Posted by: Cap'n Fuzzy | February 16, 2016

Puppy Potty Issues

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Oscar adjusts the mainsheet traveller line

While we are talking about toilets, puppy potty issues deserve mention.

WARNING! This will be a frank discussion about pet excrement; sensitive readers may wish to bypass this post.

Arguably, the crew member who suffers the most away from land is Oscar. We can tell that he is getting desperate when he starts whining and looking over the cockpit coaming.

When he was small we first tried to train him to use a plastic backed paper “training” pad.  These worked about as well on the boat as they did at home.  Before he learned to ask to go out to the yard by scratching at the door and making various noises to get our attention, he would typically pee on or near the pad and then poop on the floor next to it.  We finally decided that he didn’t like getting his paws wet stepping on to a used pad so it was one use only.  I agree fully with him on this point, not liking to stand barefoot in cold or warm pee!  He also does not poop in the same spot he pees, so if the pee hits the pad the poop is somewhere else.

On the boat we went from the pad to a plastic catchment tray with fake green plastic grass with a perforated plastic screen between the two.  Oscar did like chewing the plastic grass stuff off and scattering it around but if he peed on it, again it was one use only and poop was not happening there.

We tried just a rubber backed doormat, same problem.  So we tried just letting him get desperate and finally let go, then praising him to let him know that it was OK.  The cockpit has scuppers so we can easily dip a bucket of water to rinse it.  The problem is that he is not clear about where it is OK and he will hold his water for unbelievable lengths of time.  We have gone so far as to demonstrate where to pee but to no avail.  On the second day out of Thunder Bay he unleashed a flood at the foot of the companionway in the galley.  I couldn’t believe that much pee came out of a dog his size and we were all miserable that we had put him through such anguish.

This year, I don’t know what to try.  Sam thinks a chunk of actual sod sized to fit into the plastic tray might be close enough to reality that he would figure it out. With appropriate praise and so on.  I’m game, let’s try it!  Other people have apparently trained their dogs to pee and poop right on the fibreglass foredeck.  I would prefer the cockpit sole as it is much safer for the dog while out on the water than skittering around on a slippery fibreglass foredeck without purchase for claws.

Do you have a solution which works for your dog on a boat?  How did you initially convince your dog where it was OK?

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