I know you’re hoping for cute pictures of Honey on exotic beaches or barking at pelicans. But life on a boat takes lots of training.
For us. And for the dog.
Learning To Live On A Boat
All three of us are learning to live on a boat.
Even everyday activities are quite different here.
For me, just cooking dinner means turning on the propane valve in the cockpit, turning on the gas control button on the electrical panel, turning on the solenoid that allows the gas to get to the stove burner, and lighting the stove.
And when I’m finished, doing everything in reverse.
For Honey, getting off the boat to play with another dog means getting lifted into the cockpit, waiting for one of us to move her ramp into place, negotiating the ramp while the boat is moving in the slip (small boats are never totally at rest; even stepping on or off shifts them in the water), and then greeting her new friends.
Just when we get good at one new thing, we have another new thing to learn. And the next one will be huge for Honey.
The New Boat
You know that kid’s song: “Row, row, row your boat, gently with your dog…”
Yep, our new dinghy (the small boat that we’ll use to go to shore when we’re anchoring) is a rowboat. A folding rowboat.
While Honey watched skeptically, we spent yesterday afternoon assembling our folding boat, lowering it into the water using halyards (the ropes/lines that lift the sails) and winches (rotating drums with gears that make it easier to lift heavy objects attached to lines), and bringing it back on board.
Oh yeah, and we also got to row it for the very first time.
I thought Honey would be upset when each of us rowed away from the dock. But she wasn’t fazed one bit.
I think she was just glad not to have to go along on our maiden voyages.
Honey’s New Car
Many cruising sailors refer to their dinghy (small boat) as their car. It’s what they use to go shopping or visit other boats while at anchor.
For Honey, the dinghy will be how she gets to shore for walks, playtime, and potty breaks.
So she’d better love it.
And that’s why neither of us took her along in our first exploratory row. Because we stink at it.
Okay, Mike stinks at it a little less.
But we’re both pretty awkward. Rowing is harder than it looks.
We’ve both canoed and kayaked. But rowing happens backwards. With two paddles instead of one.
Just getting away from our boat to row down the center of the marina was pretty tough.
It was probably best we didn’t also have a scared pup slipping and sliding on the bottom of the boat while we tried to row straight.
But we’ve got to get good soon so we can start getting Honey used to it.
Honey’s Next Trick
Honey will have a few skills to learn before riding in the dinghy.
First, we have to figure how to get her in and out of it.
Some dogs jump in and out of the dink while someone holds it close to the boat. Some dogs are carried. And some dogs are put into a harness and lifted using the halyard and a winch to airlift them in and out.
Second, we’ll need Honey to find her place in the boat and stay there. Rowing in one direction will be tough enough without Honey throwing off the balance in first one direction and then another.
Third, Honey will have to wait patiently while we bring the dinghy up on shore or tie up to a dock. If there are other people or dogs nearby, this will be the tough one.
Time to break out my rules for training. I think they’ll be useful for all of us.
Rules For Dog (And Human) Training
I’m usually better at remembering these rules for Honey than I am for myself. But they work for humans too.
- Break training into small steps.
- You can never go too slow.
- End on a high note.
I should probably write these training rules onto a waterproof card and tape it to the dinghy. I have a feeling we’re going to need them for a long time to come.
Your Turn: Any advice for training your dog in an area you’re also learning for the first time?
Photo credit: The picture of the military working dog being airlifted is from the U.S. Army and is used under a creative commons license. Click the image to learn more about it.