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Riviera owners’ top tips for boating with dogs

Edition 7 - 2020, Educational, Photo and Colouring Competition

Riviera owners’ top tips for boating with dogs

Every month Experience Magazine receives oodles of pictures of pooches on their owners’ Riviera, a testament to the added companionship, love and joy they bring aboard. By their very nature, dogs are fresh-air adventurers, are intuitive swimmers and love nothing more than being by their family’s side.

Books, boats and Honey, does life get any better?

Once accustomed to a family’s Riviera routine, dogs know that they’re there to have the most enjoyable experience together.

Take Honey, for example. This cocker spaniel sprints down the marina in excitement to jump aboard her second home, Roboat, Dasha McGee and Murray Brown’s Riviera 36 Flybridge.

“We got Honey this Christmas when she was 10 weeks old,” says Dasha. “Straight away she came out with us for two weeks, so her training was very boat specific.”

In a few months, Honey wholly adapted to boating life. “She’s used to the routine and loves being on an adventure, on the paddleboard or the tender fishing.”


Potty spots

Michelle’s daughter Georgeia takes Bruce for a ride.

“Because she was a puppy, we brought puppy training pads, an artificial grass patch and newspaper. But now we take her ashore a few times a day to do her business and to exercise.” Puppy potties, with a plastic tray and artificial grass, are another option for boat owners.

“We try to moor where there’s a sandy bit ashore and take her in two to three times a day, usually on the stand-up paddleboard.”

Most dogs trained to go to the bathroom outside of their home will typically hold on until they have an opportunity to go ashore. However, on the odd occasion, there’s always the boarding platform. “It’s easy to hose off there. I know other boat owners have dogs use the foredeck, and that’s another option.”

At the end of the day, a doggie bed awaits for when Honey’s all tuckered out. “And then she sneaks into bed with us, which she’s not supposed to!”

Teaching older dogs new tricks – engines and movement

Sudden noises can frighten dogs. Starting the engine in the marina without travelling anywhere can help a dog become accustomed to the sound. Eventually, short trips out will get them used to the motion.

Tania and Edwina enjoy the view from their 43 Flybridge

Tania and Danny Wilson have two furball crewmates to accompany them on their Riviera 43 Flybridge, Black Label. Two-year-old Edwina, a Brussels griffon, was raised on Black Label but Bernard, a chocolate labradoodle, was six years old when he first jumped on.

“We used to take Bernie down to the marina on the weekends and just sit with him on the boat,” says Tania. “Then I took his bedding from home and put it in the second stateroom where he sleeps on the bed.

“Bernie’s a placid dog, so the engine noise didn’t phase him. They both love the boat. They’re obsessed with the fish we catch. And because we’re boating on Lake Macquarie and the size of the boat, we don’t have any issues with seasickness.”

Seasickness – less food is best

When Danny is fishing, Bernard and Edwina hang about fascinated

None of the Riviera owners Experience spoke with had experienced canine seasickness, so we turned to the expert at Gold Coast’s The Point Vet, Dr John Rigley.

Dr Rigley says it’s great for dogs to get out on the water and while seasickness may affect some dogs, it won’t affect others at all.

“To reduce the risk of seasickness, just like people, make sure they have a vision of the direction they are travelling and best off not to give them a huge meal before hitting the water.

“Keeping an eye on them for any lip licking, drooling, vomiting or disorientation are important signs to look out for.”


Canine lifejackets

Teaching a dog safety commands, such as ‘stay’, ‘sit’, ‘off boat’, is invaluable. But even the most well-trained dogs get overexcited and leap for joy – overboard. It’s a situation familiar to Raidah and Mark Dunsford. Their adventurous canine, Ninja, got his sea legs aboard their 51 Open Flybridge, Akoya.

Foredeck drinks at Town Beach, Nelson Bay? Count me in, says Ninja!

“Ninja’s fallen off a few times between the boarding platform and the marina,” says Raidah. “So, he’s in a life jacket in the marina, especially in summer when there’s much going on and many people about. When we pull into marinas, I find it best to put him in the cabin so he doesn’t get underfoot, and then I can concentrate on tying up.”

Most canine lifejackets have a handle that makes scooping a dog out of the water easy.

Ninja is a competent swimmer but Raidah and Mark discourage him from jumping off the boat.

“Ninja’s a competent swimmer and happy in the water, but we do discourage him from jumping off the boat,” says Raidah.

“Boating wouldn’t be the same without Ninja. He loves the freedom of the beach, going on the paddleboard, fishing with my husband on the tender and checking the crab pots – that gets me off the hook!

“At the end of the day, he’s upstairs with us on his chair while we have afternoon drinks.”

A snug lifejacket is best, yet some furry friends can’t seem to find the right fit. Such is the case for Bruce, Travis and Michelle Sullivan’s six-year-old pug-crossed-shih tzu. Bruce goes without a lifejacket on the couple’s Riviera 39 Open Flybridge, Condor.

“He’s a bit chubby around the tummy, so finding a lifejacket to fit is a bit of a challenge,” laughs Michelle.

Water and shade

The 39 Flybridge’s spacious cockpit features an extended cockpit awning for shade and shelter. Michelle says it’s ideal for keeping the area cool for Bruce outdoors where he can still see what’s going on.

Michelle’s son Campbell with Bruce.

“It can get hot on the teak, so it’s great to have a shaded area in the cockpit. We make sure there’s always plenty of water available for Bruce, and he can go in and out of the saloon as he pleases.”

Like people, dogs don’t want to miss out on the action.

“He loves to see everybody. One day, instead of going inside when it got hot, he chose to sit on the bottom step of the ladder to get off the deck.

“I wasn’t a dog person before I had Bruce. I used to laugh at our friends with dogs on boats, having to wake up at 6am to take them ashore. Now I’m one of those people, and I can’t imagine it any other way!”


Riviera Australia encourages all owners and skippers to observe their local authority guidelines regarding boating and boating restrictions at these times.