It’s hot. The temperature and humidity combined make it feel like 107 degrees F. But if we’re hot, how much worse is it for Honey with a double fur coat? Without air conditioning or even ice, I’ve had to adopt some surprising ways to keep my dog cool on the boat.
Maybe they’ll keep your dog cool too.
Keep Your Dog Cool In The Shade
On a hot and humid day, the last thing anyone wants to do is leave the house in the heat of the day. Better off staying inside in the air conditioning or in front of a fan to keep your dog cool. And when you live in a house, that’s a great thing to do.
But our boat is uninsulated. The hull is dark green. And the sun is beating down hard because there aren’t many trees in the water. So we make our own shade.
- Cover the Deck
I marvel when I see boats at anchor on hot days without deck covers. The boat just bakes in the sun and the heat builds up below.
Our deck covers need some repairs. The shock cords we use to attach them to our lifelines are worn out. So we didn’t put them up the first two days when we landed for a short stay in Washington, North Carolina.
We cobbled together some lines and got the deck covers up our third day on the dock. As a result, instead of inside temperatures in the high 90s, the boat only got as hot as 88 degrees. Yeah, still hot. But tolerable.
Honey agreed. She settled down considerably after we shaded the boat.
- Block the Sun
Underway, the sun position is constantly changing. Besides the normal celestial movement of the sun across the sky (Yeah, I know it’s the earth that’s moving, not the sun. I’m just trying to make a point.), every time we turn the boat, the shadows shift. As a result, a hot day underway has us moving from side to side to share the tiniest spot of shade.
But we also help the situation. As long as the sun is low in the sky, we keep the spray dodger (the “windshield” over our companionway) up to block it. Once the sun is high overhead and blocked by the bimini (the canvas covering over the cockpit), we push the dodger back to give us more breeze.
When we land for the night, we track the sun’s position. And use sheets or an umbrella to block the harsh sun in the western sky.
Yes, it takes a lot of work. But it’s better than melting into a puddle of sweat—covered in dog fur.
- Get Off the Boat
Sometimes, no matter what we do, it’s cooler sitting under a tree somewhere. So we pack up our lawn chairs and water, food, and toys for Honey and dinghy to a park.
Cruising is difficult. But it shouldn’t always be an endurance sport. Are you hot? Is your dog hot? Get off the damn boat.
Keep Your Dog Cool With Mist
Honey doesn’t care to swim. And some of our favorite anchorages are in waters with fast-running currents. So even I who love swimming won’t tempt fate by jumping overboard when there’s no way of knowing I could swim back against the current.
But we still use water to keep us cool.
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I have a small spray bottle of water nearby. When it gets really hot, I spray Honey’s paws and belly to give her relief.
We don’t have unlimited water on board. But I imagine a damp towel could also be a comfortable bed if you have enough water to keep refreshing it as your dog’s body heat warms it up. And of course you can invest in high-tech cooling pads or evaporative cooling vests. (Anyone tried one? Please share in the comments.)
We bought a cooling mat for Honey. But she just didn’t like lying on it. So we resort to more old-fashioned ways of keeping her cool. Including one most people never think of.
Keep Your Dog Cool By Grooming
Many people think the best way to cool your dog is by shaving them. A trim may be part of the cooling regimen for dogs with some coats, like those that are curly or wiry. I don’t have any experience with dogs who have anything but double coats. But maybe someone will educate me in the comments.
But you don’t want to shave your double-coated dog. The interior fur helps to keep them cool as well as warm. It’s like insulation.
If you insulate your house, it will keep your house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. When you shave a dog, you’re taking away the insulation.
But that doesn’t mean that grooming can’t help keep your dog cool. You know all that fur your dog is blowing out? Help it along by using your favorite deshedding tools.
Once she’s groomed, Honey is more comfortable. And we can finally taste a bite of food without getting a mouth full of fur.
Helpful tip: Don’t groom your dog when you’re motoring. The “station wagon effect” will simply sweep the loose fur right into your open cabin. It’s a job best done on shore with a breeze blowing away from anyone who doesn’t want to be covered in dog fur.
Keep Your Dog Cool By Watching
There are some cool gadgets to keep your pets safe in the heat. But if the living on the sailboat didn’t clue you in, I’ll just tell you we’re pretty low-tech. Heck, I don’t even have a smartphone to track the temperature of the boat if we had a device to help us do it.
So we keep Honey cool by watching her.
As I write this, we’re anchored in the Pantego Creek in Belhaven, North Carolina. My husband Mike took the dinghy to town and is working in the library while I work on the boat with Honey. I can keep an eye on her and make sure she’s comfortable. I can refresh her water when needed. If it seems to be cooler in the cockpit than in the cabin, I take her up there.
Once the temperature goes up, we make sure that Honey is always with us. Either we all go ashore together or one of us stays on board with her.
With her own personal servant on board to cater to her every need, Honey is more likely to stay cool no matter what.
How Do You Keep Your Dog Cool?
Whether you’re keeping your dog cool on the boat or in the car, what’s your favorite way to keep your dog comfortable when you can’t rely on air conditioning?
It’s a constant question for us on the boat. But many people who don’t live on boats have to cope with heat while going for walks, running errands, or waiting their turn when competing in dog sports.
So share your favorite way of staying cool in hot weather in the comments. But don’t do it for me. If you have a great way to keep a dog cool, share it for Honey.