View Full Version : Dog Choice

Norm Harris
12-16-2002, 11:29 PM
I guess I could have posted this on the "boat related" page but since more of us forumites vist here I'm betting I'll get the best response (or the most inventive, at least).

We are looking for a boat dog. We are the proud owners of a 30' on deck cutter of indeterminate origin, and would like recommendations about what you think is the best dog for a small boat. We have been investigating Tibetan Terriers, Poodles, Cockers, and Water Spaniels.

A medium sized dog is prefered, one who is comfortable in limited space for long periods is an absolute requirement, and I guess the dog should be able to float. I mean a Boston Terrier might be a great dog but with the length to weight ratio it would sink like a stone.

Responses are eagerly awaited.


Hoping to enter doggy owner heaven Norm

[ 12-17-2002, 12:30 AM: Message edited by: Norm Harris ]

12-17-2002, 07:04 AM
Explore the idea of Border Terriers also. Great little dogs, agile, smart, funny, and the can swim. One of mine goes kayaking with me. DO NOT consider my beloved basset hounds. They sink like cinder blocks, aren't nimble enough to go sailing on anything smaller than a cruise ship, and though only 14" tall, take up a LOT of space.


12-17-2002, 07:59 AM
I suggest a hot dog. Less pooper scooper duty to perform... :D

12-17-2002, 08:05 AM
The dogs you've listed are all great boat dogs, particularly the poodle (as long as it's not the toy) and the water spaniel. I can second Lisa's thoughts on the basset, and yours on the boston. My Bulldog and my Basset go nowhere near the water without their life jackets, and still we worry.
Really, it's YOU that will make the dog a good boat dog or not. Read all you can, enroll in a GOOD obedience training program, and train, train, train.

[ 12-26-2002, 02:14 PM: Message edited by: Figment (Sailortect) ]

Scott Rosen
12-17-2002, 08:18 AM
Labrador Retriever. They love anything about the water. They are very comfortable on small boats, even in rough weather. They are among the best swimmers, webbed feet, they float like a duck. Sweet and intelligent personalities.

12-17-2002, 10:30 AM
Second the Lab choice. Maddie the Lab is about the greatest dog we could ever have dreamed of. She loves the water! warm or cold....it doesn't matter.

A smaller breed, but wonderful too, is the keeshond.

"The Keeshond is a very old breed and there is little doubt that the fact it was never intended to hunt, kill animals or attack criminals accounts for its gentleness and devotion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Keeshonden were used as watchdogs, good-luck companions, and vermin controllers on river boats, farms and barges. They were known as Wolfspitz (Germany), Chiens Loup (France), Lupini (Italy), and Keeshonden (Holland). During the 1700's, in Holland, Cornelius "Kees" de Gyzelaar, a leader in the Dutch Patriot revolt against the reigning House of Orange, kept one of these dogs as his constant companion. The Keeshond became the symbol of the Patriot Party. This is the basis for the breed name as "Kees' dog", which in Dutch would be "Kees hund". The Patriots' were defeated, however, and many Keeshonden were destroyed to disavow any connection with the failed rebel party. The only Kees that remained were a few on barges and farms. The breed was not revived until nearly a century later through Baroness van Hardenbroek and Miss J. D. Van der Blom. Throughout the late 1800's, Keeshonden had appeared in England under the names of "fox-dogs," "overweight Pomeranians" and "Dutch Barge Dogs."

[ 12-17-2002, 11:34 AM: Message edited by: DaBoss ]

Alan D. Hyde
12-17-2002, 10:33 AM
Hard to beat a Lab, although they lack the deep-diving ability of Donn's dog, and tend to be quite a bit larger.


Dave Fleming
12-17-2002, 11:46 AM
A Newfi is a great boat and water dog but just at tad too large for 30 or so feet of boat. Our last a female, was just about 120 lbs. and a sweetheart but when travelling in a full size club cab pick-em-up she took up the whole back seat! We, our boys, raised Labs for Marin Counties, Guide Dogs for the Blind and they are fun animals but in early years if left alone can be very well....naughty. Of course they do settle down and do take well to training.
Those Portugese Water Dogs are Very Active and must be exercised every day, good natured and well behaved around strangers.
Isn't there a Belgian breed that was a favourite for folks that manned the large European motor barges? Fairly smallish, good watch and family dogs too.

[ 12-17-2002, 12:47 PM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]

Seth Wood
12-17-2002, 11:49 AM
Schipperkes are the Dutch barge dogs. Skipperkees? Schkipperkies? Skhippierchkies?

12-17-2002, 12:29 PM
I think I'd go for either a non-shedder, or something little, like the terrier Lisa mentioned. It's simply astounding how much hair a dog with a shedding undercoat can put out. I don't know where it comes from. The close confines of a boat would, er, amplify the situation. smile.gif

gunnar I am
12-17-2002, 12:34 PM
I'm pretty biased on this one. A lab! Use the cat as a fender. http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid42/pafb75568964dc6ce1b4eb40ebba65b55/fcec0c28.jpg

[ 12-17-2002, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: gunnar i am ]

Jeff Evans
12-17-2002, 12:41 PM
I think a tofu pup would last longer at sea out of refrigeration. :D

Originally posted by Mrleft8:
I suggest a hot dog. Less pooper scooper duty to perform... :D

Gresham CA
12-17-2002, 12:44 PM
The only Schipperke that I have been around had loose wiring. It was one STUPID dog.

gunnar I am
12-17-2002, 12:49 PM
A lab will teach YOU about life , boating , relaxing and he'll change the CD's in your CD player!

12-17-2002, 12:51 PM
That's a nice looking piece of Labrador flesh there Gunnar. Many these days, I guess because of their popularity, have lost some of the classic looks. The deep chest, big square head. But Basil is surely a LABRADOR!

gunnar I am
12-17-2002, 12:56 PM
Thanks Ish. And to say they're great companions ,is the understatement of alll time! Was at Joes, Sunday and his dog( yellow lab) comes to me, and I start cuffing lightly around the jowels, tryin to get some rasslin goin and he's all for it! Total stranger!I'll never be without one!

[ 12-17-2002, 01:57 PM: Message edited by: gunnar i am ]

Alan D. Hyde
12-17-2002, 01:18 PM
Many of the blood strains of Labs from the States in recent years seem to tend toward lighter and more slender dogs, while the better English strains seem to retain more of the rugged and squared-off Newfoundland blood.

Joe's and gunnar's dogs both have the English squared-off look. Handsome dogs, I say.


[ 12-17-2002, 02:20 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

12-17-2002, 01:27 PM
Although the butt of many jokes, the standard poodle is/was a working water dog (retriever). They're smart, reasonably active and good tempered (it's the minitures and toys that have the high strung yap syndrome that gives the breed the bad rap). Weight is about 40-50# IIRC.

That fanciful "show" cut that makes them look like pom-poms was actually their original working cut. The hair is left only on places where insulation is critical and the rest is trimmed away to enable them to swim faster and be less water-logged.

12-17-2002, 02:13 PM
I saw a lot of dogs on board various boats on my cruise out the St. Lawrence and, believe or not, very few were water dogs. I asked a few of the owners and all of them said water dogs were a bad idea on board. I think they were speaking from experience. My lab would dive in any time something attracted him and I would have a hell of a time getting him back on board. From what they told me, the more frightened of the water the dog is, the more suitable it is to live aboard.

Joe (SoCal)
12-17-2002, 02:21 PM
AKC Labrador Retriever Breed Standard

General Appearance

The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment. The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an "otter" tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its "kind" friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament. Above all, a Labrador Retriever must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance.
Early ancestors

It's fairly clear that there were no indigenous dogs in Newfoundland when the first fishing companies arrived. If the native Americans of the time had any, the explorers never observed them. Thus it's quite likely that the St. Johns dogs themselves come from old English Water Dogge breeds, insofar as fishermen were the primary people on Newfoundland for centuries. There is also some speculation that the old St. Hubert's dog might have been brought over as well -- illustrations of the breed show a black, drop-eared dog with a certain resemblance to the Labrador. But it is unknown if the fishermen going to Newfoundland would have had hound dogs used for game rather than water dogs.

We can only speculate what happened, but we do know that the cod fishermen sent out from Britain practiced "shore fishing." Small dories were used for the actual fishing, and they worked in teams of four -- two in the boat and two on the shore to prepare and cure the fish. They would have needed a small dog to get in and out of the boat, with a short water repellent coat so as not to bring all the water into to the boats with them. They would have bred for a strong retrieving instinct to help retrieve fish and swimming lines, and a high degree of endurance to work long hours. If the runs were heavy, the fishermen were reputed to go for as long as twenty hours to haul the fish in.

The dog developed for this early work could be found in several varieties: a smaller one for the fishing boats, and a larger one with a heavier coat for drafting. The smaller dog has been called, variously, the Lesser St. John's dog, the Lesser Newfoundland, or even the Labrador. These dogs came from Newfoundland; it is unknown why the name "Labrador" was chosen except possibly through geographical confusion. Charles Eley, in History of Retrievers at the end of the 19th century comments:

The story [...] was that the first Labrador to reach England swam ashore from vessels which brought cod from Newfoundland [...] It was claimed for them that their maritime existence [...] had resulted in webbed feet, a coat impervious to water like that of an otter, and a short, thick 'swordlike' tail, with which to steer safely their stoutly made frames amid the breakers of the ocean.

Part of the confusion over the names is that "St. John's dog" and "Newfoundland dog" were used interchangeably for both the greater (larger) and lesser (smaller) varieties. And the term Labrador has also been used to refer to the lesser St. John's dog, especially in the latter half of the 19th century. The greater is commonly held to be the direct ancestor of today's Newfoundland, while the lesser was used to develop many of the retrieving breeds, including today's Labrador.
http://groups.msn.com/_Secure/0OwAAAGwT2BfdWXYyvfBeyuI6uF6mo13yLo4iJ7lskDvt1!ag0 aLgQ4v7wZdKsMjEiGdzyGzUiA1f4A5Hbnz*XW4enpUqpKvS/L1000608.JPG

Ian McColgin
12-17-2002, 02:25 PM
Best dog I ever saw living aboard was a standard poodle. Those folk loved her so much they got a stud for her and then pups and so it goes. . .

That poodle was absolutely smart about safety afloat and never gave his owners a moment's worry. When allowed to he would dive over from most anywhere - the most fun was to watch him tear from the stern and soar over the pulpit - and he could get himself into the inflatable (they had a little grab loop for him) and shake off before climbing the ladder aboard.

My cousin took an Irish setter aboard. Flamboyant and rather nutsy dog who disappeared on the Intercoastal one day. After two days searching they sallied south in mourning. About a week and some hundreds of miles later he bounded off a bridge abutment and back aboard.

Myself, I like cats aboard but de gustibus non disputandem est.

12-17-2002, 04:56 PM
I don't know that I would lend much credence to the whole "doggy density" issue. Our weimeraner doesn't have a wasted ounce on her, yet she'll swim all day long if you let her. The funny thing is that her ears float!

Take Care.


Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-17-2002, 05:22 PM
I have a collie, but he's old and doesn't move quite as quick as he used to. Sheltie would be good on boats. Labs would be a great choice. Hiyuh Hiyuh Hiyuh. Great personality. I have had Rough Collies for twenty years now, and I love the breed. Small dogs would make sense..for a smaller boat.

12-17-2002, 05:30 PM
The "doggie density" issue has more to do with heavy bone structure than with fat vs. lean. Dogs with disproportionately large heads/shoulders/chests have the added disadvantage of being front-heavy and have trouble keeping the breathing parts above the surface.

My bulldog doesn't truly "sink like a stone" without his CFD (canine), but he can't keep his face above water for much more than 15 seconds.
My Basset hound has a bit better luck because of the HUGE lung capacity, but those stumpy legs are just horribly inefficient. she's good for about 30 seconds, but then she needs to take a breath and the legs just can't keep her afloat with empty lungs. Both of these animals were bred for specific tasks, and swimming ability just wasn't a factor.

12-17-2002, 05:33 PM
In my experience, the best dog aboard is a CAT.
But I could be wrong. ;)

12-17-2002, 06:20 PM
Dogs are great boating pals, take life as it comes and don't bitch. Some are better suited to become boat buddies than others, it's a matter of disposition and attitude more than size or breed, mutts make great dogs too.

Go to your local pound and interview a batch of the inmates. In time and given a little patience your buddy will reveal himself. He'll be the one who adores you and struts his stuff for you, even if he is a she.

Dogs are a way of life and become family. There will be good and bad times same as any family member. But you knew that.

Our personal preference is for larger dogs and as mentioned by some others Labs and Newfies are at the top of the list but a mix 1/2 of each is the ideal. A little Lab flash and the easy disposition of a Newfie can't be beat. Mr. personality so to speak. Yes, for us it is mister. For some odd reason our family doesn't bond as well with female dogs.

Get the dog you like the best and he will teach you what to do!


12-17-2002, 09:41 PM
I know of two Chesepeak bay retrievers that are as at home on an oyster/clam boat as they are on shore... I bet RodCross knows them too, seeing as they work out of the marina right next to his boat.....

David Tabor (sailordave)
12-18-2002, 07:02 AM
We are looking for a boat dog The best boat dog would be one that doesn't do its thing on the cabin sole, doesn't wake you up, doesn't jump overboard and expect you to rescue it, can be left alone for indefinite periods of time...
Hey that sounds like my daughters Pup-pup. That's it, a stuffed toy dog!! ;)
After 11 years, most of the "fur" is coming off and the insides are all smushed, but he sure is loved!

[ 12-18-2002, 08:04 AM: Message edited by: David Tabor (sailordave) ]

Joe (SoCal)
12-18-2002, 07:31 AM
Originally posted by LOON:
Doggy density is a very valid issue. It isn't just the muscular structure and fitness level...indeed, a fat dog will float better than a lean dog. You also must consider the ratio of bone weight to total weight. A small, heavily boned dog like a Bassett or even small Beagles, will tend to sink, and have to spend more energy keeping head above water. Then there are things like how your dog is equipped, paddle wise. Swimming dogs, like Labs have a broad webbed blade at the end of a strong and thin shaft. They get more thrust than a fine-footed running dog, or a tunnel hound like the Bassett.

On Labs. I've had several dozen of them, and there has definately been an offshoot or two from the AKC standard in recent decades. The most prominent of these is a slender headed, smaller animal. These are small boat gun dogs, who have all the heart and lung of a traditional blockhead, but can swim 50% faster and don't drive the skiff off the hook when they jump in. I know two guys who are active on this dog. They are breeding 40-50# bitches and 50-60# dogs. The ones I've known are like Labs with grace.Yo Donn you calling Lucky a fat Block head ??? :mad: :mad: (128# at last check up ). Trust me you will never find a better more graceful ( he sleeps a lot smile.gif ) big boat dog than my boy Lucky. Give me a big huggable, slobbering shedding, eating blockhead any day than those mini-labs. Lucky has stools bigger than one of those 40# mini-lab's :D

But I will now present you with the WORSE boat dog, with the highest Doggy Density. The dam thing practically cowers at the site of a glass of water he knows he will sink like a stone. His head will drop under water first and the body will follow. I present our other dog - The Worlds Ugliest (there is no good angle on him to look at) Sinking Dog. Bandit Thar Dog

[ 12-18-2002, 08:34 AM: Message edited by: Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ) ]

Scott Rosen
12-18-2002, 09:21 AM
I remember as a boy thinking that all dogs were born knowing how to swim. Imagine my surprise when I tossed my old dog Mocha in the pond to cool her off on a hot day and she started sinking tail first. Within 10 seconds I rescued her, and learned for the first time that not all dogs can swim.

gunnar I am
12-18-2002, 09:57 AM
I've seen Bandit, and remember that discussion on dog and coyote tracks? Well, I kid you not,Bandits tracks are that of a bunny. :D That's right! The hind paws always land together, cause he hops like a bunny! Quit'cher snickerin Basil,or I'll elaborate on some of your traits. Anyway Bandit's a good guy(Mama's boy,is he not Joe?). :D

12-18-2002, 10:28 AM
I remember being at a local "cliff" spot on the Lake a couple of years ago. One of the swimmers had a dog that loved to jump off the cliffs and into the water. The dog was jumping off 20 and 30 foot cliff's for fun. He would run from way way back and leap. While in mid air he would totally freeze, and just before he hit the water he would start to "run" again. It was pretty cool really.

I don't know what kind of dog it was, but it sure was having a good time. I still laugh about it.


Don W
12-18-2002, 05:43 PM
On our boat, my wife and I had 2 dogs. April, our older than dirt Cocker Spaniel, and Annie, our Staffordshire Terrier (she looks like the RCA dog or Petie from the Little Rascals). April, mostly due to her advanced years, is not at all interested in boating and when she does go overboard sinks like a rock. Annie swims like a missle, plays catch until there's nothing left of whatever's being caught, and she'll ride in the cabin with no trouble if you don't want her on deck. She's also great as a theft deterrant system. Staffordshire Terrier gets my vote. :cool:

12-18-2002, 06:02 PM
When looking for a "boat dog", think about your needs and wants as well as the dog's needs and wants.

Do you want to row ashore twice a day and exercise a wound up lab or water dog? or do you want a dog who can be laid back for a long passage?

Do you need a human-size man-overboard rig or can you grab the dog and get it back on deck?

Do you have a portable vaccuum for the hair? Or do you want a Jack Russell ?

We are going cruising soon and here are two basic facts:
1) no boat is big enough for a St.Bernard (or Newfie)

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-18-2002, 06:09 PM
Gunnar, your lab hasn't been missing too many meals... but great pictures..A dogs life

12-18-2002, 06:13 PM

Second consideration with dogs on board...

2. Get a breed that can go up and down companionways without help.

Best of Luck!!!!!!!!!! smile.gif smile.gif