When we moved to The Dream Ella had just turned 2 years old and mastered the house rules in place but then in a blink of an eye her world was turned upside down, a lot changed and with that, an all-new set of rules and training was in place.
First season goal was getting used to living in a boat, then sailing. We had to figure out what needed to be adjusted to fit the new reality.
She excelled in most things. But not all happens over a day, a week, a month or even a season.
Last season, our first season at anchor the big goal was to master the new peepee and poopoo arrangements. This was not an easy task, Ella was already fully potty trained since she was 4 months and at the age of 2 years old she was not keen on accepting the new arrangement, and although in general, she mastered it occasionally we still have some roadblocks. Especially if we stay in a marina or Town Quay for a few days, then after she tries to hold it in hoping that we go to land for her to do her business. Sometimes this lasts a few days other times it’s just a few hours until she realizes there’s no way out and she needs to use the mat on the bow.
The goal for this season is to train Ella to stay in the cockpit while sailing or motoring without the need of using a tether when the sail is short, the weather clam and settled.
At the moment during the Mediterranean summer, it’s too hot for our Golden Retriever to use her lifejacket and usually, when that happens she wears a harness instead.
In the 4 months we’ve been sailing this season we have already conquered many great milestones:
The moment we turn the engine on to lift anchor Ella runs to the cockpit to her favourite spots 90% of the times, the other 10% she wants to go check John lifting the anchor at the bow, but upon call, she comes to the cockpit.
When we put on her collar, her harness or her lifejacket she knows the difference between going to have some fun (swimming, dinghy ride, guests) or real business (sailing, bad weather).
During our sails she now stays more than 95% of the time in the cockpit area even when one of us goes to the bow with a simple command of “stay” or “cockpit”.
She knows 70% of times that she’s not allowed to stretch over the main helm station but she’s allowed to do it on the opposite one (we do have to allow her some fun), the wrong choice of place is easily corrected pointing to the correct side.
She understands that if I tether her there’s no point in fighting it or trying to avoid it. She patiently waits to be free again (within the possibilities of an overly excited about sailing Golden Retriever) and she has not chewed on the tethers again (on our first few sails she chewed the tethers) so we reverted back to webbing tether instead of the steel cable one.
What we still hope to achieve this season:
This idea our dog has that having the back hindquarters on the seat is considered being in the cockpit, it’s a hard one to correct when you think how far we’ve come on training completely new concepts of living for her and when it’s damn cute to see her enjoy staring at the waves so much.
We are not just training Ella’s new behaviours, we are also training ourselves and that might be the hardest part!