Moving & Living Aboard with a Dog


Deciding to move onto a boat was a big adjustment for us humans, so we knew it would be for our little sea dog, Indy, too. Here's how we managed the move, and my tips for adjusting to life aboard with a dog. 


The Initial Meeting

Before the official move, we wanted to introduce Indy to his new home. We packed up his favorite toys, a few treats, and plenty of poop bags and headed out to the dock. Indy knows his way around the water already (he loves paddle boarding and kayaking) but he seemed a little unsure about this whole boat thing. I had to pick him up and carry him aboard, tail tucked between his little legs. 

Once on the boat, our little adventurer sniffed everything. He's always excited to explore new places. The steeper stairs proved to be a bit challenging, but with some coaxing, he figured out how to navigate them. Brian and I poured ourselves a glass of wine and headed up to the flybridge to enjoy the view.

As things settled, down, Indy got nervous. I could tell he was wondering when we'd be heading back home. He was whining and crying and barking at every little noise he heard. Those seagulls would not keep quiet.

So, we decided to quit while we were ahead. We packed up and headed home, feeling a little nervous about Indy's lukewarm reaction.

Getting Comfortable

Over the next few weeks, we brought Indy over to the boat as often as possible. It didn't take long for him to warm up to the new space. Soon, he was sunbathing on the top deck, burrowing on the bed, and confidently exploring every inch of the boat. Showering him with lots of treats and praise probably helped, too. 

The Day Of

Moving day has always been a source of anxiety for Indy. He can tell his world is changing, but he has no idea what's going on. So, we did our best to keep things as normal as possible. In hindsight, I wish we'd send him to visit grandma and grandpaw at their house while Brian and I finished moving. Maybe next time, right Mom and Dad? :)

Instead, we packed everything up in advance and let Indy hang out at the condo while we finished moving our remaining belongings onto the boat. He had his bed, toys and the comfort of being in a familiar space, which helped!

Once we'd settled in, we went to pick Indy up and he was (thankfully) excited to see his boat again! The three of us climbed into bed and enjoyed a great night's sleep. The next morning, we made it a point to stick to Indy's usual routine: a walk, potty break, and breakfast followed by morning snuggles. 

Safety First

Living aboard poses some unique safety challenges - for dogs and humans alike. The dock can be slippery, the stairs are steep, and there are virtually no railings along the bow of our boat. There are also hatches on the floor and that whole motion of the ocean thing. Here's how we manage:

  • Indy is always on-leash when we walk along the dock
  • Indy wears a life jacket anytime he's not inside the boat and when we're underway
  • We always close doors behind us to avoid any escape attempts
  • Indy doesn't get to wander around the unenclosed portions of our boat unattended
  • We keep a first aid kit aboard at all times
  • We always make sure Indy has plenty of water and a comfy place to snuggle
  • Brian and I took lessons from a professional captain and practiced what do to in the event of a dog overboard 
  • We've done our best to avoid sharp-edged furniture (with a few exceptions), and always secure any heavy objects that could topple over if we hit a big wake

Unforeseen Challenges

In all of our planning for Indy's big move, we overlooked one major challenge: accessibility. Virtually everything on the boat is within Indy's reach. Our countertops are eye level with his cute little face and there are Indy-sized stairs along the built-in bed we use for storage. I can't tell you how many snacks Indy has snagged when we weren't looking. He also got stuck on top of a storage bin during an unsupervised exploration of our second bedroom. Needless to say, figuring out food storage and access will be a work in progress.


In the end, Indy didn't seem to have much of an issue adjusting to his new floating home. He hasn't really missed a beat! He spends his days sunbathing on the flybridge, going for joyrides in our dinghy, and devising complicated strategies for getting us to give him more treats. Some things will never change.

And really, life aboard isn't much different - with the exception of the occasional seal swimming through the backyard.