We all worry about our dogs.
You might worry about your dog getting injured or sick. I worry about my dog going overboard and being lost at sea when we move aboard a sailboat next year.
I’m working on ways to prevent that from happening.
But I need your advice for my timid dog.
Protecting The Dog At Sea
How important is it to keep from falling overboard?
When Europeans set sail to
exploit explore new lands, most sailors did not swim. Falling overboard was such a horrible fate that knowing how to swim would only delay the inevitable.
It’s easier to turn a 35 foot sailboat around than a multi-rigged, wooden schooner. But it’s still not easy.
And it’s very difficult to find someone in the waves. Many captains recommend tossing every floating object out of the cockpit if you see someone go overboard so you have a trail of litter to help you get back to your crew member.
We’re planning on installing netting on the boat’s lifelines, clipping ourselves to the boat at night or when we’re alone in the cockpit, and, of course, using life jackets.
And here’s where I need your advice. Because I wonder if the safest life jacket for my dog Honey might also freak her out.
Canine Life Jackets
Honey is used to wearing a life jacket. We’ve never taken on a kayak or sailboat without her wearing one while we’re underway.
But summer temperatures where we live now are usually in the 70s (24 C). So Honey doesn’t suffer too much from wearing an extra coat over her fur. And she only has to wear one a few hours.
What about when we get to Grenada, Hispaniola, or Panama? And when we’re aboard a boat all day, every day? Is it fair to make her wear a bulky life jacket because I’m scared of something that may never happen?
But I read a review of an inflatable life jacket for dogs. And I became very interested in it for Honey. Until I saw the video.
I wonder if the whoosh of the jacket inflating would freak Honey out. Check it out for yourself.
If you watch the video, Rusty looks startled when the life vest inflates. And he swims to shore so he can figure out what’s going on.
But Rusty is obviously a confident dog. He’s not concerned enough about wearing what looks like a raft to stop fetching and swimming.
Would Honey’s potential fear or the inflating life jacket make a bad situation worse? Or is going overboard at sea such a serious danger that her discomfort at the strange noise and motion not worth considering?
And if we do choose the inflatable life jacket, should we buy extra cartridges to practice desensitizing her to it? Or would that just make her reluctant to wear it in the first place?
For example, Honey was never comfortable with the telescoping ramp when we were training her with it at home. But once we used it to give her access to the boat from the floating dock, she became pretty comfortable with it. Maybe the same thing would happen with the life jacket.
I’m open to any advice you can offer, based on your experiences with timid (not severely fearful) dogs. Should we try the inflatable life jacket? Or not?
If you want to read about dogs on boats, check out my reviews of Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog and A Sea Dog’s Tale.