Sailing Skipper Secrets – How to Choose a “Sea Pooch” For Sailboat Cruising

Dogs have served as mascots on sailboats, Coast Guard and Navy ships, and square riggers. But how do you know if your dog would make a great companion for coastal sailing?

Look for these water dog characteristics

Does your friend take to the water or not? To find out, engage in a game of fetch with a rubber ball. A great water dog fetches the ball with gusto every time! But if he or she shies away from the game, leave Fido with a friend before you cast off.

If you’re in the market for a new canine companion, look over this short list of well seasoned boat dogs:

* Portuguese Water Dog
* English Springer Spaniel
* Golden Retriever
* Labrador Retriever
* Border Collie
* American Water Spaniel

Consider dog buoyancy and health

All dogs are not created equal, which means some swim and some don’t. The less body fat, the less buoyancy. A tubby pooch may float like a cork. Dogs bred for water fowl retrieval have more body fat. On the other hand, leaner dogs like the Doberman or boxer often sink like a stone.

Older, overweight dogs or those with health problems could be in trouble if they fall overboard. All dogs experience fatigue after short periods in cold water, high sea waves, or strong currents. Those out of shape or unhealthy, succumb much faster.

How to choose a dog life jacket

The US Coast Guard sets personal flotation device (pfd) standards for humans, but not for canines. Every owner must make their own decision as to whether to carry a life saving device for their dog. Here are three facts based on tests conducted by Boat US:

1. Dog life jackets keep the dog horizontal, without tilting the head back. This position holds the canine in the normal swim position, where the dog lifts the nose to breathe.

2. Most dog flotation jackets fasten at the chest and around the neck. For comfort, look for a vest with chest straps wider than 1″.

3. All dog life jackets come with a lifting strap on the back. Work out a recovery method in case your dog falls overboard. You might disconnect the boom vang from the mast and attach the lower snap shackle to the back strap. Make preparations ahead of time to be ready for the unexpected.

Take care in your choice of a canine companion to bring aboard your small cruising sailboat. After all, he or she–like any sailboat crew–will depend on the sailing skipper for their for safety at sea.

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