Meet Two Dogs Who Live On a Sailboat

A greyhound dog in a life jacket stands on a beach.

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.

A woman and her two dogs stand on sand and look out at the sea.

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?

A dog wearing a lifejacket stands aboard a sailboat.
The hardest part is that not all places are dog-friendly and some activities are not conducive to a person traveling with dogs. Putting their welfare first is incredibly important to us, so there are definitely certain things and places we have to skip along the way

What’s the best part about traveling with a dog?

Penny and Mondo give us that extra burst of enthusiasm for everything we see. Seeing how excited they are about the smallest things can’t help but make us enjoy them more too. I think one of the best examples was when we went to a secluded island in the Bahamas where the dogs could run, play, and explore off-lead. Mondo was so thrilled about discovering all the new smells and Penny was elated to run up and down the beach between John and me.

 

How did your style of travel change, now that your dogs are with you?

Our traveling is more intentional. Whatever we’re doing, we need to plan ahead a bit more to make sure the dogs can come with us. Sometimes that means researching import requirements of various countries, looking up dog-friendly beaches, or asking around about local places that allow dogs. When we leave the boat, we always bring extra water, their water bowl, dog food, and sometimes their dog sling or bag to carry them in! That’s definitely one of the perks of traveling with small dogs. When places are too busy or crowded to walk on lead, the dogs are more than happy to hitch a ride from us, lol.

A Greyhound dog in a lifejacket stands aboard a sailboat.

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.

 
A Greyhound dog curls up on a sofa in a sailboat.

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!

A man and his dog sit at the helm of a sailboat.What surprised you the most about traveling with dogs?

We were surprised how quickly they both adjusted to life on a boat. They even learned how to “go” on a boat the very first day, which was quite a welcome surprise!

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.

Thank you so much John and Julie!

If you would like to follow them on their travels, you can visit them on Instagram or watch their weekly videos on YouTube. Visit our Pet Travel Tips to get more information on traveling with your dog. 

Read more interviews with people traveling with their pups here

Comments 5

  1. WOW what a fantastic adventure and so great to read how they are putting the dogs first everywhere. I love the idea of the secret stash which is an excitement for them. Thanks for the great interview.

    PS. I have two nephews who are working on separate yachts and have been travelling around the world, one now 5 years and the other 2 years. Adventure of a life time

  2. What an amazing articles firstly the life of those dogs it’s just incredible, secondly the photos are beautiful! Lovely insight into how other doggies live! 🙂

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