sailing abroad with dogs

Travelling Internationally

There are a lot of factors to consider when taking your pooch sailing. I thought long and hard about any possible scenario, from how they would go to the bathroom at sea to getting them into another country.

I had stalked for info on what I needed to do to get the dogs into Mexico. True to my nature, I didn’t do any of what they said pet owners should do. Logistically, it was too difficult to work out in San Diego while anchored out. I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. As it turns out, absolutely nothing was needed! No special shots, no vet health certificate less than 72 hrs old, none of it. Don’t waste your time!

For everything else I worried about, like veterinary care, I have not had any issues. The pups have gotten their shots updated and I was given a pamphlet for each pup to have a written record of when their shots are due. I can’t keep track of paperwork to save my life, so this is a welcome addition to know when the shots are due without relying on a vet to send me postcard reminders.

The pups are 12 years old now and getting fatty tumors. Any time sedation is required in the US its automatically at least a $500 procedure. Not in Mexico! It was ~$50 to remove a lump on Zita’s chest. Testing the mass is almost as much as the surgery, although it is still much cheaper! Speaking of old pups, they used to get acupuncture in San Fran (go ahead, laugh away) but there are places here to get veterinary acupuncture care as well! Soo stoked about this, I feel better about taking them hiking with me.

I thought I’d need to stock up on flea and tick medicines, however, I think its best to work with what the region has to offer. The fleas and ticks in the US can be different than what is found in Central America, therefore the agents probably won’t work as effectively. Trust that they have the correct products to care for your pet.

Most dogs here aren’t neutered or spayed. That means they incessantly flirt with Zita, or Bear, and if its a boy Bear will get super agro. Most of them are younger too, and boy does Bear like to parent actual puppies!

sailing with dogs-1

I walk with the pups pretty much everywhere. There are some stores I can’t go in because there is either nowhere to tie the dogs up or it is way too crowded of an area. I was used to tying them up to bike racks or parking signs, but I’m lucky if I can find a railing for shopping carts and somewhere people aren’t walking by (Zita hates people and she’s very vocal about it). Early morning walkies to the grocery store in less crowded areas is how we do it.

Another thing I hadn’t anticipated was that there are no water bowls left out for dogs on their walkies. Not many people walk their dogs here, so its not a common practice to leave water dishes out. I bring a water bottle with us and a collapsible water bowl to keep them hydrated.

Speaking of locals not walking dogs, most dogs here are guard dogs. They live in the front or back yard and likely never leave. They aren’t socialized and have probably never met another dog before. We have had some pretty funny reactions from local pups! It also makes it a little difficult finding a pet sitter, because I have different standards. People are confused as to why I walk the dogs so often, and haven’t ever heard of dogs being allowed to stay in the house. I’m absolutely not okay leaving them in the front or back yard for 24 hours unattended, but I am happy to report that there ARE people out there who welcome dogs inside and walk them (but it takes some time to meet the right people).

That being said, these two fluffy butts are very popular in their new home! Bear loves all the attention, Zita could do without it. There are several people who ask “where are your dogs???!” if I happen to leave them back on the boat. It’s really cute. I also have to tell people that they bite. Lots of kids will come running up and ask if they bite or if they can pet them, and I have to say “they bite, sorry” because when it’s busy on the walkway I simply would not get anywhere if I stopped for every person who asked.



As far as actually sailing with the pups, they have done really well. They prefer to nap in the middle of the cockpit, closest to me of course. I don’t feed them before a passage, incase the swells are a little rolly I don’t want to upset their bellies. I have them in their life jackets all the time, and so far I have only had to secure them once because it was sooo rough getting out the Golden Gate Bridge. They panted for a couple of hours and eventually relaxed once they realized they weren’t going to die.

sailing with dogs-3


The grass pad up at the bow is now a permanent fixture on Coconut. I put some brass grommets in it and tied some dynema to the cletes so it can’t fly away. Zita has always had a harder time holding it than Bear, and pooping is her favorite activity second to eating. Now that she knows the grass pad is where she can relieve herself, she happily does it! I sometimes find little turds up there even when at the dock when they are getting regular walkies. One time while right in front of me she just waltzed up there and pee’d on the pad! I praised her like crazy. I know a lot of people prefer to put a long line on the grass pad to dip into the ocean, but because there’s already pee all over the deck I prefer to just fill up my canvas bucket and wash it off that way. I can’t imagine washing off a grass pad in the ocean and just leaving the urine all over the deck. Gross.

Bear is going to take a little more coaxing, as it took a couple of days for him to drop a deuce on our first long passage. He also needs something to pee on (like an actual object). I could see his brain trying to work out “How am I supposed to poop or lift my leg when the boat is bouncing around?!” We haven’t quite worked that out yet, but he has gone #1 and #2 once enough time passed. If we are anchored out and he can see land, he doesn’t understand why he needs to do the yucky stuff on the boat. I hope to continue praising him to where he understands if he needs to go, he can and should go. Of course, while sailing I leash them one by one and take them up to the bow to do their business. I haven’t installed netting yet and absolutely don’t want them going up there unattended when we are underway.

I hope this helps anyone with pups!