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In December After a great deal of research we finally bought a beautiful boat and were all set to explore the waterways and all they have to offer.  The boat is perfect in every way for us and suits our needs for long term cruising in comfort.

There is just one problem which all the research in the world couldn’t have identified.  At the same time as we got the boat we got a black Labrador pup.  Whilst he is absolutely fantastic it turns out he is a wuss.  Lots of things scare him but sadly the most important one is the boat.  He is fine when we are just in the marina but as soon as the Gardner starts up he is terrified and shakes like a leaf and tries to get off the boat and if he can’t he tries to hide.  

Clearly this isn’t sustainable both for him and for us as my wife needs to be with him if we are on the move leaving me to single hand if I don’t have anyone to help which I am reluctant to do.

We have tried calmers from the vets, diffusers including the collar.  Our next port of call is a so called thundercoat.

Other boaters must have had a similar situation and I’m looking for ideas and inspiration.  Clearly the dogs welfare and well being is the most important thing in this matter so we are desperate to resolve the issue.

Edited by Dartagnan
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Having had a nervous dog in the past we found that the best way to deal with it was to ignore any signs of being nervous and in fact we used to go as far as telling the dog not to be so stupid. If, when the dog shows signs of being nervous he gets reassurance and cuddles it seems to teach them that the more nervous they are the more cuddles they will get. At locks etc, I would shut the dog inside and ignore him.  If the dog is crate trained so that he sees his crate as a safe place to be, could you fit a crate in somewhere and put him in it when your wife is off doing locks? I know it is not easy to find room for a crate on a boat and we found the loo was a good place :-) 

At first we thought we were being very hard hearted but it didn't take long for the dog to stop being so nervous. She still showed signs of nervousness when encountering anything new but we just ignored her. 

 

Good luck and I hope you solve the problem

 

haggis

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18 minutes ago, Dartagnan said:

Other boaters must have had a similar situation and I’m looking for ideas and inspiration.

We have two dogs (a Pug & a French Bulldog), The pug took to the boats immediately (apart from falling in and sinking - Pugs don't swim).

The Frenchie is another matter - he has to be in contact with me (us) at all times even at 'home', he wants to be on the boats but he is frightened and gets Sea-sick, he really did not like going in the tender for 'poops-time' but after months of coaxing and comforting he now begrudgingly accepts it, as the norm. 

Just be gentle and patient and it will come.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Dartagnan said:

In December After a great deal of research we finally bought a beautiful boat and were all set to explore the waterways and all they have to offer.  The boat is perfect in every way for us and suits our needs for long term cruising in comfort.

There is just one problem which all the research in the world couldn’t have identified.  At the same time as we got the boat we got a black Labrador pup.  Whilst he is absolutely fantastic it turns out he is a wuss.  Lots of things scare him but sadly the most important one is the boat.  He is fine when we are just in the marina but as soon as the Gardner starts up he is terrified and shakes like a leaf and tries to get off the boat and if he can’t he tries to hide.  

Clearly this isn’t sustainable both for him and for us as my wife needs to be with him if we are on the move leaving me to single hand if I don’t have anyone to help which I am reluctant to do.

We have tried calmers from the vets, diffusers including the collar.  Our next port of call is a so called thundercoat.

Other boaters must have had a similar situation and I’m looking for ideas and inspiration.  Clearly the dogs welfare and well being is the most important thing in this matter so we are desperate to resolve the issue.

Just like us, from time to time dogs need a visit to the shrink. If you're within a 40-mile radius of Rugby behaviourvet@googlemail.com (Clare) will be able to help you. If you're further afield she will be able to put you in touch with someone through her professional body who can. If you want to find out more about the whole subject have a look on her website. http://www.behaviourvet.co.uk/Home.html 

 

BTW she comes highly recommended.

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We have two dogs who are generally ok with being on the boat although on early trips they hated locks and barked continually.  We did what Haggis suggests and locked them in the boat whilst I steered and my wife worked the locks and tried to ignore their barking. Lo and behold, after a couple of trips they stopped barking and are now fine.  Tough love I'm afraid!

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Oh heck, and I thought our Labrador was a wuss!  She was late learning that she could swim (and thereafter swims like an otter) and she still has a bit of bother walking on things she can see through like some jetties and some bridges, and won't cross lock gates as our previous labs were happy to do - the latter is perhaps no bad thing other than if we moor opposite the Cape of Good Hope where over the lock is the only way to the pub! 

 

I feel the big thing with labs, inherently a clever and confident dog, is to not to let them think something isn't normal.  For example, when ours was a pup, every crisp packet or similar was popped before binning it, so that her initial "what the f..!" reaction was just met with the rest of "her pack" caring on as normal.  As a result, loud noises, guns, fireworks and the like, are absolutely no issue to her.  If you make the engine a big thing by comforting her, it reinforces that she's right to be worried.  I missed the boat somehow with our dog walking on things she sees as precarious (although she is a lot better than she was) and I fear you may well have done the same with the Gardner.  They are clever dogs though and can learn new tricks fairly readily, so it may not be too late.

 

I think you're just masking the issue with calmers and the like - usually, the way to get the best from a lab involves a biscuit!  I'd try the Gardner starting up being a dinner bell so she associates the noise with something good (there's nothing like an excited cry of "Dinner!" to divert a Labrador's attention!) then, once the message is sinking in, drop it to a biscuit before she gets too fat!  They make awesome Ship's Dogs though, so it's worth persevering! Good luck! :)

 

Edited by Sea Dog
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We have a lab on the boat and she loves it, but as has been said, never console or fuss your dog when they are frightened as this just re-enforces the fact that there is something to be frightened of.

Just ignore her and she will be fine.

We also have a cat and she was absolutely terrified everytime the engine started and the boat moved, she would hide in the most inaccessible places imaginable but she is absolutely fine now and just chills out on the bed when the boat is moving.

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6 hours ago, haggis said:

Having had a nervous dog in the past we found that the best way to deal with it was to ignore any signs of being nervous and in fact we used to go as far as telling the dog not to be so stupid. If, when the dog shows signs of being nervous he gets reassurance and cuddles it seems to teach them that the more nervous they are the more cuddles they will get. At locks etc, I would shut the dog inside and ignore him.  If the dog is crate trained so that he sees his crate as a safe place to be, could you fit a crate in somewhere and put him in it when your wife is off doing locks? I know it is not easy to find room for a crate on a boat and we found the loo was a good place ?

At first we thought we were being very hard hearted but it didn't take long for the dog to stop being so nervous. She still showed signs of nervousness when encountering anything new but we just ignored her. 

 

Good luck and I hope you solve the problem

 

haggis

Yes, agree with all of the above. Also, dogs look to their pack leader for instructions. If your all 'coochy coo, there there' when he's looking nervous, will only serve as reinforcement that he should be scared. Show him that you are the fearless pack leader, this way he doesn't feel as if he has to step up to 'protect' the pack, and getting overwhelmed.

 

Have you found out what drives him? Treats or tennis balls? Expect knowing labs it'll be food. Perhaps divert his focus from being scared, to 'working' (sit, down, stay etc.) for a treat? 

 

Also, after each time you stop it'll be a walk, or a game time. He needs to associate the engine starting up with a good time. 

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all of the above , as stated ignore Fido and just carry on as usual and it will come right , I taught our puppy to bark at fireworks as if someone is knocking on the door , the both of us sitting on the front room windowsill barking together on guy Fawkes night confused passer byes but good fun none the less, and now fireworks don't bother him , he followed the alpha male I.E me

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Does your dog react in the same way if you just run your engine while moored, or is it the combination of your (different) behaviour, the motion, and the engine noise/vibration when setting off?

 

Try just running the engine while carrying on with your usual routine on the boat as a starting point.

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6 hours ago, Paul C said:

Have you tried the dog on a boat with a modern, quiet Japanese diesel?

What are you suggesting - engines and dogs need to be matched? As in historic engines need historic dogs?  I've got a Beta 43 based on a Kubota engine - do I need a Japanese Tozer?  If the OP replaces the Gardner with a Korean engine, will someone come round and eat his Labrador?

 

;)

 

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All good advice make the engine the norm so run it whilst stationary so it just blends in don’t always move and as we have a lab as well food is always the solution - engine starts means food! this may need a lot of reinforcing

IF he really needs to be with you a controversial solution might be to let him travel on the roof At one time we used to travel with 2 springers and a pointer on the roof and they loved it - not in locks though!

i do think with a young intelligent dog time reinforcing good behaviour is what’s needed - same with dogs that are car sick as one of mine in the past was make the end of a very short journey pleasurable a walk or a swim you get the point by now I’m sure

good luck and let us know how you get on

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38 minutes ago, Sea Dog said:

What are you suggesting - engines and dogs need to be matched? As in historic engines need historic dogs?  I've got a Beta 43 based on a Kubota engine - do I need a Japanese Tozer?  If the OP replaces the Gardner with a Korean engine, will someone come round and eat his Labrador?

 

;)

 

Just wondering if its the noise or the vibration. I figure that an old engine will be noisier, but probably not much more vibration through the boat. Labradors, by breed trait, should be fairly immune to loud noises although of course every dog is different.

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3 hours ago, Paul C said:

Just wondering if its the noise or the vibration. I figure that an old engine will be noisier, but probably not much more vibration through the boat. Labradors, by breed trait, should be fairly immune to loud noises although of course every dog is different.

If you train a Lab as a gun dog, you still wouldn’t allow it too near a gun as a pup. You would slowly introduce it to the noise from a distance. 

 

As mentioned above, worth starting the engine with the pup away from the boat, and walking up to climb on board. 

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Had the same thing with my Tommy, a Patterdale Terrier who I had since he was an 8 week old pup. He started off boating with no problem at all, and spending time in the cabin to begin with as he joined me in January 2016 and it was flipping cold! 

 

Something must have changed in his attitude though as one day out of the blue he decided he didn't like the noise from the engine room whilst sitting in the back cabin. By this point he was a few months old and the start of summer so he came out to join me on his bed I'd placed on the slide. He is more than happy now and spends his time relaxing on the bed watching the world go by. It's also nice to have company whilst boating and there's always an appropriately placed ear to scratch :) 

 

Another problem he had was when I'd pull in to carry out a delivery and would leave the tiller to shift coal or pump diesel or whatever. He'd scream and shout until I'd return, the same applied but unfortunately worse when I'd take coal or drums of diesel off in the wheelbarrow.

 

I made the mistake of turning around to him and saying "shush" etc but soon realised he was getting what he wants. I then tried ignoring him, if you can mamage to put up with yapping and barking for a short time, the dog gets bored with no reaction and shuts up. Tommy certainly did and when I go off delivering I can sometimes be delayed half an hour or so whilst chatting to customers and when I return Tommy is sat as good as gold waiting for me. 

 

Ignore any bad or unwanted behaviour and reward any good or positive behaviour. It definitely works. Don't forget that our canine friends are excellent at picking up our own moods so if you are nervous and hesitant then the dog will be too.

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2 hours ago, Liam said:

Had the same thing with my Tommy, a Patterdale Terrier who I had since he was an 8 week old pup. He started off boating with no problem at all, and spending time in the cabin to begin with as he joined me in January 2016 and it was flipping cold! 

 

Something must have changed in his attitude though as one day out of the blue he decided he didn't like the noise from the engine room whilst sitting in the back cabin. By this point he was a few months old and the start of summer so he came out to join me on his bed I'd placed on the slide. He is more than happy now and spends his time relaxing on the bed watching the world go by. It's also nice to have company whilst boating and there's always an appropriately placed ear to scratch :) 

 

Another problem he had was when I'd pull in to carry out a delivery and would leave the tiller to shift coal or pump diesel or whatever. He'd scream and shout until I'd return, the same applied but unfortunately worse when I'd take coal or drums of diesel off in the wheelbarrow.

 

I made the mistake of turning around to him and saying "shush" etc but soon realised he was getting what he wants. I then tried ignoring him, if you can mamage to put up with yapping and barking for a short time, the dog gets bored with no reaction and shuts up. Tommy certainly did and when I go off delivering I can sometimes be delayed half an hour or so whilst chatting to customers and when I return Tommy is sat as good as gold waiting for me. 

 

Ignore any bad or unwanted behaviour and reward any good or positive behaviour. It definitely works. Don't forget that our canine friends are excellent at picking up our own moods so if you are nervous and hesitant then the dog will be too.

 

The last paragraph is excellent advice, although some breeds (GSD's in particular) need you to have two voices,  a happy high pitched one for bad behaviour and a scary, loud shouty one for bad behaviour.

 

Regarding the bit in bold. All pups, usually for a couple of weeks somewhere between 16 and 20 weeks old, suddenly go through an irrational phase of being scared of things they used to be comfortable with. Unless their owner (pack leader) is able to  successfully convince them that there is nothing to be scared of, (typically thunder, fireworks etc) then they will remain scared of whatever it is for the rest of their lives.

 

As already suggested, the OP needs to normalise the engine running in the dogs mind, and to ignore (certainly not reward, by trying to sooth the dogs feelings) the unwanted scared behaviour. It should only take a few days for the dog to accept the engine noise if handled properly.

 

 

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1 hour ago, cuthound said:

Regarding the bit in bold. All pups, usually for a couple of weeks somewhere between 16 and 20 weeks old, suddenly go through an irrational phase of being scared of things they used to be comfortable with. Unless their owner (pack leader) is able to  successfully convince them that there is nothing to be scared of, (typically thunder, fireworks etc) then they will remain scared of whatever it is for the rest of their lives.

 

Yep I'd agree with that. My own fault for not correcting any of the "scared of the cabin whilst the scary engine is running" behaviour. I went down the route of putting Tommy on the cabin top with me, something we're both happy with.

 

Suprisingly fireworks are a different kettle of fish. He was just over a year old when he heard and saw the bangs and flashes and so with a treat each time one went off, by Bonfire night proper he was sat out with us on his own chair watching them intently.

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44 minutes ago, Liam said:

 

Yep I'd agree with that. My own fault for not correcting any of the "scared of the cabin whilst the scary engine is running" behaviour. I went down the route of putting Tommy on the cabin top with me, something we're both happy with.

 

Suprisingly fireworks are a different kettle of fish. He was just over a year old when he heard and saw the bangs and flashes and so with a treat each time one went off, by Bonfire night proper he was sat out with us on his own chair watching them intently.

 

Yes, I've takenjoyed very dog I've owned out for walks during the worst of the fireworks.  Some were initially scared, but all ended up unbiased by them.

 

Just a pity it is not proving so easy to change Zeus' reactivity to other dogs ?

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Apologies for the very late reply.  A medical emergency, thankfully not mine this time, kind of took over for a while.  I am very grateful to everyone for taking the time to respond and pass on their experiences and knowledge.  I will do as suggested as there are some very good suggestions above.

Sadly some of his traits are not typically  Labrador which would have made life easier. ?  He is not really motivated by food or treats and this astounded us having had one previously who was a glutton and would have done anything for it.  Would you believe he doesn’t even care for water!  We couldn’t keep our last one out of the water and if she could find a ditch full of mud and water it was like she had won the lottery.  This ones pedigree is from field and gun dog champions so we were really surprised.  Just goes to show. ?

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27 minutes ago, Dartagnan said:

Apologies for the very late reply.  A medical emergency, thankfully not mine this time, kind of took over for a while.  I am very grateful to everyone for taking the time to respond and pass on their experiences and knowledge.  I will do as suggested as there are some very good suggestions above.

Sadly some of his traits are not typically  Labrador which would have made life easier. ?  He is not really motivated by food or treats and this astounded us having had one previously who was a glutton and would have done anything for it.  Would you believe he doesn’t even care for water!  We couldn’t keep our last one out of the water and if she could find a ditch full of mud and water it was like she had won the lottery.  This ones pedigree is from field and gun dog champions so we were really surprised.  Just goes to show. ?

Maybe it's a super inteligent dog that realises there are nice boats out there with superb, smooth, quiet japanese engines fitted with hospital silencers and maybe it's trying to tell you something? ?

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