dock dog

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Don’t leave your dog at the dock — she’d much rather be out on the boat with you.

By Barb Hansen

In case you didn’t know it, dogs and boats go together like shoes and socks or gin and tonic. Dogs love boats! There is a freedom that being on a boat not only favors the operator and the crew, but also your pet crew.

It’s a lot like your dog sticking his or her head out of the car window and smelling the air, only on a much larger scale. Their world is a world of sounds and smells. Imagine everything they are smelling as they breeze by the beach on the open water — the sand, the shells, the salt air and the fish! All of those are like an adrenaline shot to the doggie senses. Furthermore, they can hear things that we can’t even imagine.

Our dog Skye loves being on or near the water. Whether on the boat or on the dock, he can hear a dolphin a mile away. We are generally alerted to dolphins in the area when Skye starts to “talk.” At first, it’s a low growl, but as soon as he spots the first dolphin cruising by he immediately launches into his “alarm bark.” He barks as if to say, “Look, Mom; here they come!”

As the creatures get closer, his tone is more one of frustration than fear. He vocalizes, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, here they are. Let me at ‘em!” He really wants to go and play with them. He’s probably wondering why they are in the water and he isn’t. It’s just not fair. The dolphins don’t seem to mind. In fact, they almost seem to taunt him by cruising close by. There is no calming him down. He will keep barking until they are well out of sight.

Last week, however, Skye was forced to quiet his bark. He was diagnosed with something called Laryngeal Paralysis (LP for short) and had to have his vocal cords tied back a bit. This is a very common condition in older, larger canines. He is more than 10 years old now and weighs 70 pounds.

Did his “dolphin obsession” over the years contribute to this condition? Probably not, but I could see how the incessant barking could stress out his vocal cords. It will take about six weeks to heal, but we are told that his bark will be much softer. Suddenly the all dolphins of Southwest Florida are smiling.

Back to my original premise about canines and cruisers. We manage a large fleet of private charter yachts. Our love for dogs led us to allow our clients to bring their pooches on their charters. We wouldn’t go cruising without Skye, so we assumed that everyone else would want to bring Fido along on their vacation, too. As a result, we have welcomed many canine crew members aboard our vessels.

From border collies and beagles to schnauzers and shih tzus, we’ve seen them all. We love it every time someone asks us, “Do you allow dogs on your boats?” Our answer is a resounding yes, and you can hear the relief and happiness in the customer’s voice.

We already know that pets are good for your health. So the combination of cruising and relaxing with your dog on board must be a sure-fire miracle cure for whatever ails you. And your pup will feel good, too. Dogs love dinghy rides, swimming and beachcombing (especially rolling in dead fish — awesome). In short, they love everything about boating, especially if it means spending time with you.

So, the next time the open waters call, pack the cold drinks, snacks and music — but don’t forget your best friend!

Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school. Contact her at or 239-257-2788.

Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school. Contact her at or 239-257-2788.


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