Can Dogs Live on Sailboats?

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Do you dream of circumnavigating the globe? Have you ever craved traveling by sailboat? Do you have killer sea legs, but wonder if your pup does too? We've all seen photos on the latest social media platform of couples sailing through blue waters with their pup smiling by their side. Does it make you wonder if that could also be you?

Sailing has continued to gain popularity, and it could be hard to leave your best friend at home for extended periods of time. Luckily, dogs are flexible creatures that are capable of adaption. It's important to remember that every boat and dog are different, and certain breeds and sized dogs are better-suited for sailboat living. However, if you have the right preparation, sailing with your best friend doesn't have to be just a dream!

Want to know more? Read on!

Signs Your Dog is Built for Sailboat Living


While dogs have an innate instinct to doggie paddle when presented with water, not all dogs can necessarily swim. Dogs that swim well tend to be medium to large, have webbing between their toes, and have water-resistant coats. Most dogs require a bit of coaxing before they get fully into the water, so don't worry if it takes a little bit of time! Regardless of how well your pup is at swimming, it is recommended that your pup wears a floatation vest while the boat is in motion.


Dogs love cuddle time with their humans, but it is important to keep your pup happy while in such a small space. If possible, create a doggie nook where your pup can wind down and relax if they need their own space. Simply a corner with a dog bed and some toys may do the trick! If your dog struggles with high energy, be realistic with your trips and how long your pup can handle being cooped up!


Although motion sickness is more common in puppies, your dog may begin to associate fear with seasickness symptoms as your pup begins to associate a boat with feelings of discomfort. While some veterinarians can provide prescription medication that can help your pup, remember that thirsty pups will drink salt water! Make sure your pup's symptoms are actually from motion sickness rather than from slurping up salt water when you're not paying attention!

Body Language

While humans may turn an unpleasant shade of green when experiencing seasickness, dogs don't have that ability to alert you. Besides getting sick, there are some signs you can learn to identify as your pup starts feeling a little blue.
  • Whining
  • Yawning
  • Lip licking
  • Drooling
  • Sleepiness

Other Signs

Other signs to watch for if your pooch is feeling woozy are:
  • Excessive Salvation
  • Uninterested Behavior
  • Lethargy

The History of Dogs on Boats

Humans built the first seaworthy boat some 800,000 years ago. Through migration, exploration, and war, were dogs known to accompany their fellow sailors? 

As companions, hunters, and guardians, it should come to no surprise that dogs were trusted passengers of sea explorers! Dogs had a wide variety of roles; from hunters at ports to emotional support animals during long voyages. There has even been at least one World War II boat dog (such a good boy) who was trained to recognize enemy submarines!

The Science of Dogs on Boats

As human lifestyles transformed from hunting to farming to urbanization, humans bred dogs according to their purpose. Breed won't necessarily make or break whether your dog will be a good boat dog. However, some breeds are more suited than others at being on the water. For instance, the American Water Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Portuguese Waterdog, Labrador and Golden Retriever are all known for being happy on the water. Fun Fact: Labradors were originally bred to retrieve fishing nets!

Many dog owners fear moving onto a sailboat won't be fair to the dog. Let's be real - a deck isn't exactly an open backyard. So how will your pup adjust to boat-life living?

Introducing your dog to the boat before setting sail on a long journey will help make any adjustments easier. Spend time on the dock, go boating for a few hours, and work your way up to a weekend trip. The more routine, the better!

Training Tips for Bringing your Dog Aboard

1. Potty-Training your Pup

In general, your sea dog will want to take care of business on board. Therefore, your dog will need to be trained to use the bathroom on board rather than anchoring ashore throughout the day. It will be important for your pup to find somewhere on the deck that can be a designated "spot." Successful sailors suggest using astroturf or carpet squares as the "spot." Grass patches and puppy pads are also recommended for your pup's potty spot. Encouraging your pup to use the potty with treats is always a plus!

2. Passing Quarantine

Whether you want to sail across the canal or across the ocean, it is important to recognize that each country will have its own rules and regulations. Travelers have recommended creating a "puppy passport" to keep all of your pup's paperwork and proper vaccination information. Make sure you understand the restrictions of each country before docking.

3. Dog-Proofing your Boat

What smells good? Where is the best place to hide? While you can't foresee everything, you will need to pet-proof your boat. Keep all clutter to a minimum and keep any hazardous materials out of reach. Living in a smaller space gives your pup the ability to snoop into small spaces, so keep all dangerous products locked away.

Just as important are pet flotation devices! Some travelers choose to keep their pups in life jackets full time, while others use life jackets depending on the conditions on the water. It is important to consider how well your pup can swim - and if you are uncertain - keep the life jacket on your pup whenever you're in motion.

4. Prepare!

  • Make sure you bring enough food and even more water than you'd think. You and your pup will be drinking lots of water, especially if you're traveling to warmer climates. Be sure to stock up on treats to reward your pup for being such a good boy.
  • It will be important that you comply with local laws, so keep a leash and carrier handy just in case.
  • Your pup will need to be able to get out of the water and on board. Consider using a dog ladder or a collapsible dog ramp.

Boating with your dog can be an incredible journey, just make sure you are prepared and you should be on your way!

Safety Tips for Dogs on Sailboats

  • Your destination is important! The Caribbean is beautiful, but can your pup handle the intense heat? Watch out for signs of dehydration, sunburn, or heatstroke.
  • It is important to consider where you are traveling and whether dogs are welcome!
  • Remember to stock up on any veterinary medications.
  • Make sure your dog is micro-chipped as many countries require animal identification.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog and Boating Experiences!