Best Sailboats For Dogs

Best Sailboats For Dogs | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Dogs have accompanied sailors for centuries aboard all kinds of ships. But which modern sailboats are best (and safest) for dogs?

Bringing a dog aboard a small sailboat can be nerve-wracking. Is it safe? And how much room do you need for you and your dog to be comfortable?

There are several sailboats that are spacious, stable, and safe enough to bring a dog aboard. The best and most comfortable sailboats for dogs are the Catalina 385, the Catalina 30, the Corbin 39, the Nordic 40, and the Island Packet 35.

There are many other sailboats that work well for dogs, but these five vessels stand out for several reasons. Each one meets the basic requirements to keep a dog and its owners safe and comfortable at anchor and at sea. Factors such as length, beam, freeboard height, cabin layout, and deck configuration are all essential to consider before choosing a sailboat for you and your dog.

We sourced the technical specifications of each boat from reliable design and floor plan guides. Additionally, we researched the best sailboats for dogs through owner testimonials and experience.


Table of contents

Can You Bring a Dog on a Sailboat?

Many people wonder if it's possible to bring dogs on the sailboat. Will the dog be safe? Is it legal to bring a dog on a sailboat? These are reasonable questions, and the answer is often yes.

It's perfectly legal to bring a dog on a sailboat. And in many cases, it's completely safe provided the correct measures are taken. Life jackets for dogs are available, and many breeds (such as labs) truly enjoy being in and around the water.

Keeping your dog safe on the sailboat is fairly straightforward. But what about taking a long trip on the open ocean? Things get more complicated when you need to bring your dog into the cabin, where space is at a premium.

What About Large Dogs?

Keeping a small dog aboard a sailboat is fairly straightforward, as the space required for their food, along with room for them to move around is less difficult to find in many sailboats. However, large dogs require much more space than smaller breeds.

While this may seem obvious, what's not always clear is the dramatic difference in cabin size required for large dogs. A 20 or 30-foot sailboat may be adequate for a small breed, but a larger dog could require a boat nearly twice the displacement to be comfortable.

What Makes a Good Sailboat for Dogs?

So, what makes a good sailboat for dogs? Generally speaking, dogs require a large deck to move around on. But not just any deck will do—the flatter, the better, as raised spaces can make it difficult for your dog to move around without stumbling.

Another factor to consider is the layout of the rigging. Some sailboats have excessive lines on and around the deck, which can cause your dog to get tangled up often. Flush-deck sailboats from the 1960s and 1970s are a great option, as they typically avoid both of these issues.

But it goes beyond these particulars. There are many important factors to consider when choosing a sailboat for you and your dog. Here are some of the most critical design aspects to take into account.


The most obvious consideration when choosing a Sailboat for your dog is its overall size. Generally speaking, larger boats are better for all dog breeds, as dogs need exercise both on deck and in the cabin.

That's not to say that your dog needs space to play fetch down below—just that you need enough room to get around without your dog getting in the way. And your dog also needs more than one place to be—meaning sailboats with a single berth just won't cut it.

The ideal size for a dog-friendly sailboat is 30 feet and up, regardless of the breed. Larger dogs do well in 40-foot sailboats, as this is generally the minimum amount of space required for both people and animals to coexist comfortably in the same area.

Interior Layout

The interior layout is critical, second only to the overall size of the boat. Dogs prefer open spaces, and many dogs need to be able to comfortably turn around in a central walkway.

Dogs aren't quite as coordinated as many people think, especially in one particular way—walking backward. Some dogs require months of training to comfortably back out of tight spaces, though it does occur more easily for some.

This means that your dog needs an area wide enough to maneuver. The entire boat doesn't have to meet this condition—but there should be several spaces below where your dog can turn around.

Sailboats with large sitting areas (usually around the dinette) typically have enough space. This is especially true in layouts that don't separate the galley from the dinette.

If you're unsure about the dimensions of a potential sailboat purchase, try to find a floor plan layout and look for open space. This space will also allow you and your dog to move past each other when moving about the cabin, which is a necessity if you're going to live together comfortably for an extended period of time.

It's also important to consider nooks and crannies, especially if you have a small dog. You should ensure there aren't any opportunities for your dog to work its way behind interior trim or into dangerous areas, such as the engine compartment. Be sure that these areas don't have any open entry points that your dog could sneak into or get stuck in.

Cockpit Configuration

Most of the time you spend sailing is outside in the cockpit, and there's a good chance that your dog will want to join you there. That's great! But it requires special care when choosing a sailboat.

Sailboat cockpits should be deep and wide enough for your dog to stay with you safely. The lower the cockpit walls, the greater likelihood that they'll fall overboard. Large cockpit seats are a big plus—it's good to ensure your dog has somewhere long and wide enough to stretch out completely.

Ideally, they should have an elevated place (like a seat) to make themselves secure and comfortable. Cockpit floors are wet and dirty and generally not a place where your dog will want to be. Remember, all the water that washes over the deck inevitably drains through the cockpit floor.


The deck itself is another important consideration that we've already touched on briefly. In short, the bigger and wider the deck, the better. The deck itself is a great place for your dog to hang out. Your dog should have plenty of room to move about when you're at anchor and at least a few places to stretch out and take a nap.

Avoid cluttered decks if possible. As we mentioned previously, excessive lines, blocks, and tackle can cause your dog to get tangled up easily and potentially cause rigging issues.

Stern Type

The best stern type depends on the type of dog and its abilities. Swimming dogs should have a low stern that's easy for them to climb aboard and jump off of. Additionally, a low stern (such as the type on many modern sailboats) will make it easier for you to haul your dog back on board.

For dogs that can't swim, it's best to limit their ability to get off the boat in the first place. Traditional sailboats with high sterns and deep cockpits are the safest option. And luckily for you, these vessels are the most common and affordable of the lot.

Freeboard Height

Freeboard height is another concern, especially if you have smaller dogs. The freeboard is the rough distance between the waterline and the lowest point of the deck. A boat with a high freeboard is typically drier, which limits the chance of your dog getting wet or being washed off the deck.

However, water-friendly dogs do better on boats with lower freeboard. This lowers the distance they have to jump to get in the water (at anchor) and also makes it easier to keep track of them and haul them back on board. It also makes it easier for you to climb aboard when you're not at the stern.

Best Common Sailboats for Dogs

Considering all the factors mentioned above, we put together a list of the ten best sailboats for dogs of all kinds. These vessels are safe, spacious, and feature dog-friendly layouts and materials (provided they haven't been too heavily modified). Here are five of the best sailboats for dogs.

1. Catalina 385


Catalina is one of the most widely-recognized sailboat manufacturers, and they've been in business for decades. One of their most dog-friendly models is the 38-foot Catalina 385. This is a modern sailboat that's packed with premium features and several dog-friendly perks.

The sailboat has a wide beam and a uniquely open interior floor plan. The center of the cabin is a large space with several side areas that provide plenty of room for you and your dog. There are also several areas for your dog to lay on the floor without impeding the main walkway between the companionway and the berthing space.

The deck isn't completely flush, but it's wide, and the cabin top is lower than many other sailboats. The rigging is clean and contained, and the cockpit is wide and deep enough to comfortably accommodate you and your dog.

Ideal For:

  • Small Dogs
  • Medium Dogs
  • Medium-Large Dogs

2. Catalina 30


The Catalina 30 is one of the company's most-produced sailboats and also one of the best affordable sailboats for dogs. It has an impressively-sized cockpit for a 30-foot sailboat and also plenty of space down below for small to medium-sized dogs.

These sailboats have a spacious floor plan that makes it easy for you and your dog to find a comfortable place to relax. Additionally, a wide V-berth in the bow (and a door to separate it from the living spaces) provides a single space large enough for everyone.

Ideal For:

  • Small Dogs
  • Medium Dogs

3. Corbin 39


The Corbin 39 is a fiberglass sailboat that has sleeping accommodations for six people, with a double V-berth in the bow along with two long sitting areas in the main cabin. That leaves plenty of room for you, your dog, and several passengers in this spacious 39-foot sailboat.

And for stimulus-sensitive dogs, the Corbin 39 has a special feature that many other boats lack. It features foam below the waterline for sound dampening, and it also works as thermal insulation for sailing in extreme temperatures.

Ideal For:

  • Small Dogs
  • Medium Dogs
  • Large Dogs

4. Nordic 40


The aft cockpit is open and uncluttered for easy movement and gives you and your dog plenty of space. The Nordic 40 has two staterooms and plenty of interior space, which is a big plus if you want an area for guests (or need to store things away from your dog).

The Nordic 40 is an ideal boat for large dogs, as it has a wide 10-foot beam and a deep cockpit. The deck is also spacious and has plenty of flat, non-slip spaces for your dog to move around on. Small dogs may get caught in the nooks and crannies of this boat, but it’s a spacious and comfortable home for most medium and large breeds.

Ideal For:

  • Medium Dogs
  • Medium-Large Dogs
  • Large Dogs

5. Island Packet 35


The Island Packet 35 is a cruising sailboat that has a full keel cutter rig and sleeps up to seven people. This vessel, though smaller than some of the others on this list, is extremely stable and designed for comfort.

There's plenty of space on deck, in the cockpit, and down below for you and a medium-sized dog. The vessel has two staterooms, a large galley, and a spacious main salon. The deck is an excellent place to hang out with your dog, and the deep cockpit is big enough for your dog to stretch out safely and be sheltered from the spray.

Ideal For:

  • Small Dogs
  • Medium Dogs
Best Sailboats For Dogs
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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