From the time she was eight weeks old, Honey ate out of a food toy. But flying dog food and boat bilges are a bad fit. It’s hard to feed a dog on a boat.
So how do we feed the dog now?
Challenges Of Feeding A Dog On Board
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realize that everything about living on a boat is just a little more complicated than living on land.
And feeding Honey is no exception.
We have three main issues surrounding feeding Honey:
- Buying dog food
- Storing dog food
- Feeding dog food
Luckily, our current path of cruising the east coast of the United States makes this easy. Once we sail to the Caribbean or try to cross an ocean, we’ll have to solve these questions all over again.
Here’s what we’re doing now.
Where Do You Buy Dog Food From A Boat?
Sure, there are tons of pet supply shops that sell premium foods. But how far are they from the waterways?
Even ten miles is too far to walk. Especially with a 40 pound bag of dog food.
And most Petsmarts don’t have a dinghy dock.
Luckily Chewy.com ships everywhere.
Well, not quite everywhere. It would definitely be more convenient if they would attach our shipping box to the back of a dolphin and find us along the Intracoastal Waterway.
But with 2-3 days notice, we can order Honey’s food and Chewy will ship it to a marina in care of the dock master.
We have to keep a close eye on Honey’s food so we don’t run out far from civilization. And we have to be able to store enough food that we’re not arranging shipments every week.
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Where Do You Store Dog Food On A Boat?
Fresh Pet is a highly rated food, the first I had ever seen in a supermarket.
Honey loved it. And it was very convenient for me to buy it when I biked to the grocery story instead of having to make a separate trip.
But best of all, her vet would say, “Honey looks fabulous! What are you feeding her again?”
It’s not available from Chewy. And even if we found a grocery store that sold it, it needs refrigeration.
We only have refrigeration when we’re at a dock and plugged into shore power. Underway and at anchor, we rely on a block of ice in the bottom of our ice box.
Which is why we avoid meat and other foods that need refrigeration.
We searched out reviews and used the Slim Doggy dog food database to find a five-star kibble.
Without refrigeration, kibble was both the most affordable and easiest to store option. To give a nutritional boost, I top Honey’s Castor & Pollux Ultramix kibble (Amazon) with Stella & Chewy freeze-dried mixers (Amazon).
Shortly after it arrives, I pack 30 pounds of kibble into gallon-sized freezer bags. Each bag is labeled with the date, amount, and name. The last bag gets the folded up bag the kibble came in so I can check the original packaging if there’s ever a recall notice.
We store the bags of kibble in the storage locker under our starboard (right side as you’re facing forward) saloon (what you call the living room in a boat) settee (a boat couch).
One bag stays in a galley cupboard for daily feeding.
Now we just have to get it into the dog.
How Do You Feed A Dog On A Boat?
Who misses Honey’s food toys more, me or her?
I have no idea.
As a puppy, Honey learned about food toys when we put kibble into a water bottle that we set on its mouth. We encouraged her to knock it over and we set it up for her over and over.
Eventually, we got her more complicated food toys like the Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug (Amazon) which required Honey to tug on a rope to free the food.
And stuffing soft food tightly into her Kong (Amazon) also required some ingenuity.
I used to love watching her go up the steps to drop her Kong from greater heights so the food would come out faster.
But Honey was a sloppy eater.
If food ended up under the fridge or stove, she’d walk away unconcerned. We didn’t realize how much food was lurking under our kitchen appliances until our friend Melissa brought her pups over.
Yep, they helped us get all that leftover food out. Good dogs.
We can’t afford to lose food in the boat’s nooks and crannies. We have openings to the bilge (the area inside the hull but below the finished floor) that contain important parts.
I can imagine coming back to the boat with Honey to find it sunk with just the mast showing above the water. All thanks to a tiny piece of kibble that caused the bilge pump to fail.
So now Honey eats her food out of a bowl. It’s definitely more boring.
And I think Honey feels it. Food time is no longer fun time.
Maybe when we’re at a marina, we should feed her with a food toy out on the lawn. But I have a feeling we’d attract every other dog faster than Honey could eat all her food.
Water is another trick.
When we’re sailing, the boat heels to the side. And in rough seas, we bounce a bit in the waves.
There are fancy bowls that claim not to spill, even on a boat. But we’ve had good luck putting Honey’s silicone Kurgo Collaps a Bowl into a plastic bowl. No sliding. No mess.
Just A Little Harder On The Boat
Now do you understand why I say life on a boat is just a little bit harder?
Believe me, the views, the togetherness, and the ability to travel make up for it. But things we used to do without thinking take effort.
I hope Honey finds the excitement of barking at dolphins, meeting new people, and spending time with us more than makes up for wet stinky food stuffed in a Kong.
But if she has an opinion on the matter, Honey isn’t saying.
Your Turn: We’ll be doing more posts on Honey’s life aboard soon. If you have a specific question, leave it in the comments.