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Darling on deck: Kristin Ducote's top tips for taking dogs on board

Taking your pets on board can be great fun – just make sure Fido doesn’t get sick, impounded or too literal with the poop deck, advises our Darling on Deck Kristin Ducote...

Growing up, pets were always part of my family. I can’t remember a trip to the Florida Keys without our Labrador, Chelsea, at the prow of our centre console – nose to the sky, ears flapping, lips pulled back in a toothy grin. I still won’t leave the dock without my furry family members. If you want a pup companion on your next cruise, here are some tips to make it a success:

Plan ahead

For international travel, your dog will require more paperwork than your boat! Entry requirements vary, from extra vaccinations to strict import quarantines. Don’t trust your vet to know the laws; do your own investigation. You don’t want to end up in the customs doghouse. Remember the Johnny Depp debacle? Australia threatened to euthanise his Yorkies because of improper paperwork, resulting in Depp’s cringeworthy (albeit hilarious!) apology to Australia, which is still available on YouTube.

Get down to business

A big hurdle is teaching pets where to do their business on board. One option is to introduce an AstroTurf mat on the swim platform that can be dunked in saltwater periodically. If your dog fails to recognise the new mat as its “spot,” you may have to “self-season” it. My husband was happy to oblige with a little AstroTurf watering of his own, which admittedly did the trick. Alternatively, you can take your pet to shore to relieve itself the landlubber way. We’ve spent many a night drawing straws to determine who has to whisk our King Charles to shore on a jet ski!

Grooming

Before embarking, hit up your groomer for a puppy cut. The shorter the fur, the less sand and salt will be dragged through your saloon. Also, make sure your groomer uses a Dremel tool to file their nails smooth rather than clipping them, which actually makes them sharper on your decks and soft fabrics.

Safety first

Make sure your pet has an international microchip and a fitted life jacket. Also, invest in a GPS locator like the Raymarine LifeTag, which can be attached to any collar and is priceless if your pet unfortunately falls overboard.

Final tips

Keep pets hydrated so they don’t drink seawater, and remember that dogs get sunburned too. Try Petkin’s Doggy Sunmist. Lastly, no matter how cute the pooch, make sure it isn’t fed from the table. You don’t want to risk a digestive disaster on your Stark carpet!

Even if the alternative is a five-star pet spa, Fido would rather be with you. Don’t endure those sad puppy-dog eyes any longer. The first cruise won’t be perfect, but everyone will adapt. You will get used to the paperwork, and your AstroTurf mat will become seasoned. It won’t be easy, but I promise – it will be woof it!

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