The One About Living On A Boat With A Dog

When we moved aboard a boat full time with our kiddos to do America’s Great Loop, we fielded A LOT of questions. However, the number of questions quadrupled when we bought a pet. Everyone seems to want to know all the details about living on a boat with a dog.

Most often people start with “why” questions about our boat dog.

The easy answer is that we’re obviously crazy. As if living on a boat with two kids wasn’t challenging enough, why not introduce a puppy to the mix? Sometimes we just leave it at the crazy answer. But we do actually have a more compelling reason.

For the first 2,000 miles of our Loop, we traveled on and off with 3 dogs: Tess, Yankee, and Rebel. Miller adopted them as his own (and their owners were kind enough to allow it.) Eventually, we had to bid farewell to our friends and continue through the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, this coincided with the end of boat season and the docks were pretty lonely.

With a lack of dogs or friends, Miller began saying things like “I can’t wait to be finished with the Loop so I can get a dog.” (We had promised him years ago that we would get one after we finished the Loop.) But getting a puppy while living on a boat sounded like a terrible idea. At the same time, we hated to have him wishing away such an incredible opportunity.

One day we were in Mackinaw City- the only boat in the marina- and Miller went out to play football. By himself. He would throw or kick the ball one way, and then run and get it. It was pathetic. For the millionth time Brent said “that boy needs a dog.” And for the first time my heart thawed to the idea.

Getting a dog became a topic.

It seemed like the debate quickly shifted from when to what kind. We knew we needed some variant of a poodle mix. Besides allergies, who wants to deal with a shedding dog on a boat? We also liked the idea of mixing in mini since our space was already fairly tight.

Grand Haven, Michigan has “Storywalk” for kids to read as they stroll the waterfront. The story is about a Newfoundland dog that lived on a barge on Lake Michigan. It’s based on a true story and the dog in the story was so endearing. One of us googled to find out if there was even such a thing as a Mini Newfoundland Poodle, and guess what?

It’s called a Mini Newfypoo or Mini Noodle…and we were sold!

Living on a Boat with a Dog

The next few weeks became a scramble to coordinate the logistics of actually getting a puppy. We needed to get our boat to Chicago, rent a car, and have a puppy waiting to pick up somewhere. It wasn’t as easy as it might sound, but we finally found the perfect one in Ohio.

Captain’s first 3 weeks with us were spent bouncing from hotel to hotel (and a couple stops at friends and family’s houses.) We learned a lot. But we knew we had a lot more to learn about living on a boat with a dog.

We asked a ton of questions of other boaters, ordered way too many products, and crossed our fingers it would go well. We’re in our 10th month with Captain and I *think* we might have finally figured it out. So I’m finally officially sharing all the popular questions and answers we get about living on a boat with a dog.

After the “why” question, we get a lot of ones that start with “how.” Here are the basics of how we live on a boat with a dog…

We crate trained Captain from night one. It’s extremely helpful when we stay in hotels with him. But it’s also nice for keeping him safe on the boat at night or when we’re away. The crate we purchased is canvas and folds up easily. For the first 6 months, it had a permanent spot in our main salon area, but now we store it when we aren’t using it.

As with all puppies, Captain needed to be watched like a hawk. Thankfully, living in such a small space made it really easy. We were surprised he didn’t have very many accidents or chew up many things. I attribute this to the fact that someone was always right there. In this case, living in a small space was actually an advantage.

And probably the best trick for living on a boat with a dog is having an astroturf pad in a tray that we keep on the back of our boat. Captain is able to use the bathroom, even when we are boating. Most boaters have a similar setup and it makes life so much easier!

The kids are responsible for walking Captain multiple times a day so that he gets plenty of exercise. And we try to visit dog parks whenever we can. Captain loves socializing with other boat dogs. We try to have playdates whenever possible!

Other questions we typically get involve what we do with Captain when we’re off the boat.

As I mentioned, we do take him with us a lot and stay in hotels. Being loyal Marriott customers, we’ve needed to check out several new-to-us, pet-friendly brands. I’ll have to do a whole separate post on this soon, but the front runner so far is Aloft.

We have left Captain twice since we got him. Once was in Fort Myers at an in-home doggy daycare. And the second time was at a boarding facility in Hilton Head. The situations were different; however, Captain seemed to love both. We found those places by searching on Yelp and reading the reviews.

Lots of people also want to know if our boat dog enjoys swimming. Unfortunately, the verdict is still out.

One of the main reasons we bought a Newfoundland is because they are known for being water dogs. In fact, they’ve actually been used as lifeguards in other countries. That said, Captain doesn’t embrace opportunities to swim. He can swim and will swim. He just doesn’t do it voluntarily.

On the other hand, he absolutely loves the beach.

One last question that we get a lot is about how much our dog actually enjoys boating.

That one is a little tricky to answer. So far, he’s been like an infant on our boat. When the boat is in motion, he gets really lethargic and sleeps most of the time. As he’s gotten older, he seems to enjoy it more and more.

He loves being a dock dog though. Wherever we go, Captain makes friends with all the boaters. It’s always cute to hear people walking down the dock saying hi to Captain who is typically sitting up in the window.

For those interested here are all the products we’ve found really helpful for living on a boat with a dog:

If you have any questions I didn’t answer, leave a comment!

You might also enjoy reading:

The One Where We Cross Our Wake

6 Things To Know About Getting a Passport For Your Child

The One With The Unexpected Products We Use Most Living On A Boat

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