We’re currently a family living on a boat with a dog made up of two humans + one dog. We live on a mooring and that means we’re not connected to shore. We don’t have the convenience endless power or the convenience of easily walking on and off the boat each time we come or go – it’s our dinghy that us to and from shore each time. One of the most common topics we get asked about when talking about our lifestyle is about our dog, Kai, and what he thinks of this whole living-on-the-water thing.

It’s more mental stimulation that you could imagine!

When left for the morning, afternoon, or even the whole day, an average land-loving dog is left in their home, an environment they are very familiar with and one that rarely changes. When Kai spends days aboard, he is constantly seeing, hearing, and even smelling new things. His surroundings above deck change regularly, as boaters on the harbor pass, sea lions and birds come and go, the current flows in and out – and he’s able to engage with it all. Friends greet him as they pass, and he gets to nap in the perfect warmth of the Southern California sunshine.

Our dog has a job to do – and he loves it

Kai, like most dogs, protects his house. If anything comes near that is unwelcome, he lets it/them know. We have very few concerns about security aboard because we know he is always on alert, ready to deter curious sea lions, seagulls, and even potential criminals. Even when we are aboard, he lets us know that visitors are coming the moment they enter his ‘radius of control’ as I like to call it.

Even better, most boats have problems with birds pooping all over the deck while no one is aboard. Even when Kai is off the boat, the birds in the area are habituated to know that this is not a place you want to land!

How does living on a boat with a dog work when they need the bathroom?

The simple answer: on land, for now. Many others with dogs that sail all over the world train their dogs to use the restroom on certain parts of the deck they’ve designed in some way to make the cleanup simple and effective. This is necessary when you’re making long overnight passages, sometimes several days long. Some of these adventurers have written themselves on this topic such as The Wayward Home and The Boat Galley.

We will train Kai for this eventually, but for now in our coming and going day-to-day, it is simple enough for us to bring him to shore at least once each morning and once in the evening. From the dinghy dock to shore it’s only about 45 seconds.  In practice, he usually ends up on land just as much as we do each day since he comes along with us so often.

What about exercise?

Kai’s favorite place on this good Earth is the self-proclaimed dog beach nearby. And for us living on a boat with a dog, this is easily one of our favorite places, too! For those of you looking for dog beach in Orange County, consider this one your unofficial winner. It sits at the mouth of the jetty that draws the line between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, here.

Dog owners come from near and far for this dog beach in Orange County because, technically, you’re doing nothing wrong to have your dog off leash there. The mouth of the jetty is county land and unless your dog crosses the line into Newport Beach while off-leash, you haven’t done anything wrong. If they do happen to venture into ‘Newport Beach territory’ while playing with the many other dogs that love dog beach, this treacherous offense is punishable by a $100 fine. The fine folks writing those fines drive along the Newport Beach coastline in white pickup trucks with Animal Control written all over them. If you see one of those coming, it’s simple –just leash up your dog to keep your money in your pocket.

We also take him running, biking, and on long walks up and down the boardwalk on the Balboa Peninsula. With such a beautiful walkway nearby, it’s easy to end up going miles in one direction. There are many dog-friendly stops along the way with treats for him to collect and water to refresh his energy on hot days. Two of our favorites are My Galley Café and Fry’s Market.

There are many ways to make living on a boat with a dog possible.

There are several other families on the harbor that have dogs with them aboard. All the dogs love it, I have no doubt. There is so much going on, so many opportunities for socialization, and just a life full of salty air and sunshine. What’s not to love about that!

Are you thinking about living on a boat with a dog? Leave any other questions you have in the comments, we’re happy to answer them.