We get lots of questions when we tell people we’ll be setting sail:
“Will you be visiting Guam?” “Aren’t you worried about pirates in the Indian Ocean?” “Are you planning long, ocean passages?”
The answer? It depends on our dog Honey. And it all comes down to poop.
The Curse of Perfect House Training
I never thought I’d say this, but I worry that Honey’s house training is too perfect.
Honey is five years old. In all that time, she has only had one accident in the house since she completed house training at about ten weeks old. And that accident was the result of a blockage that required emergency surgery. So I can’t really fault her.
Will we be able to retrain Honey for long passages on a boat?
Dogs Who Poop On Boats
Experts estimate that there are about 10,000 sailboats in the world crossing oceans on extensive cruises. Of that small number, only a tiny number are doing it with dogs aboard.
And every one of those dogs has learned to poop on board.
It takes about two weeks to cross the Atlantic ocean. And that’s a long time to hold it.
We’ve met cruisers whose dogs never learned to “go” on the deck of their boats. So they limit their travels to stay within sight of land so they can dinghy their dog to shore at least twice a day for potty breaks.
The trip from Florida to the Bahamas takes 24-36 hours by sailboat. And many cruising dogs have a very uncomfortable sail until arriving in port.
We want Honey to be comfortable. And we want flexibility to travel where and when we like. But mostly we want Honey to be comfortable.
Of course, we’ve already begun training her to accept pooping on the boat. Will it work?
Retraining The Dog
A record-cold winter put off my plans to train Honey to do her business on an Astroturf mat. But spring was my salvation.
To many people, spring means returning birds and blooming bulbs.
Here in Ithaca, spring means mud. Lots and lots of mud.
But this time the mud came in handy for training Honey.
I put straw down on the muddy ground to keep wheels and shoes clean while moving our bikes in and out of the basement every day. Interestingly enough, Honey liked the straw too. And although she normally went to the back of the yard—as far from the house as possible—to poop and pee, the straw around our back door changed her mind.
Our dainty little princess decided that rather than get her feet muddy, she’d just toilet near the house on the dry, clean straw.
Eureka! We hid the Astroturf mat under the straw and hoped Honey would eventually use the straw covering the mat. Then we’d have something with the right scent to use on the boat.
As of today, Honey has peed on the straw-covered mat twice. Hopefully the scent on the Astroturf mat will be enough to encourage her to use it when we put it down on the deck of the sailboat.
Pooping In Paradise
Will Honey eventually learn that it’s okay to toilet on the deck of a boat?
I have no idea.
But I do know that we won’t make any plans in which Honey is not happy or comfortable.
Hopefully our puppy in paradise will end up pooping in paradise.
Your turn: Have you ever had to retrain a dog to use a deck or other new surface to do their business? Any advice?