Doggie Defense!

Some our most frequently asked questions are about our dog.

Sadie Jane – Catahoula Leopard Dog mix

How will she go to the bathroom?

Is she afraid to be alone on the boat?

How will you keep her from falling off the boat?

What happens if she DOES fall off the boat?

What kind of safety gear does she wear?

I find it amusing that I get asked about Sadie Jane’s safety more often than ours. Let’s face it. If one or both of US fall off the boat, the dog isn’t going to help us get back on! But I totally, get it. These are the same questions we asked ourselves, and other cruisers, as we did our due diligence in prepping for this cruising lifestyle. So we will happily answer!


Q: How will she go to the bathroom?

A: Female dogs squat to pee. Conversely, male dogs either squat or hike a leg to pee. Male and female dogs both squat to poop. It’s a biological and physiological thing.  

…. Was that not what you meant? OH! You meant, WHERE! *wink* We have options for this!

Option A: Take her to shore. We have a dinghy with an outboard motor that we use to go back and forth from boat to land. We load her up with us, and we zip over to shore. We then let her run and, do her business. And, YES, we ALWAYS clean up after her! We do this once a day, weather permitting, because it’s good for her (and us) to have a chance to run around and play. Sadie Jane LOVES to frisbee! And she’s young, and very high energy. We like to wear her out, and it’s fun!

Option B: Faux grass mat on the bow. We picked up a large remnant piece of “grass” outdoor carpeting from Home Depot, and a large rubber boot tray from Amazon. We cut a piece of the grass to fit the tray, and have placed it on the bow of the boat. Training for using this was a challenge. It goes against her life long training to “go” in (or on) where she lives, so we attempted to use the mat everyday while we were still at the dock. We eventually took it with us to the marina dog park and shoved it up under her when she peed. We even left if at the park for a while, and asked our dog neighbors to use it when they were at the park, too. Having it “scented” helped A LOT!

The whole process to train her to use the potty patch was much more complicated, but that is for a different post.

Potty Patch

Q: Is she afraid to be alone on the boat?

A: The boat is home! Just as she was never scared to stay “at home” when we would go to the store, or out to dinner, or off to work, she is just as comfortable staying “at boat” when we do so now – after, that is, she calms down from being mad that . That said, for my own comfort, I have 4 wifi cameras installed inside the boat, so I can check on her through an app on my phone (when we have wifi access). Trust me. She’s fine. Sadie Jane typically rotates between the v-berth, the settee in the saloon, and the cockpit (standing guard). If anyone is interested in the cameras, we use WYZE CAM.

Q: How will you keep her from falling off the boat?

A: Jack lines, and tethers. These are the same features we use for ourselves!

Jack lines are straps that run the length of the boat, and we attach ourselves, and the dogs, to this (much like a mountain climber would do) to prevent us from going over the side should we slip and fall, or encounter rough water conditions. When we are underway, she will be “jacked in” to the lines by her harnesses or life vest via a tether anytime they are above board, and out of the cockpit.

Tethers are stretchy lines with carabiner clips on each end that attach to our vests, or harnesses, and some point on the boat. Points on the boat could be a jackline, or a point of the mast, or a padeye in the cockpit. The job of the tether is to keep people and animals (and sometimes gear) on the boat, without restricting movement.

Sadie Jane’s tether vs. my tether. Mine will handle a few hundred pounds, and has two lengths depending on my need for range of motion. Hers is plenty to handle her 35lbs, and keep her safely in one place.
Sadie Jane tethered into the cockpit. The black scrunchy cord running from a padeye to her harness. This allows her to lie down, or stand up, adjust her position on her bed, drink water, etc, without leaving the safety of the corner, and getting under foot while we sail the boat.

Safety netting is something else we have, but have not yet installed. It goes on the life lines around the the perimeter of the boat – think “playpen” – and that is about as good as it gets for when we’re not moving. It is not an easy installation, and so far she has not displayed the need for it. However, we DO have it, and we WILL eventually install it. Not as much for keeping her on the boat… but her toys. Poseidon has claimed one or two.

Q: What happens if she DOES fall off the boat?

A: We’ll let her figure it out. That’ll teach her!

JUST KIDDING!!! We have a doggie-overboard operation ready to enact at a moment’s notice. She can easily be fished out of the water by the handles on her harnesses or life vest. This can be done either by hand from the dinghy, or paddle board, or by a boat hook from deck of the boat.

This brings me to the last question…

Q: What kind of safety gear does she wear?

A: Help ‘Em Up harness, and EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device. The Help ‘Em Up harnesses are exceptional. I mean, these are serious pieces of equipment that encompasses her body completely, and without restricting her movements She can even use the bathroom without removing it. Designed for senior dogs, or dogs that have mobility issues such as arthritis, or hip\joint pain, these harnesses have have the typical over-the-neck and around-the-chest piece with a handle, as well as, a bottom piece that are hip straps with another handle. The two pieces detach, so she can wear just the chest piece. Because each piece has a handle, we can comfortably pick her up by her harnesses, to lift her in and out of the boat, dinghy, or water if she takes an unexpected swim. (Incidentally, she requires no assistance getting in and out of the dinghy from the boat. She is quite agile!) The back handle, also, comes in handy to snag snag her if she is in too much of hurry to go somewhere, or to lift her back legs to help her climb up onto something tall. She wears her full harnesses when we are underway, or if the weather dictates it, and she always has on their chest harness, unless we are down in the boat for the night.

The EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device, too, is a substantial, robust vest that has a strong handle, and is worn whenever she is above-board when underway for long distances, or if they weather dictates.

The truth is nothing is 100%, but we have darn good safeguards implemented, and we simply choose not to take unnecessary chances with our safety or hers. She has been swim tested. She really doesn’t like it, but she proved to handle herself well in water, and our doggie-overboard drill went as expected. Now we’re looking forward to days of dinghying to shore to play and explore, and to fun on the water with her riding around with us on the paddle board! I mean, come on! THAT’s what all of this is for! To enjoy life! And we don’t mind leading by example – just doing our part to promote hedonistic values!

~Debra

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