Cruising Dog FAQs

What’s it Like to Cruise with a Dog?

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Rudy is a long haired miniature dachshund who we adopted on February 21, 2005 at 12 weeks old.  He’s grown to be a whopping 12 pounds.

“But you live on a boat!”

That’s right, and Rudy doesn’t know that’s unusual, since he started out as a young sailor. Housebreaking is the first thing everyone wants to know about, so we’ll start with that, then answer other questions you may have about taking a dog cruising. As we continue our adventures, keep checking back here for photos and stories of Rudy’s life at sea

How does Rudy do his business aboard a boat? In a box! Remember, he doesn’t know any different! It’s all in the training. We didn’t want to have to store litter on the boat, so as you can see in

the photo on the right, we’ve lined the box with an absorbent whelping pad that we bought online. This pad keeps down odors and can be washed hundreds of times. We bought one large pad and cut it down into six pads to fit his doggie litter box (specially made for dogs). When Rudy uses the pad, we simply swap the used one for a clean one and wash it. Once Rudy’s scent got on the pads, he quickly learned this was the place to go. This is a great product and can be found at www.drymate.com. We recently took Rudy on a long flight. He flew in the cabin with us and we simply carried him in his suitcase to the restroom, put down the pad, and he relieved himself! What a dog! This system has 

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worked great, and is a heck of a lot easier than rowing him ashore several times a day! We put him in the box and say “Get busy, Rudy.” And he does! On command!

Aren’t you worried about him lifting his leg on the boat? Little puppies squat. That’s what Rudy did from the start in his box. We’d heard that if you neuter them young enough, they won’t start lifting their leg. Well, the very day before he was scheduled for neutering, we watched him walk up to his litter box and... you guessed it... LIFT HIS LEG! Luckily, that little habit didn’t take hold. He now lifts his leg when he’s ashore, but squats in his box. Yes men, we know it’s not manly, but it keeps the boat cleaner.

Come on, you make this sound too easy! Ok, you’re right. There have been a couple of stumbling blocks. At first he associated all throw rugs with the feel of the whelping pad in his box. Standard housebreaking training (lots of patience, vigilance, firm “no’s” and high praise for going in the right place) plus liberal applications of “Nature’s Miracle Odor Removal” to remove his scent from accident-prone areas cured him of that problem. The other unanticipated technical difficulty is that he occasionally goes to his litter box, but only gets halfway in before peeing. Yep, he stands there with his front paws in the box and on the pad, but leaves the important half outside! Well, what do you expect from a boy dog?... Guys sometimes miss the pot. In this area we have to give Rudy an “A” for effort, but a “D” for execution! We ended up raising his litter box on top of a storage box so that he has to jump up into it.  That solved the problem.

Where did you get Rudy? We found him at Porth Kennels in Lexington, South Carolina (see www.porthkennels.com). We were at the City Marina in Charleston at the time, so it was pretty convenient.  Missy and Calvin Porth run a first class operation, and we couldn’t have asked for a better, more knowledgeable breeder. They did a great job of raising this beautiful little boy. He’s quiet and extremely affectionate, but curious and brave enough to not be intimidated by his ever-changing surroundings.

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Why did you choose a dachshund? Why one chooses a specific breed is always a personal decision. We don’t want to insult anyone’s choice of a dog, but these were our reasons:

  • We weren’t willing to row a dog ashore whenever it had to “go,” so we wanted a dog small enough to use a litter box. For that reason, it had to be a MINIATURE dachshund, under 11 pounds at one year old, and not a standard, 16-30 pounds, to fit in the box.
  • Dachshunds were bred to be sturdy badger dogs, working outdoors, so unlike many of the miniature breeds, they withstand heat and cold fairly well
  • We read a great true story of how in pre-GPS days, a boat was on its way to Bermuda with their dachshund. They weren’t quite sure if they were on track. The dachshund, being a hound with a good nose, smelled land 2 hours before it came into sight and ran to the bow to point the way to Bermuda! We hope not to need Rudy to help us navigate, but it proved that a doxie can do well on an offshore passage.
  • Both Suzanne’s sister and brother have a miniature dachshund and raved about how affectionate they are - Rudy has already proved this true
  • Suzanne wanted a lap dog, and dachshunds love laps
  • We wanted a little dog, but not one that was so "cute and fluffy" that Ty would be embarrassed to be seen walking it. Ha!  When we learned that THE DUKE, John Wayne, used to own dachshunds, well, that clinched it.
  • The big drawbacks of the breed seemed to be that they are stubborn and diggers. The two of us are stubborn, so we can deal with that. As for digging, there's not much to dig on a boat... (It hasn't been a problem!)
  • Dachshunds are good swimmers. (Rudy can swim, but he doesn’t like it at all. This is a good thing, since he doesn’t try to jump off the boat)
  • Dachshunds are more laid back than small terriers. (We once watched a Jack Russel going ashore in a dinghy with its owner. That little dog literally BOUNCED from tube to tube the whole way). We’re sure terriers are wonderful dogs, but we can’t handle hyper or yippy.
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Why did you choose a long haired dachshund? There seems to be a real difference between the 3 hair types. Wirehairs are closer to terriers in exuberance, smooths are moderately frisky, and longhairs like Rudy are the most laid back. Also, the longhairs don't seem to mind water/getting wet as much as smooths. Rudy’s hair is getting longer and wavier by the day. It’s downright elegant! We chose a male dog because they’re supposed to be more affectionate and laid back. We don’t know if that’s true, but Rudy fits both of those descriptions.

We notice Rudy has a life jacket... That’s right. At first, Rudy didn’t like it at all. Soon he learned it meant new adventures were in store. Now he gets all excited every time we get out his “Aqua Dog” suit.

And actually, now that we know Rudy can swim, we use the life jacket not so much for flotation as for a safe method of transferring Rudy from the dinghy to the boat or a dock. You can see in the photo below how the DTD (Dachshund Transfer Device) works. This is much better than holding a wiggle worm in your arms while passing him from one person to another!

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How do you keep him safe when underway on the big boat? Well, it does take constant vigilance. He seems to have no sense or fear of heights or danger. We have to take special steps to keep him from getting stepped on, falling overboard, or falling down the ladder while we’re occupied with other things (you know, minor details like navigating & driving). We don’t want to shut him in his kennel all the time when underway, so check out the photo below -- Rudy is tethered with a sail tie to the dodger frame. (The small piece of line is just there to entertain him while he’s in the chewing stage). We now have two 5 foot leashes at different points around the cockpit so we can snap him in wherever there’s shade. When his home starts moving, he wanders around or snuggles into his bed like this is all no big deal. The soft cushion keeps him safe when we heel.  He‘s perfectly content just to be near us, so he travels

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Do dogs get seasick? Unfortunately, yes, just like people. Rudy does fine most days, but at first when it was particularly lumpy, he couldn’t keep his food down. We tried doggy doses of Dramamine, but that made him sicker than seasickness. He has crossed the Atlantic now without medicine and rarely gets sick anymore

Does he like being underway, otherwise? Honestly,

up there like he’s been boating all his life -- and he has! As an added bonus, when he has to “do his business,” he goes on his own to his litter box there on the left. Wow - a totally self-sufficient sailor!Even better, in good weather we can open the dodger window. Rudy’s tether is just long enough to allow him to wander out on deck by himself for a look around, but not so far that he can get into trouble or fall off.

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he doesn’t react any differently whether we’re underway or at anchor. He’s in his home, he has his people and his food, so he’s happy. He does like going for dinghy rides, however, because that means he gets to go for a nice long walk ashore and hunt for badgers. (Dachshunds were bred to do so).

How do you keep his water from sloshing and spilling when the boat heels? We found a special water bowl at Petsmart called the Water Boy. You can see it in the photo on the right. Lucky Rudy doesn’t even have to get out of bed to take a drink!

Any other special considerations? Yes! From the day we brought Rudy home from Porth Kennels, he’s worn a

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harness instead of a regular collar. If he ever fell off the boat or fell off a ledge while tethered, we didn’t want a collar to choke him. Little did we know this harness was preventing him from responding well to walking on a lead! We spent lots of time training him to heel, but he just wasn’t getting it! Like a good old hound dog he kept that nose to the ground and lagged behind. Going for walks was a real pain -- pull, pull, pull, “Come ON, Rudy!” Suzanne had tried a “training collar” (choke chain) at first, but the look of total shock, indignation, and hurt on his face made her give up that idea immediately! Well, when we got to the Azores, we were about to give up on taking Rudy with us wherever we went. We were tired of people laughing at us trying to train a dachshund. We know they’re stubborn, but they’re also smart. So, we decided to try a regular old collar. Well, you’d have thought we got a whole new dog! He put on the brakes and balked initially at this thing pulling at his neck. Then, realizing we weren’t going anywhere unless he kept up, all that “heel” training just clicked in and Rudy kept right beside us, head held high! It was nothing short of amazing! Now he’s a total joy to take for walks. So, from now on he wears the harness while aboard the boat for safety, but we switch to a regular collar when ashore.

What about clearing into customs? See a discussion of each country Rudy has visited on Rudy’s main page.

If you have any questions that we didn’t cover, please send us an email. See: contact us.