Boating with dogs: An observation and guide to boating with our best friends

Created on 25/04/2016

April is national pets month, so boater and border collie owner, Viv Day, has put together some handy tips and amusing anecdotes about boating with dogs.

Dogs on boats:  Tall ones, long ones, short ones, muddy ones, noisy ones, quiet ones, there is no limit to the size and shape of dogs that I have seen on boats.  They are all happy to be near their owners, watching the world go by and, of course, barking at the ducks.

Springer Spaniel (courtesy of Mike Hughes)

Settling in

This is our border collie that we rehomed from dry land onto our boat.  We think that he tolerates the boat rather than loves it as he is not keen on the noise when the engine starts up, or if another boat passes us too quickly when we are moored and the boat moves about.  He can see us almost all the time as we have a centre gangway and I think that has helped in his resettling.  He has his own corner and in fact the whole front of the boat, including the stove, is his when we go to bed. 

Thinking about space

Due to the layout of our boat, we don't have a huge amount of open space.  Our friends where we moor have three rescue greyhounds.  Now, they are long dogs and do stretch out when they are sleeping.  There is no way we could fit three of them on our boat with the layout that we have.  - And then there is Jill.  Jill has nine dogs, they are smaller dogs admittedly - long haired Chihuahuas and Pomeranians… but nine?! (see photo at the top of the post courtesy of Jill Jaggers)

So I guess that you can have as many dogs of whatever shape and size that you want, it depends how much space you want for yourself.

Working the Locks

Locks are great places, as well as dangerous places, for dogs. 

A lot of boat dogs get off the boat around locks. It's a good place to sniff around and run around, especially if there are several locks in a row.  Do be aware that dogs don't necessarily know the dangers of a lock.  They do follow us humans and can fall off gates and I guess this is where the life jacket debate comes in.Photo: Vinnie pushing a lock gate (courtesy of Fiona Hill)

To life jacket or not to life jacket

This is a very mixed debate amongst the dog boaters' community and I guess it comes down to personal choice, how well behaved / trained your dog is, and if your dog likes water or not.  There are a surprising number of dogs that don't like water, including ours.  Because of that we do have a life jacket for him when we are boating.  Ironically, since he now wears one, he hasn't - so far - fallen in! He does get the mick taken out of him by those that have never seen his panicky face when he has fallen in the canal, but better than him slipping and falling into a lock, and us not being able to get him out using the handle on the back of his jacket.

Weils Disease

Many dogs are in and out of the water  playing and chasing sticks.  Unfortunately dogs can get Weil’s disease too.  It is important to be aware of the symptoms of this disease for your dog as well as for yourself.  The Historic Narrow Boat Club has some good information on it. Be especially aware of the symptoms for dogs that love going in the water (that will not be our dog then)!

Walkies and clearing up poo

Quieter towpaths, especially in the countryside, are great for walking the dog and often there are other footpaths leading off of them.  It's not like you can get lost on the towpath if one of you is walking the dog and the other is steering the boat - and it can be quite nice, especially on a sunny day, walking between locks or bridge holes where it is easy to get on and off the boat, or indeed between pubs and many canal side pubs (of those that are left) are dog friendly. 

You may well feel that you are the only walker on this section of towpath but you would be surprised to see how many people walk their dogs down towpaths.  It is important to dispose of dog poo properly.  There do seem to be poo disposal bins near to main roads but not really many out in the countryside and you can end up carrying that little black bag for literally miles.  It would be more helpful if there were more bins.  When we are out boating we have a small metal bin that all the black bags go into.  It keeps the smell confined and we can dispose of them all in one go when we find an appropriate bin.  Of course there are those that either don't pick up (it doesn’t wash away in the rain you know!), or feel the need to decorate the nearest tree with a poo bag (why do they do that??).

How do you keep your pet at optimum working temperature?

Keeping the boat warm in winter and cool in summer for our doggies can be really difficult.  Fortunately you can now buy cool mats that are filled with gel and you leave them in a cold place (or a fridge if possible) and once you have convinced your dog to lie on it (again not ours!) it helps cool their paws down which in turn helps keep them cool, brilliant!

Photo: Westie on a cooling mat (courtesy of Paul Brunt)
On cold frosty nights most boaters light the fire and you can often have to fight for space in front of it with your dog. (see photo-right courtesy Ben Frost)

How to get your dog to get off the dry side of the boat, not the water side, when you have moved

This is probably the funniest bit about boating with dogs.  You moor up the boat so that you get off it on the other side to what you did this morning, the dog gets excited about going for a walk, flies out of the boat without looking as he is focused on the tennis ball and oh… SPLASH!!!  We’ve learnt this game now with our dog, so when we moor up on the other side, one of us goes out first to ‘herd’ him the right way off the boat.  I also find that it is useful to have plant pots positioned on the front of the boat on the water side to act as a bit of a barrier – it has helped a bit and I haven’t  lost them yet!

Dogs on the cut

Dogs on the cut seem to like the whole chilled out boating experience, I have seen many sitting on the roof and watching the world go by.  These are some of my favourite photos:

l-r: Dudley will only work for beer (courtesy of James Ward),  Ronnie Barker navigating (courtesy of Jane Charlesworth),  Tess & Honey keeping look out (courtesy of Brenda Ward)

Boater Dog SammyThen there is Sammy who doesn’t like the Gardner engine vibration on his bum and this is the only place he will sit whilst they are underway (see photo-right courtesy Katie Hurst).

Thank you to everyone on the ‘Dogs on the Cut’ Facebook page who shares love, laughter and photos of their dogs and have kindly let me use some of those photos here.  Also thank you to Sandra Willis who runs the ‘Doggie Boat,’ a travelling pet shop of wonderful dog-related paraphernalia, for joining up some of the dog boating community and letting us share stories and give me inspiration for this blog.

Bye from us all…  (Photo-right: Pheobe and Driver courtesy of Georgina Beazeley)

- A special thank you to Viv Day for sharing her knowledge and putting this post together. The next one in the series will be about boating with cats. 

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