Yes, your furry first mate is great to have around on a day-sail or cruise – they provide moral support, positive affirmation and usually a bit of comic relief. But ask them to trim the jib or hoist the main and they are useless! However, your four-legged crew can actually help you with your sailing skills… How? You ask. There are no basset hound certified sailing instructors! No Jack Russell has ever called tactics on a Wednesday night race!
This is true, but these barking little bandits can really help us with something very important… our knots. Say what? They don’t even have thumbs! How can they teach us knots? True enough, but it’s that leash, the keys to the kingdom are in that leash… lose that store-bought lead, grab a nice appropriately sized line and tie a different knot each week (or so) whenever you walk the pooch.
Here’s how it goes. For two weeks, every time you take the dog out, tie a bowline [video] around the little hoop on his or her collar. By the end of the second week, you’ll probably have tied it over 40 times. If you ever had problems remembering that knot, you will be cured. Do it for a month and you can tie bowlines with your feet. Once you have that knot completely second nature, move on to the round turn and two half hitches. It’s another very important knot and one you can practice on that unwitting panting little poop machine. Sure he’ll look at you and think, “damn, why does it take you so long to put the freakin’ leash on,” but what do you care what he thinks? You can make believe his collar is a lifeline or a post and practice your clove hitch [video] and for those who already have the basics, pretend the little metal leash ring is a halyard and practice your halyard hitch or the similar midshipman’s hitch ( a loop used for dropping on a cleat).
If you like this semi weird manner of learning and it’s helping you to get your knot reps in, you can mandate, to yourself, that the dog’s leash is two separate lines and every time you walk the dog, tie them together with a square knot [video] or a zeppelin bend or a sheet bend. It’s a bit more involved, but the same concept holds true and you will have that in your bag of tricks when the time comes.
Anyway, you get the point. Go through your favorite knot book and choose the ones that will work in this houndly way. A dog’s collar or ring can simulate parts of a sailboat allowing you to effectively practice your fundamentals everyday. Everyone wins… Rex gets a walk and you get to solidify one of the most important skills a sailor can have, all within the context of your daily routine. It’s genius!