse when I forget to check if my husband had left something there for Honey to land on (the box of pencil and pens was the worst).

I dreaded having to bring Honey down by myself.

But most of all, I began to worry if I was breaking her trust by not finding a safer and more comfortable way to bring her below.

Honey the golden retriever wants to come down from the cockpit.

I’d like to come down please.

Trust Me

I started experimenting with other ways to help Honey down. And I started with treats.

A piece of baloney coaxed Honey to put her front paws inside the companionway.

How do you take a dog down a ladder without breaking her trust?

Okay, you got my attention. And my front paws are inside the cabin.

Once she was half way inside and happily eating baloney, it was easy for me to stand on the bottom step, pick Honey up to bring her inside, and climb the one step down to the ground.

The other thing I’ve started doing to encourage trust is to use a cue to let her know when I’m going to pick her up.

As I get ready to lift her, I say “Let’s fly.”

Does it mean anything to Honey?

I don’t know. But I think it’s always a good idea to try to prepare our dogs for what’s coming next.


Honey the golden retriever flies through the cockpit.

Uh oh. She just said “let’s fly.”
I’d rather take Delta.

Honey the golden retriever flies into the cockpit.

I hope the flight attendant comes by soon with my snack.

Honey the golden retriever prepares to land.

This is not a very dignified way to travel.

Once she’s inside, I gently land her on the settee where she can jump down to the ground on her own.

Honey the golden retriever lands safely in the cabin of the sailboat.

Ahhhh, the best part of flying. Landing safely.

I’ve only been using this new lifting technique for a week. Is it helping Honey to trust me?

Girl’s Night In

Last week, my husband spent the night at his brother’s house so he could have access to the internet for planning the next leg of our trip.

Honey and I stayed on the boat.

Honey doesn’t like it when Mike and I walk her together before one of us splits off to go somewhere else.

I remember one time we walked Mike to work and trying to convince Honey for twenty minutes that we shouldn’t wait for him but should walk home on our own.

I worried that Honey would be anxious without Mike on the boat.

Luckily, we did just fine.

Honey saw the boat as home so when Mike left for the night; it was no different from him going to work or leaving our land house.

And I had developed a better technique for bringing Honey down into the cabin so she trusted me not to hurt her.

Honey the golden retriever with bed and bone.

Maybe I should just stay in bed. I hear flying isn’t good for dogs.

Trust Is Important

I trust Honey to stay by my side. I trust her not to bite me when I take food away from her. I trust her not to destroy my home when I leave her alone.

I think Honey trusts me too.

She trusts me to feed and exercise her. She trusts me to always come back when I leave her behind.

And now, I think she trusts me not to drop her down the companionway ladder.

Your Turn: Do you trust your dog? Do you think your dog trusts you? 


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  1. Happy to hear you’ve developed a method for getting Honey down into the cabin safely, for you and her.

    Duster, our oldest that we’ve had since he was 10 weeks old, trusts us, no question about it. And we trust him. Well, except with food on the counter… Zach, who came to us at 4.5 months, and with some baggage, doesn’t trust us fully. Partly his baggage, and partly our fault. The main point of contention is trying to get him in the house when we’re getting ready to go out and leave them for a bit. He reads the signals, and won’t come in. A few times, we’ve resorted to opening the truck door to have him hop in, then grabbing his collar and taking him into the house. We hate to do it, and know that we are breaking his trust when we do so, but sometimes, when we forget to plan ahead, we have to resort to it. Do we trust him? Yup, fully.

    • Everyone who has ever had dogs has resorted to trickery or bribery when the chips are down. :)

      I saw a couple urging their dog to jump off their boat onto the dock when he refused to (although he had done it earlier). The woman shouted at him with exasperation, “C’mon Jack, hurry up and jump off before the wind changes.”

      I knew it wasn’t the best dog training moment. And I could absolutely see myself doing the same thing. :)

      Zach just seems like a smart boy to me. Too bad you can’t leave him out when he wants to stay there.

  2. Great post – glad you’ve found another method for getting Honey down – I remember reading that and thinking – Yikes! Jack trusts me 100%, but Maggie, not so much. I work hard to gain it, but I think it was so damaged before not sure it will ever come back.

    • I’m glad I found a new method too. It was scary for Honey. And probably didn’t do my back any good.

      You’ve worked so hard with Maggie. I suspect she trusts you absolutely much as she is able to. And that’s something to feel good about.

  3. I would have to say yes and both accounts. Roxy of course likes to be picked up, and does a little jump when I bend over to get her. Torrey is the same way. She trusts us to watch out for her.

    • Best of all, you don’t have to leave Roxy and Torrey behind very often. And that probably does more than anything to build your very special bond.

  4. My dogs trust me but if i ever broke the trust I’m sure there would be some doggie conspiring that I would not like.

  5. Aw wow, this was great to read! It really is important to have a good trust relationship between dog and human.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  6. May you always have safe landings. I’m sure Honey trusts you completely. Just look at her face-there’s complete love and trust in those eyes!

  7. I like to think Blueberry and I trust each other – within reason. Of course, there are those times when she knows I am really hungry and not in sharing mode and she cannot trust that I will share a delicious sandwich with her. And I know I can trust her not to eat horse apples as long as I have something really smelly and tasty in the treat pouch to offer her while we are on the trail.

    I have not yet had the opportunity to lift her – I know she is only 36 pounds – but I am a weakling. I’m glad you found a new method for getting Honey to where she needs to be. Bologna – 101 uses – someone should really write a book.

    • You are very funny. I got such an image of Blueberry sniffing out horse apples on the trail. :)

      At 50 pounds, Honey is at the limits of my strength. Every time I see my husband sneaking her an extra little snack, I worry.

      And yes, I discovered bologna after realizing I couldn’t use up liverwurst fast enough when we don’t have refrigeration. But you can buy baloney by the slice. :)

  8. A resounding yes in both cases for Nola. I can do anything to that dog and she accepts it with happiness. She does not bite, guard, growl, run off, chew, ect. She can go anywhere and do anything, and she trusts me to keep her safe. It’s a hugely rewarding feeling.

    I trust Olivia not to bite/guard/growl/pick fights, ect. I do not trust her to not run off if not leashed (she’d see some animal or find a scent trail and be gone!). She trusts me for the most part, though she came to me at 5mo hand shy, and sometimes still shies.

    I trust Pike the least of my dogs. He won’t bite and doesn’t guard, but he’s a weird dog. Sometimes he’s as solid as Nola, and sometimes he’s a nervy, spooky mess.

    I trust Roxie not to bite me, but that’s about it so far. She’s sweet, but she hasn’t been here long and I haven’t worked enough with her to establish a foundation of trust. She also has a handful of issues, just from living on the street. She’s learning to trust me.

    • What a perfect demonstration on what it means to have several dogs. Each of your relationships is unique and reflects the totally different characters of each dog.

  9. I’m glad to hear that you found a way to “fly” Honey 😉 Missy & Buzz trust me to care for them/keep them safe: Take them out for their walks (especially in the mornings before breakfast), feed them, play with them, groom them, tuck them in at night (well, Missy likes that, Buzz not so much), and never leave them alone for too long.
    Both pups have earned my trust of not tearing up the house when they’re home alone – as long as the bathroom door stays closed, and/or the trashcan out of reach. Missy LOVES shredding (used) kleenex…

    • Someone has to invent a new dog toy that simulates used kleenex. So many dogs just love it (luckily, Honey is not one of them).

  10. Haha, I like your way of thinking 😉 If you come up with that toy, I promise to buy it!!!

  11. Sweet – Missy would be flattered to be your kleenex-shredding-toy showcase pup! We’re sending you lots of positive energy!!

  12. I love this, and how much she trusts you. My girl is the only one I have had since she was a puppy. She will do anything I ask of her. I think she trusts me.

    • I think starting with a puppy is really helpful. At least you don’t have to worry about someone else having broken your dog’s trust already.

      And yes, Honey’s trainer was very wise. I wish I could fit him on the boat. :)

  13. And I love your trainer’s advice.

  14. Just 12 days behind in my reading now instead of 15 or 16. Having had all my dogs since puppyhood, trust has not been that difficult to develop.

    Even Ducky, who spent most of the first seven months of her life at the shelter, trusted me from the beginning to mix love in with her training sessions. And when we were going nuts with her turbo-charged energy, she trusted us to love her in spite of our frustration. And after a few weeks of daycare, she was already trusting me to come back to get her at the end of the day and bring her back home.