Sea dogs: 7 tips for sailing with your dog

Sea dogs: 7 tips for sailing with your dog

Going on a boating holiday and trying to work out whether you can take your dog with you on board? Would your dog even handle it and what will you need? We've done some digging around for you. Check out our recommendations.
Firstly, it is obviously not a great idea to plan an adrenaline-fuelled voyage with your dog in powerful winds or on rough ocean waters. That's the type of sailing you and your dog definitely wouldn't enjoy together. But you certainly don't have to be afraid to take your four-legged friend on a more leisurely sail taking plenty of stops along the way. 

If your dog is used to adventure and travelling and loves water, you’ll definitely enjoy your voyage. The dog will be happy to be with his pack, enjoy the water and get used to life on board. 

We've prepared 7 tips for bringing your four-legged friends sailing. We’ll also provide advice on dealing with the more timid ones. However, the fact is that for certain types of dogs, a yachting holiday is just not for them and they'll be much happier at home. 

So, how to go about it? 

Dogs on board: 7 steps to make the most of it

1. Get your dog used to it slowly and before you set sail

First try out how your dog feels on board a bit closer to home. For example, rent a boat on the nearest river or lake for a short trip. Doing this, you'll quickly discover whether and how it'll work with your dog on board and what things will need to be worked on.

If this is not possible, just do shorter sections on the first day and get used to the boat gradually together. Dogs like to conform and if you have a strong relationship together, they will trust you. You may be surprised how fast your dog feels at home. 

Much depends on the nature of your dog. It is also a good idea to take your dog to various different places, to get used to new things, sudden movements and noise. Then they won't have trouble adjusting almost anywhere.

If your dog is more timid and afraid of water, they will need more time. So don't let it discourage you too much the first time, just try again. If the dog is really too stressed and you know that they generally don't get used to new things, consider whether you should take the dog on a boat at all. Enjoy the cruise yourself and plan a different, terrestrial adventure with your dog.

2. Take care of safety: life jackets for pets

Even if your dog is a proficient swimmer at home, don't underestimate the need for a life jacket. In big waves and far from the mainland, it wouldn't stand much of a chance when falling into a stormy sea. A jacket like this is not included so you'll need to buy one yourself.

A dog in a life jacket on board a sailboat

It is also sensible to order a safety net (lifeline netting) that you stretch around the railing — if you sail with children, you are probably already familiar with them. It's definitely worth installing, especially for active dogs.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Having four-legged pets on a boat can be a bit like having small kids with you. So, you might find more handy ideas in our article, Sailing with kids: how to keep all of you safe and happy.

Safety net on the boat, behind which is the dog, serves the safety of both children and dogs

Even steep stairs, a narrow footbridge and an unstable surface can cause a problem. Try to pack and use anti-slip mats, a piece of carpet over the footbridge and a blanket to lay on, etc. Put the dog firmly in place and make sure it doesn't end up getting under the crew's feet.

3. Inform the boat charter company

Arrange it with the charter company in advance to avoid unnecessary problems. Not all companies allow dogs on board. Or some differentiate according to the size of the dog. And be prepared for special fees. Most often this is in the form of a lump sum for example, 10 Euros per day or you have to pay twice the transit log (final cleaning).

Before you choose your sailing boat, please contact us and we will find the right boat and company for you and your pet.

A dog on a marina dock looking down at the docked boats

4. What to do about walking the dog

Taking your dog for a walk to do it's business is the biggest pitfall on a boat. A dog, unlike a cat, is not likely to learn to go in a special place. It is therefore advisable to plan frequent stops on the mainland every 3 to 5 hours and to limit the anchorage to the wild. If your dog is already an adventurer, a water lover and can move about on a dinghy, you can even head to the nearest mainland from a romantic bay.

You can also see if your dog will use a special place or strip of artificial grass at home before sailing. Maybe the dog will surprise you and get used to this.

5. Protect your dog from heat and discomfort

Ensure that there is always a shady area on board for your pet to rest and cool down. Don't forget to have access to fresh water — choose a stable bowl, so that water does not splash around in the waves and the bowl does not roll around the boat. 

Beware of overheating and dehydration. If you need to cool the dog, do not soak it, but cool its legs and groin. Include basic medicines for the dog — such as for nausea or disinfection in case of injury. If your dog suffers from chronic problems, such as of the ears or eyes, pack certified drops or medications. You can also consult a veterinarian.

Happy dog border collie on board a yacht

6. Familiarize yourself with the regulations and vaccinations

Check the regulations in the country where you'll be sailing as well as the countries you'll be passing through. In every country, the rules are different — in some places they require compulsory vaccination or regular deworming, elsewhere quarantine. Find out whether dogs can run freely there without a lead. Of course make sure they have a valid vaccination card or "passport". 

And what conditions apply, for example, when travelling with a dog to Croatia? In Croatia, the dog must be microchipped (tattoos are not recognized in Croatia), the dog must have a European passport and a valid rabies vaccination confirmed in the passport (including the duration of the vaccination). Vaccination must take place at least 21 days prior to travel and the dog must already be chipped when vaccinated.

7. Pack dog toys and food

Think ahead on how to entertain the dog during your voyage. The dog will play on the beach and in the water, but on board it should have plenty of it's favourite toys so you can concentrate on sailing and driving the yacht. Take advantage of interesting places on the mainland for a longer walk.

Pack plenty of food and snacks, your favourite brands may not be available on holiday.

A few more tips to help your dog sail smoothly

  • Don't get stressed  —  when you are calm, your dog will be calm also.
  • Bring your dog's favourite blanket and lay it down on board straight away. This will help it adjust quickly.
  • Plan your route at home, divide it into shorter sections, think where you will be anchored and what you can do together on land.

 As you can see, there is no need to go on holiday without your dog. If you count on a slower holiday pace and cruising in quieter waters with more frequent stops, it should be easy. 

And where to set course with your canine friend? Try sailing around the Croatian coast. It is sufficiently rugged, with many opportunities for mooring and walking on the mainland. Try the beginner route in our article Where to sail in Croatia: find the best sailing route for you

Our boats in Croatia:

Want to set sail with your 4-legged friend? Contact me.