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Old 09-08-2014   #1
Beardance42's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 238
Rafters with dogs - need advice

So, we have a just-over 6 month old German Shepherd, we've had him out once on some Class II. A little nervous in the splash (I don't think he likes the noise... or just not used to it yet) but I think he's got a future.

Here's my problem: I have two twin-tube catarafts. I run a frame with a solid drop floor, but there's very little room in there and even at mid-puppyhood, he was little cramped. He's only going to get bigger.

Not that we can afford it or anything...but we're thinking of adding a self-bailer to the fleet, in part (but not just) to accommodate the dog and give him a better experience.

So - for cat rafters, does your dog sit on the tubes or a platform, and was it hard to train him to stay on it? And for SB boaters, does your dog ride inside the boat, on the floor, or on top of something to keep his nails from puncturing the floor? Or some other way?

If you have pics, would love to see them. Been boating quite a while, but never with a dog, and we definitely want him along on easier float trips.
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Old 09-08-2014   #2
boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 298
I have been boating with my dog for years. Their nails are not sharp enough to damage my boat. She rides wherever she wants, which is usually at my feet through rapids. Good luck.

May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
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Old 09-08-2014   #3
BoscoBoater's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 228
How we dun it....

Originally Posted by Beardance42 View Post

So - for cat rafters, does your dog sit on the tubes or a platform, and was it hard to train him to stay on it? And for SB boaters, does your dog ride inside the boat, on the floor, or on top of something to keep his nails from puncturing the floor?
On our Aire Cougar, we made some plywood panels to put on top of the frame. Kinda like this...

Old Fred A. Dog was able to walk around on them no problem while we were running the flats. It also made for a comfortable sitting spot for him right next to Jen while running the gnar. She was easily able to help him stay on the boat by holding on to the straps on his NRS vest.

You can see him tucked behind the red cooler there...

On our old Star self bailer with an I beam floor, he wasn't very happy as his ass was always under at least some water when he sat down. As a result, he always stood up while we were running.

On our newer Star self bailer the floor sits higher off the water and is usually dry. He liked this much better than than the old one. He would sit or sleep most of the trip and only stand for the big rapids...

Never had any problems with his nails causing any damage on either boat.

I miss that guy, he was a good friend.

Have fun with your pup while you can!
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Old 09-08-2014   #4
Woodland Park, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 127
Here's they way i did it. First since your pup is young I suggest training them with a " back " or " to the back " command. Very much like heel but trains them to walk behind you. Perfect practice for the trails so you see horse, bikes, dogs, or wildlife before they do.

What I did for my raft is I store most of my gear in my stern with a paco on top. Or I put a stern plywood deck down with a paco. With this combo I can command my dog to the back. This way she isnt in the way of my oars, sightlines, or falling all over passengers. Of course my dog is pretty huge so getting in the way of oars is a priority. Hope this helps.
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Old 09-08-2014   #5
East of the Pine beatle, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,363
Similar story for us a year ago- 14' cat with a webbing floor was "OK" for our Lab. I went with a Maravia Zephyr for a "dog boat" because of the size, but more because of the drop stitch floor. She (and her babying mom) is much happier in the round boat.

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Old 09-08-2014   #6
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
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Originally Posted by shoenfeld13 View Post
Their nails are not sharp enough to damage my boat.
Running a dog on pavement regularly keeps their nails well-groomed to be less dangerous to your skin or whatever. So if you live in the country, couldn't hurt to do a little of that.
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Old 09-09-2014   #7
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Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
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I can't speak for cat boats but we've had dogs on round boats for decades. No issues with claws at all. Pavement/concrete is a good nail trimmer, or just trim them yourself for lots of other reasons, but don't worry about the boat...

On my boats the dogs typically wander about, on flat water they're usually up front watching, when they get tired , they'll go to a deck and lay down or get on the floor. When it gets rougher they're usually on the floor or on the deck behind the rower. I built lots of deck space and covered it all in non-skid type paint both for kids and dogs. In 30 days this year with two dogs and two kids no one has fallen in! pretty amazing really. The photo above has 4 dogs (pre-decks however).

I also do the "in the back" thing, mostly from our cars (when we get out of the car and they're sitting on our seats). But it works well when things get hairy or the kids are fishing. The safest place in my boat is right behind the rower, it's a large deck, with a bimini folded on it (when not in use and rarely up when in rough water) and usually some bags strapped there, so they feet "nested".

I've had three other river dogs that have since left us. Two adored the boat and spent a lot of time on it. One tolerated it but hated white water due specifically to an early experience (she was about 9 mos old). We hit a large hole and water came over the whole bow, washed her from her sleeping spot (drop bag behind raised front seat) all the way "through" me and deposited her, rather roughly, against the back seat. From that day on when you could "hear" the water (enough WW to make noise) she would go sprinting under my legs. So take care to get your pup well acclimated to light water before moving up and for gods sake wake them up before hitting big holes .
Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back. - Agustus McCrae
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Old 09-09-2014   #8
jakebrown98's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 165
Haven't you ever heard, dogs and cats don't mix?

Seriously, my mutt rarely can find a good spot on my 16' cat no matter how I set it up. He's fine because he loves the river but he is a lot more content in and on a round boat. I usually have a table/drybox padded out up front where he can be with people and I try to create a "spot" in the dunnage pile in the the back.

He knows "off" means to get down from whatever high position he's on. So if he's doing his balancing act he'll get right down when I command it. He also knows not to cross the oars until he gets an "ok" from me.

He'll put his chin on the boat as I'm rigging waiting to hear the "load up" command. Great critter!

Also, my experience with several other river dogs, including another Brittany, is that being way up high with nothing around then on a river is not the best way to start. A buddy rowing my cat was having problems with his mutt once. He was just antzy and not happy. We let him jump in my raft and he found a perfect little cubby hole to cuddle up in among the dry bags and was so much happier...
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Old 09-09-2014   #9
Helena, Montana
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 488
I have always had big dogs & they have always rode in my cats.

I have built decks out of ply & covered them with astro turf or closed cell foam. Dogs seem to like it and grip well.

As far as breaking in the dog, some love it some never like it. Go slow & make it fun, class II & stay off the rocks for a bit and pretty soon loading up on the boat will be just like loading up into the car.

Also, if you have friends with river dogs try to do floats with them so the dog sees this as completely normal. Our current dog made her first trip on a nice day, on a mellow stretch, with about 6 other dogs. She's young and just wants to do what the other dogs are doing..... Worked great.

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Old 09-09-2014   #10
Beardance42's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 238
Wow, thx for the great responses and ideas everyone.

Bosco - you'll see in my profile pic, my other cat is identical to yours. '95 Cougar, same color. :^)

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