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  • Molly Gone Wild

What It's Like to Sail With Our Dog

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

dog on a sailboat
The cutest four-legged captain.

We’ve received a lot of questions about what it is like to sail with our dog, Lulu. Does she get seasick? Where does she go to the bathroom? How does she get exercise? We had a lot of the same questions before leaving home and found it very helpful to read about the experiences of others, so we thought we’d share some of our reflections on what is working well. If you’re planning a sailing trip with your pup, read on for some tips!

Food & Water

Lulu does best with structured routines, so I wanted to make sure that her food and water routine on the boat resembled her routine at home as much as possible. With that in mind, we designated one corner of the “living room” as Lulu’s food and water station.

We brought a grippy, rubber mat from home to help prevent her bowls from sliding around while at sea. Breakfast and dinner are served in a collapsible, silicone travel bowl - easy to clean and perfect for taking ashore for day trips. I ordered this “no-spill” water bowl and it has worked flawlessly. The no-spill lid does a fantastic job of keeping the water from sloshing about. We keep it full 24/7 and haven’t had a single spill yet, even in rough seas. We keep her extra food (dry and canned) in a large plastic bin in the front cabin.

Potty Training

The most commonly asked question about our experience with Lulu so far is: where does she go to the bathroom? This was, admittedly, the thing I was most concerned about before embarking on this adventure. At home, Lulu has access to a dog door and lets herself in and out whenever she needs to go potty. Would she be able to adjust to a completely different set-up?

After reading a few other sailing blogs, we decided to create a couple of moveable, fake turf patches. There isn’t much flat space on our foredeck, so we needed something small. We ordered this fake turf pee patch but realized it was too big. So, we improvised. We cut the fake turf in half and bought two large, rimmed baking sheets to use as the base of our smaller portable pee patches. Then, we layered, from bottom to top, a piece of grippy drawer liner, an absorbent pad, and fake turf. We keep one pee patch near the bow of the boat; the other pee patch we either store or place in the head overnight so she has access to a potty spot inside the cabin.

Cleanup is also pretty easy. Every five days or so, we replace the absorbent pad. Once a week, we hose the turf and baking tray down with water to get rid of any smells. If Lulu poops on the turf, we simply pick it up with a doggie bag like we would on land.

At first, Lulu was very hesitant to use the pee patch. She would jump up on the side of the boat eagerly whenever we approached land, clearly anxious for the opportunity to go potty on land. Thankfully, after a couple of days of enticing her with treats and lots of “good girls,”, she started peeing on the pee patch. Now, she usually pees in the evening just before bed, and in the morning as soon as she gets up. We also try to go to shore as much as possible since she does still prefer going potty on land. So far, we’ve been able to find somewhere to go ashore almost every day of the trip.

Exercise & Entertainment

Per the comment above, we have been lucky enough to find somewhere to go ashore most days of our trip. Whenever we go ashore, we make sure to take Lulu on a good walk, and, if we can, we let her off-leash for a play session. She loves sprinting up and down beaches and sniffing the strange, ocean-scented air. She’s also learning to ride on our paddleboards and is fascinated by the water flowing past.

On the boat, she spends a lot of time cuddled up in one of her two beds, chewing on her yak cheese stick, or wrestling with Dad. Luckily, she hasn't gotten seasick (yet). In many ways, her routine is very similar to her routine at home.

man with dog on sailboat
At the helm with Dad.

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