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Our Guide to Staying on a Boat With a Dog

We always stay on a boat with our Cocker Spaniel Nelly (@nelthecocker), and I think we’ve gotten it down to a fine art now; if I may say so myself! So I thought it would be useful to share our top tips to staying on a boat with a dog, and what to expect.

What to expect

If you’ve ever been glamping, staying on a boat will be (kind of) similar to that! I have always been unbelievably at home on the water. Never been affected with sickness, and I prefer being on water than on land! Luckily Nelly takes after me! But, if you are staying on a boat for the first time then I would recommend trying it for a night or two; just in case you get sea legs and can’t stomach it!

The boat will rock about quite a bit when moored and occasionally knock against the decking. If you have a nervous dog maybe try it for a night because they might surprise you!

Most boats do have a toilet on deck, like ours. This means you won’t have to worry about 3am trips to the nearest toilet block! However, unlike Glamping, there isn’t anywhere for your pooch to go to the loo on your doorstep. Yes, this means walks in the pitch black, praying you don’t slip off the deck into the water (after a few gins may I add) just so doggo can have a wee! Believe you me, I have been dive-bombed by bats more times than I’ve had hot dinners just so Nel can go to the toilet; it does give us all a good laugh though.

If you’re going in the chillier months then expect for the boat to be exceptionally chilly. In the warmer months expect to cook alive. Obviously there are ways to combat this which will be in the ‘Top Tips’ section but expect the two extremes! It is such a fun experience though so definitely give it a go! There’s nothing better than dropping the anchor in the middle of a Lake with music playing and the BBQ on!

What To Take (Humans and Hounds)

Staying on a boat with a dog means you have to assess all the risks and plan what to take accordingly. So the most important thing to purchase for your pooch is a dog life jacket! Ruffwear does a great one, however, because Nelly’s is only used once a month or so I bought a cheaper one off Amazon.

The one thing I would say is (coming from a Canine Hydrotherapists opinion), make sure that the floatation goes all-around their stomach, not just on their back; because if they are panicking they will need the support from under their tummy (dogs drown bum first)! Oh, and also a handle on the back.

I’d also recommend taking lots of layers (if it’s cold). If it’s hot then make sure you have your dog’s cooling jacket/mat! When you’re out on the water it gets very chilly, even on a warmish day so make sure you have blankets on board.

Another good thing to get is a non-spill water bowl; you can get these off Amazon! If the boat rocks and knocks against something then you won’t have a mess to clean up! Make sure you take bottles of water. We have been caught out quite a bit when we realise we have nothing but gin to drink; which despite her best efforts we can’t give Nel!

If it is your first time then I would definitely recommend taking some anti-sickness tablets *just in case*! You would hate to be caught out in the middle of the night when you have nowhere else to go; better be safe than sorry.

FINALLY, take a torch!! Believe me, even the nicest of marinas have pretty rubbish lighting. Take a good torch or you’ll be in with the ducks! It’s useful during the bedtime toilet breaks as well. Nel is a mostly black dog and even though she’s on a lead I cannot for the life of me see what she’s up to!

Our Top Tips

Out on the water, Nel always has her jacket on. I always have a lead clipped to her and my hand on her. It gives me the fear when I see videos of dogs standing on the edge of the back of the boat when it’s moving! Thankfully, Nelly wouldn’t think twice about vaulting herself off the side of a moving boat, if she sees a bird on the water or a stick. So make sure you keep your pooch safe.

Another tip, take your dog’s bed and blankets so that if they are nervous they have home comforts! Nel sleeps on the bed and adapted to the boat straight away, but I did take her little bed just in case.

When you get to where you’re staying get acquainted with the marina! If you aren’t used to it then you can end up getting lost through all the jetty’s. I don’t mind that though, because I am extremely nosy and like looking at other people’s boats. There are some very snazzy ones that we like to imagine we own!

Make sure you pre-empt the temperature of the cabin when you go out for the day; and give yourself enough time when you get back to sort it out. In the colder months, you can freeze for half an hour under the blankets whilst the heating kicks in. In the warmer months… it is like a greenhouse! So make sure that you have enough time to put the fan on. Open the windows and doors before you go to bed so that pooch doesn’t overheat! We usually will go back to the boat, pop the fan on then sit on the deck with food, music and a few drinks whilst the fan works its magic.

Now, my most important top tip, because for some reason my brain seems to forget this every time. If there is a little window above your bed, do not, I repeat do not, sleep under it. Little deathly water droplets will form on it and torture you all night! So make sure you organise the sleeping situation or else you will regret it just like I do… every single time.

Please let me know if you stay on a boat with your dog! I would love to hear your top tips, in case it can make our life any easier! Our next venture is staying on a canal boat so if you have any tips for that we would love to hear!

Have you ever stayed on a boat with a dog?

Share your experiences below.


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