November 17, 2015

As I have posted previously, before we moved to the boat Cindy and I adopted a sweet little Yorkie pup named Missy. Many people we have talked to are surprised we can keep a dog on a boat, so I wanted to post some random thoughts on what life is like with a dog on board.

How does she go to the bathroom?

We adopted Missy while we were still living at our house in Huntsville. Initially we took Missy out for walks so she could do her business but then we realized that if Missy was going to be a boat dog we needed to get her pad trained right away rather than get her in the habit of going to the bathroom outside. Pad training her at such a young age made it relatively easy. Here on the boat we have an artificial grass pad that Missy uses and as we had hoped, she also gotten comfortable using the trampoline netting at the front of our catamaran. To clean up afterwards, we use poop bags; you simply slip one over your hand like a glove, pick up the poop, turn the bag inside out as you pull it off your hand, tie off the top and dump it in the trash. If we’re offshore, we can even just kick it off the trampoline into the water (puppy poop soccer!). Pee gets washed off with a bucket of water.

Feeding the dog

While obtaining a particular brand of dog food in the States is relatively easy, it can be a lot more problematic abroad. While we humans can adapt to local cuisine, switching up dog food is much more difficult and is pretty much asking for doggie digestive problems. We solved this problem with Missy by just stocking enough of her preferred brand of dog food to last us until we return to the States in June. This is possible because Missy weighs all of 8.5 pounds so she only needs about a cup of food per day. We bought a large airtight bin at PetSmart to keep a fresh ready supply in and have another two 18 pound bags stored under our bed in the aft cabin.

Missy 1

Missy out on the Netting

Toys and bones

Missy loves her toys; she always has her favorite of the moment. Terriers have a natural instinct to snatch and shake their kills (Yorkies were bred to kill rats in Yorkshire textile mills) so when she’s feeling frisky we play tug-of-war with one of her toys and then toss it across the cabin and cockpit. She’ll bound after it, shake it until it’s “dead” and then bring it back to us. We stocked up on a bunch of toys so she will have new ones to replace those that get torn up (she’s pretty aggressive when she’s in full up terrier mode) or go overboard. We keep them packed in a roll-up vacuum seal bag to keep the moisture out and prevent them from mildewing. We also laid in a large supply of rawhide bones since Missy loves to chew on these as well.


We got a doggie life vest that Missy wears as a matter of safety when the boat is underway. We had to shop around bit to find a good one; Missy’s small but boxy build made finding the right fit difficult. On one try, she couldn’t even take a step without toppling over because the vest was just too wide in the chest. We finally decided to bite the bullet and got her a RuffWear life vest from PetSmart. It ran about $80 but it fits her perfectly. Its bright yellow to make it visible in the water and what’s more, she seems to love wearing it. As soon as we pull it out, she sits down and waits for us to put it on her. It also has a handle on top to make it easy to snag her with a boat hook should she fall overboard. She also elicits a lot of attention when she’s dressed up in her vest; a lot of folks just find it so adorable to see a little dog trotting around on deck in a bright yellow life jacket!

Missy 2

Patrolling For Birds

It also makes it easy to clip her onto a secured leash in the cockpit when we are docking or anchoring; Missy likes to “help” with everything (mainly by barking at things) but sometimes the possible danger or additional trouble just makes it better to keep her out of harm’s way.

Life on the boat

A lot of folks want to know what a dog does aboard a boat; the answer is, pretty much the same things they do in a house. Missy loves to trot around the boat while we’re underway and seems to have no anxiety about the noise of the engines or the motion of the boat. She’ll sit on the front on of the boat, soaking up the warmth of the sun and letting the sea breeze wash over her. She chases after any birds that dare to stray close to the boat and any dolphins or manatee that come alongside the boat. One of her great pleasures in life is to rub against the screens covering our salon windows, especially after we remove her life vest. She’ll run back and forth, pushing herself against the screens with every ounce of power those four little legs can muster.

She spends a lot of time laying around sleeping, just like landlocked hounds do, but loves chasing after balls and toys and getting scratched and massaged by her momma and daddy. She’ll jump up in our laps and want to be held even if it’s not particularly convenient for us at the given moment. At night she comes to bed and snuggles up between the two of us, often laying her chin on one of our legs or flopping over on her back so we can scratch her tummy. In the morning, we’re apt to get awakened by puppy kisses (even if we’re not ready for it!)

Missy 3

Missy Meets Bonita, The Talking Parrot

She gets excited when we pull out her harness because she knows it means she’s coming ashore with us. She frets and cries if we leave the boat without her (which unfortunately is sometimes necessary) and acts like we’ve been gone for years when we get back, even though it’s only been 30 minutes.

There are certainly issues caused by having a dog on the boat with us – her dread fear of thunderstorms, the fact that we are limited in the stores and restaurants we can go into if she’s with us, her separation anxiety if we aren’t all physically together (Missy loves her pack), the relatively small walking range of those short little legs, the varying animal importation requirements in foreign ports – but they by far overshadowed by the love, cuteness, joy and companionship she brings to us every day. All she had to do is raise up on us, wagging that little nub tail and smiling that puppy smile and any minor transgressions are immediately forgiven.

Missy On The Couch

Cute Keeps Me Out of Trouble

At this point, neither Cindy nor I could imagine our life without Missy in it by now, on or off the boat.