9 Reasons NOT To Live On A Boat With A Dog

I love living on my boat with my dog. Except when I don’t. Here are 9 reasons you should not live on a boat with your dog.

9 Reasons to NEVER Move Onto A Boat With Your Dog - (golden retriever in cockpit)

Dog Hair Everywhere

You think your house is covered in dog hair? Just try living with a shedding dog in a tiny space when you can only run a vacuum cleaner at the dock.

I swear I once brought the dipstick up out of the oil crankcase on our diesel engine with a Honey hair on the end of it. We routinely clean matted hair out of the cockpit drains. If we miss a day, we could sink the boat.

And while it’s not life threatening, you don’t want to know what it’s like to varnish your bright work with a dog on board. Brush on the varnish, pick out the dog hair. Brush on the varnish, pick out the dog hair. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Redoing brightwork on Meander.

Tape protects the boat from varnish. Now if only I could find a way to protect wet varnish from dog hair.

Nail Scratches On The Cabin Sole

If you live on a boat, especially a classic boat like ours, you feel a lot of pressure to keep it looking pretty. Good luck with that when you have a dog on board.

You know the classic teak and holly sole (floor) on a boat? Well it only looks beautiful before the dog scratches it up with her toe nails.

Ours still looks fairly pretty—I think. I wouldn’t know. It’s hidden under a ratty old carpet which is covered in dog hair.

But at least the next owners will be able to enjoy it.

Walking The Dog In Bad Weather (At Anchor)

Walking the dog is never fun in driving rain and lightning. But add in wind opposing current which makes the dinghy go up while the boat is going down and you’re in for an adventure.

Honey the boat dog prepares to fly into the dinghy.

I’m glad it’s a calm day. I’m not sure she knows what she’s doing.

And that’s before spending the night in a tiny space with a wet dog.

Getting Rid Of Poop

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best ways to get rid of dog poop. But what’s the best way to get rid of dog poop when you’re anchoring?

I brought a trowel with me when I moved onto the boat. I thought our best option would be “leave no trace” poop disposal. Of course I forgot that I would never be more than a few feet away from a waterway. So much for that smart idea.

So unless we’re anchored in a populated area with trash cans, the poop comes back to the boat for storage until we can get rid of it.

BTW, here’s a tip for captains—don’t let the filled poop bag get wet in the floor of the dinghy. You don’t want to know what the dog poop smells like after 3 days in your propane locker.

Honey the golden retriever poops on the beach.

I have the prettiest bathroom of anyone on the boat. Now you just have to store my little “gift” until we get back to civilization.

And what no boat captain said ever, “The only thing this boat is missing is a big pile of $hit.”

Strength Training With Live Weights

How do I know if Honey has gained an ounce or two? By how tired I get lifting her into the cockpit.

Honey the golden retriever being carried in the cabin.

How do you lift weights on boat without a full gym?

A timid, klutzy dog combined with a steep companionway ladder equals a dog mama with bulging biceps.

Of course what might be worse…

Chasing An Agile Dog That Ladders Don’t Stop

How do you keep your dog safe if she’s agile enough to climb a ladder? You pray. A lot.

Once your dog starts climbing the stairs to get out of the boat they’re only a few days away from learning how to start the dinghy motor.

I’m glad Honey is neither graceful nor motivated enough to leave the cabin by herself. Because once she learned to start the dinghy, we’d never see her again until she had visited every boat in the anchorage.

Honey the golden retriever comes back to Meander in a dinghy.

There’s another boat in the anchorage. Let’s go visit them.

Having A Bed Warmer (In The Summer)

You might think it’s cute that Honey likes to cuddle. Heck, when we’re traveling in the open cockpit on a 22° F day, it’s not just cute, it’s life saving.

But when the v-berth is 92°F because you bought a charming, classic boat without air conditioning? Yeah, the cuddling gets old fast.

Honey the golden retriever in bed.

Where are you? It’s only 92 degrees. It’s cuddle time!

Dog Overboard Drills That Aren’t Drills

Every cruiser is wise to practice crew overboard drills. Because getting someone back on board after they’ve fallen is harder than convincing a cruiser their anchor isn’t the best.

But if you live on a boat with a playful pup visited by equally playful dolphins, you’d better practice how you’re going to get your dog back on board.

Dolphin swims by the boat.

Honey loves dolphins. Luckily, not enough to go swimming with them.

New Knowledge Of Everywhere That Is NOT Pet-Friendly

There’s nothing like arriving in a new town on a day too hot to leave the dog on board alone just to find no pet-friendly settings. Yep, the tacky restaurant where you just know the chef never washes his hands in the bathroom has decided that your freshly bathed pup is too dirty to allow on their concrete patio.

Honey the golden retriever at Yellow Dog Eats.

Only pet-friendly restaurants get their picture taken for my blog!

I hate to tell him, but I’d rather eat a meal prepared by my dog than take my chances with e Coli Ernie.

Of course there are plenty of reasons besides these 9 to not live on a boat with your dog. But there’s always

One Big Reason To Move Onto A Boat With Your Dog

Sometimes, no matter how stupid it looks on paper, it’s worth it to forget all the excellent reasons not to move onto a boat with your dog and respond to the one good one to do it anyway.

What could it be?

Dogs and humans are made to explore together. After all, what could be better than traveling everywhere with your best friend?

Honey the golden retriever looks into the brush.

Let’s go exploring, Honey.

Your Turn: Would any of the 9 reasons (or all of them) be a deal breaker for you moving onto a boat with your dog?

9 9 Reasons to NEVER Move Onto A Boat With Your Dog - And 1 Reason You Should
  1. I am not a fan of enclosed spaces, but if there was a zombie apocalypse happening, hell yeah i’d live on a boat with Merlin. I think you are brave to live on a boat. I am in awe of that really.

    I feel your pain of picking up dog hair in fresh varnish though.

    • Apparently every boater is also not a fan of enclosed spaces. It’s why we always sit outside in our cockpits. 🙂

      Yeah, I was a homeowner for years and I got plenty of dog hair in paint. You’d think I’d know better and buy a boat without any wood.

      • This past summer we worked hard at getting the varnish off the toerail, dorades, and hand holds on the cabin top. Then we put a few coats of Semco on. It looks great, and no dog hairs to ruin the finish because it’s a sealant that just soaks into the wood. Water beads on it nicely, too. Every 6 months or so we have to scrub it clean and apply 1-2 coats again, but it goes on really quickly. No more scraping or sanding needed, which leaves more time for Chiclet!

        • I went for LeTonkinois for the same reason–no sanding and oils that soak in. Sadly, it’s still a little sticky, making it a magnet for dog hair for the 24 hours it takes for the coat to set. Maybe I’ll have to try Semco for my next boat. LOL

  2. On the days that our little farm and all of our birds (along with the cat and dog) seem like way too much work, I doubt my sanity in deciding to do this. Yet, I think all good things in life are worth the extra work they sometimes take. While living on a boat probably wouldn’t be my thing, your dream is obviously worth the inconveniences and extra just like ours is.

    • He he! Of course everything worth doing is lots of work. Heck, if you wanted to have an easy life, you wouldn’t live with any animals at all.

      What really makes both your life and mine harder than it has to be is that everyone else in the world expects us to do the same things as everyone else even if we have less time. Do you think we could convince everyone else to slow down a bit?

  3. Having 3 dogs on the boat would be an even worse nightmare. Thankfully, Mom would never live on a boat, so we don’t need to worry about it, but it is your dream and you are living it! It is amazing you can make it work with a dog.

  4. We have been following your dream for, can it be three years now? As for me, you have listed nine deal breakers but I’m sure there are more.

    • Wow, you have a good memory for anniversaries. I totally forget we were 3 years in until my husband mentioned it (of course he’s not so keen on boat life so it makes sense he’d be counting the days).

    • I suspect a lot of boaters don’t care for small spaces. At least that would be one reason nearly everyone sits in their cockpit all the time.

      Heck, RV campers are much the same. I’ve never seen a camper that didn’t have an awning, an indoor/outdoor carpet, and a couple of chairs out front.

    • I’m probably over compensating for all the people who see us on the boat and tell us how we’re living the dream. They never see the hard work.

      Y’know, kinda like when someone sees you walking your beautiful collies and thinks they arrived straight from heaven knowing exactly how to behave. 🙂

  5. I don’t have a problem with the dogs cuddling with me, but my cat Boxer seems to think that 90°+ days with humidity is a great time to hang out on my lap! And he wants to be stroked and petted as well. Drives me crazy!

  6. Hey, living your dream is what “it’s all about” now, isn’t it?! But anything worth doing takes hard work. Just like marriage. Or, sharing your life with a dog who thinks she’s the boss of EVERY other living being in the household. (And who gets indignant about it when proven wrong!) LOL

    • He he! I wonder who you’re talking about. 😉

      In truth, I think raising dogs has a lot in common with living on a sailboat–you have to be very attentive, it’s harder work than the alternative, and you spend a lot of time managing poop. 🙂

  7. Living on a boat with a dog is pretty challenging. Most dogs are often afraid of storms and thunderclaps. On a sea or river with the constant noise and people milling about I don’t think any dog would be at ease.

  8. I lived on a 48ft chris craft (with my Lhasa Apso, husband, and 3 kids) for a little over a year. Lots of dog hair (and some of my own from pulling it out I think) … I couldn’t wait to get back into a house with a nice big yard. Now I miss my boat life. The kids don’t use the yard, and the house is a lot more to clean!