Honey has surprised me by learning some amazing things–walking on a moving ramp, climbing steep stairs with open treads, and even staying balanced on a heeling sailboat.
But this year we have a new trick for her to learn. We’re going to teach our dog how to fly.
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Good Dog, Bad Boat
And we’ve all had to make adjustments.
My husband Mike and I have had to develop our weight lifting skills to move Honey up and down the companionway ladder (entrance to the cabin below). And Honey has had to adjust to being a weight.
She’s done amazingly.
But there’s one more boating skill we haven’t worked on much. It’s getting Honey out of the sailboat, Meander, and into the dinghy, Mini-Mea.
We’ve taken Honey rowing in Mini-Mea a couple of times. And she did great.
But we had our boat up on dry land being repaired. So we simply lowered our folding dinghy from the boat, set it up, and put it in the water from the nearby dock.
We won’t have that luxury when we’re at anchor in the middle of a river. If Honey wants to go ashore, we’ll have to lower her over the high sides of Meander into Mini-Mea floating below.
And that’s going to be a trick.
That’s why our training goal for 2016 will be to teach Honey how to fly.
Honey The Dog On The Flying Trapeze
Some particularly brave dogs leap off the deck of a boat into a dinghy waiting below. But Honey has always been a cautious girl.
We could try one of us handing Honey down to the other one standing in a floating dinghy. But we’d prefer to stay out of the water most of the time, Especially when air temperatures are close to freezing.
So we’re going to have to teach Honey how to fly to get into the dinghy.
Here’s what I mean.
The metal spar that holds the bottom of our largest sail is called a boom. As in “watch your head or you’ll hear a loud crashing boom as it knocks you unconscious.”
The boom attaches to the mast (the tall sail support) with a flexible joint (called a goose neck) so the boom can move from side to side over the deck of the boat.
We have a block and tackle (a tool for giving a mechanical advantage when lifting heavy items with a rope) that we will tie to the boom. We’ll attach the block to the boom on one end and to Honey on the other end.
Then we’ll push the boom out over the waiting dinghy and gently lower Honey into it like a hovering angel.
Voila, Honey’s flying.
But we have some training work to do first.
Baby Steps To Flying
Step one was fitting Honey to a technical climbing harness. We found a very secure one from Ruffwear (affiliate) that is made for mountaineering with dogs.
I started by showing Honey the harness and asking her to touch it with her nose for a treat. Once Honey associated the harness with yummy things, we were ready to have her wear it.
It’s a complicated harness with lots of attachment points for safety. It took us a while to set it up for her to wear.
Once the harness was on, we encouraged Honey to walk and play so she didn’t feel it as an uncomfortable constraint.
We even lifted her by the handle to get her used to being lifted in a new way and to make sure the harness was secure.
Now it’s time for step two: teaching Honey to accept being lifted by a device instead of in our arms.
We’ll probably bring the clicker and treats out again to help Honey associate good things with the lifting tackle. And we’ll continue to take baby steps as we practice lifting her before we swing the boom out over the water and lower her into Mini Me.
If we’re smart, we’ll take it slow and easy.
We were hoping to get into warmer weather before experimenting lifting Honey with the harness, block, and tackle. But repairs and issues have kept us north far longer than we had hoped. And we may find ourselves trying the lift for the first time in the icy waters of North Carolina in about a week or two.
There’s a stretch of about 80 miles in the ICW with no marinas. So if Honey wants to potty on dry land, she’ll need to take a dinghy ride.
Or perhaps this will be the perfect chance to see if we can convince Honey to take care of business on her grass carpet on the boat deck.
Either way, it’s a fabulous (and necessary) opportunity to practice some positive pet training.
And it will give us mad skills to work on all year. Especially the flying.
We’re joining Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days in sharing positive pet training stories, encouragement, challenges and triumphs. The hop is open all week long beginning the first Monday of each month.
Your Turn: Do you have any training goals for 2016?