5 Tips for Sailing with your Dog

sailing with dogs

Sailing the Chesapeake Bay with our labs is one of our favorite ways to travel.

While our dogs settle right in, that may not be the case for every pup.  Following the tips below will help ease your dog into sailing life and make their (and your) time on the water more enjoyable.


  1. Invest in a quality life jacket with a handle on top.

A good life jacket is imperative to a safe sail, not to mention it will make getting your dog back onto the boat after a swim much easier.  Invest in a quality jacket with a sturdy handle on top to allow you to hoist them back onto the boat.  In rough seas, you can also tether your dog to the boat with a line attached to the jacket. Even if you think your dog is a good swimmer, in high seas or stressful situations, they will tire out and need the added buoyancy.

  1. Bring all the right gear.
Dog sailing

The right gear is essential to a successful trip.  You will need your dog’s collar or harness and leash for any trips onto land. Remember to pack poop bags, bottled water and a few treats for them to have while exploring.  Aside from trips ashore, you will also need to bring food and water bowls, your dog’s food, fresh water, sunscreen for sensitive noses, and any medications your dog takes regularly.  It is also a good idea to pack a pet first aid kit.  Exploring land and sea can lead to sore paws, scrapes, ear infections and bug bites that may need soothing.

  1. Establish a place to potty.

When you sail on the Chesapeake Bay land is always in sight, but it is not always convenient to simply pull over and let your dog out to potty.  Before you set sail, establish a place on the top deck (preferably the bow) for them to do their business.  Practice by walking them to the bow and giving the potty command. You can put down a fake grass matt if they can’t get the hang of going right on deck, but either way, simply pick up “the business” and wash the deck afterward. 

  1. Give your dog a place to settle in for naps and bedtime.
    dogs sleeping on sailboat

While our dogs prefer to be in the cockpit laying right under the helm, it is safer for them to be in their own designated spot on the boat.  Creating a cozy nest for them in the lower cabin is a great option.  It offers protection from the conditions outside, is quieter and closer to the keel which means a more stable place to get comfy.  With little effects from heeling down below, your dog can rest peacefully. Remember to pack their favorite toys and a few blankets for chilly nights.

  1. Give your dog plenty of exercise

Getting exercise on a sailboat is easy for people, not so much for dogs.  Giving them opportunities to swim and run on land are the best options. In smaller bodies like the Bay or a lake, both are viable. In the case of our lab

dog sleeping on boat

Saylor, we have learned that a tired Saylor is a happy sailor.

Pro tip…keep fresh water on hand to rinse your dog after a swim in salty water. The salt can become irritating and drying to the skin if left on after a swim.

Sailing with your dog is rewarding and fun if you are prepared and ready to be patient.  Give your dog time to get familiar with your boat, their life jacket, and the potty routine before you ever set sail. Keep in mind the tips above and you are well on your way to an enjoyable adventure for both you and your dog.

Back to blog