Training Your Dog to Use a Pup Head™
If you have a dog that is trained to go potty outside only, there are many options for you to choose from when deciding what to do onboard a boat.
My preferred option for giving your pup a place to go that will seem natural and meet your sanitation needs is the Pup Head™ by Pup Gear, available at www.YachtDogs.org. The Pup Head™ is lightweight, nearly level with the ground, has a special odor-fighting design and antimicrobial agents.
Their unique doggie grass will allow your pup to feel right at home when he needs to go. And best of all, its unique drainage system means you won’t worry about paws tracking waste around after business is finished. It is also easy to clean and store.
Before the Pup Head™
Before the Pup Head came along, I often worked with clients to train their dogs to go on a piece of outdoor carpeting or AstroTurf that could then be hosed off with your transom shower. You can have it cut to an appropriate size for your swim step, then replace it when you feel it needs to go.
So, once you’ve picked your method, you need to do practical application… (Pardon the pun.)
Begin the Training Process
I highly, recommend getting your dog acclimated to eliminating in or on The Spot before expecting them to use it in a foreign place such as the gently rocking transom or bow of your boat.
When choosing the Pup Head™, you get the added bonus of a specially designed scent your dog detects that tells him, “This is the right place to go.” To dogs, their noses are their number one communicator and getting scent onto The Spot will greatly speed up their lure to use it.
- Take The Spot out to wherever your dog is comfortably eliminating now.
- Take your dog out on leash.
- Leave “The Spot” out so he gets used to seeing and being next to when he goes. Encourage, but do not force, him to check it out. Some dogs, particularly males and dominate dogs, will mark it immediately. Great! That doesn’t mean your job is done, or that he’ll be comfortable using it out on your boat.
- Every time he goes out to go potty, take him out on leash to or next to The Spot. Encourage him with a soft, confident praise voice to use it.
- Reward with praise and if you like to use treats, offer treats as soon as the dog is done going potty on The Spot.
- Do not wait until you go back into the house, or the dog will associate the treat with going inside, not with using The Spot.
If your dog shows fear of The Spot, is avoiding or running from it, bait him onto it with extra special treats such as Natural Balance Food Rolls, cheese, hot dogs, etc, and play games where he runs over it with you, or chases his favorite toy over it and near it until he no longer is afraid of it before beginning potty training on it.
It is normal for your dog to NOT want to go on The Spot, but when he realizes that it pleases you, he will become comfortable with it. When he is comfortable using it, begin using it only intermittently; you do not want your dog to become dependent on it, unless of course, you are litter box training and plan to use just one box.
Next, take The Spot and your pup down to your boat. Choose a calm day. Get your dog used to seeing it on your transom or wherever you will be having him use it. If your dog will, have him use it. It is much better to do this at port now, than wait to see if he’s ready before you go on a cruise. Many dogs take to this very quickly, but some dogs will take longer to acclimate to the idea.
Please never allow your dogs onto your transom or swim platform when under way or when your motor is running. Please also remember that dogs need life jackets, too! Even the best swimmers can’t swim when unconscious, injured or across an ocean.