When Texan couple John and Julie decided to drop everything and travel full time, they knew their two dogs had to go with them. They spent a full year preparing for the trip and acclimating their dogs to the boat. Penny, a 5 year old Italian Greyhound, and Mondo, a 4 year old Havanese mix, now live the good life aboard a sailboat called Minnow. So far, they’ve sailed along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, all the way from Texas to Florida and down to the Bahamas. Here’s how they did it, why sailing with dogs is easier than you think, and why it’s worth taking your dogs along for the ride.
What inspired you to travel with your dogs?
We were very interested in traveling the world full-time and couldn’t imagine doing it without Penny and Mondo. Our dogs are a part of our family, so there was no doubt that we wanted them to join us on our travels. They have enjoyed travels with us close to home, so we knew that if we could travel long-term in a dog-friendly way, they would have a wonderful time.
How did you prepare your dogs for the journey?
Before officially choosing to sail, we made sure the dogs knew how to swim. We took them canoeing and to beaches to get experience with being on the water, and got them on as many sailboats as we could. We also took them with us every time we went to our boat to work on it as we prepared for the trip. They grew quite accustomed to coming to the boat, so by the time we set sail, they already had their favorite hangout spots and felt quite at home.
What is the hardest part about traveling with your dogs?
What’s the best part about traveling with a dog?
How did your style of travel change, now that your dogs are with you?
How do you go from port to port with your dogs?
Every country has very different import requirements. In the Caribbean it ranges from practically no paperwork to the Bahamas where you need paperwork months in advance plus a vet check within 48 hours of entering the country. Still, others require quarantine or other more intense (or expensive) processes, so we choose to skip some countries because of the dogs. If you’re planning to travel internationally with your dog, definitely start looking into the import requirements for each country in the very earliest stages of your planning.
A note from Boogie: Import requirements differ when entering a country by air, land, or sea.
What were some essential items that you packed for your dogs?
Getting high quality life jackets and a harness has been so helpful. We use Ruffwear for both and couldn’t be happier with the fit and quality.
We also use their collapsible water bowl every time we go to shore. It clips easily onto the backpack, takes up very little space, and helps us keep them well hydrated.
One other essential was making the boat feel like home for the dogs. For Penny that meant lots of dog beds and blankets and for Mondo that meant a cooling pad and lots of bones to chew. It has made our boat feel more like home and has helped them maintain some of their more familiar routines.
Since you’re on a sailboat, how do you exercise your dogs and keep them occupied out at sea?
We try to take the dogs with us every time we go to shore. Sometimes that means one of us walks outdoors with the dogs while the other shops for groceries, but it’s a great chance to let the dogs (and us) get some extra exercise. They also get a ton of mental stimulation during our shore time – whether it’s running off-lead on a secluded beach, hiking through jungly trails on a Bahamian island, walking through the streets of a new town, or enjoying dog-friendly shops and art galleries – every walk is something totally new and exciting.
During the times when shore isn’t accessible, we play lots of games of fetch, tug-of-war, and “find it!” They have a toy basket readily accessible, so they always have an assortment of fun toys to choose from.
Another thing that we and the dogs love is our secret toy stash. Before setting sail we bought replacements of all their favorite bones and toys as well as a bunch of new toys that we thought they’d like. Every so often, we can open the secret stash and let them pick a new toy. They caught on super fast and get so excited whenever we pull it out. It’s so fun watching them having a blast picking and enjoying their new prize. It’s pretty cute and we enjoy it as much as they do!
What surprised you the most about traveling with dogs?
What advice do you have for people who want to travel with their dog, but are nervous to do so?
If the dog is comfortable, you’ll be more comfortable, so make a plan ahead of time on how you’ll be able to meet their needs while you travel. Researching your transportation and destination thoroughly ahead of time will ease nerves and help you make a plan on how to make it a positive experience for both you and your dog.