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Sea dogs: in search of captain’s best friend

For those of us who grew up watching on TV the heroic adventures of Lassie and the power of Vagabundo, a good dog deserves our total admiration. Fellowship, fun, loyalty, protection, and generosity – all come together so the dog is a pet that is not only ideal to have at home but also on board, as part of the crew of your boat. However, finding the best dog to browse can become quite difficult.

The ideal mascot should learn quickly, have the desire to please, be good to the family as well as quiet and ready. You should also like the water, swim well and have a hair that holds up well to get wet often without smothering or soaking everything. You should avoid very large dogs, Energetic or unpredictable and prefer a small or medium sized dog with a docile (but not shy) temperament and quite intelligent. It may seem like a list of competitions too ambitious but the truth is that there are quite a few choices almost made to measure.


The Labrador Retriever is a very common and safe choice for a pet on board. He enjoys spending time with family and is very good with children. His reputation is one of loyalty and constancy and he is very fond of water, which is not surprising since its original function was to collect the sea fishing nets on the coasts of Canada (Newfoundland). The Labrador is very intelligent and has almost unmatched ability to be trained. Its size is reasonable (25 to 34 kg) which allied to its unique pedigree in terms of loyalty and obedience makes it the first choice.

Portuguese Black Water Dog on board boat

Portuguese Water Dog: Famous for being the mascot of President Obama’s family, this breed fits very well to life on board. (Photo: Sailboat Kennel Nagual)


Originally, the Portuguese Water Dog was created to help the fisherman in his daily activities and even direct the fish to the nets. He is a playful companion with an abundant coat and waterproof to which he loves the water. In addition, he is very good with children, friendly to other dogs and easy to train. It is often seen with a slightly strange haircut in which the back is cut to facilitate swimming and the front is woolly to give thermal protection – but this is optional. Its size (16-25 kg), good health and characteristics that adapt well to the nautical means makes it a serious opponent.

Swimming Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel: Small, family friendly and easy to train, the Cockers love the water.


If you are looking for a docile dog that does not have many problems and that enjoys the affection of the family, the Cocker Spaniel is among the best options. Being a small hunting dog, it is launched into the water to ‘play’ with the birds. They usually tend to inherit a genetic disease so it is advisable to inquire well about the lineage, but the Cocker has a suitably small size (11 to 15 kg), adapts well to the cold, is a water enthusiast and also very easy to to train.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever brown

Chesapeake Bay Retriever: A lesser known – and perhaps more interesting – relative of the Labrador Retriever.


The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was originally bred to collect waterfowl and is a good choice for a captain in search of a real sea dog. He is a noble hunting dog with great physical dexterity. He may be stubborn, but he will adapt to any nautical adventure he poses and reward him with loyalty and obedience. It is basically a Labrador Retriever but physically stronger, psychologically more interesting and socially more exclusive. What more do you want?

Standard Poodle Black on Board Boat

Standard Poodle: Needs grooming and also exists in miniature version – a comic haircut is optional


I know what you’re thinking, but try to look beyond the cheeky haircut and find a perfect dog for water lovers. Known for its intelligence, sympathy and passion for swimming, the Miniature version is ideal for small boats but if you have enough space, the Standard or Normal Poodle, which barks much less, is a better option. It is an excellent breed, calm, reliable, obedient and made for water. Only size, ridiculous haircut and grooming can cause rejection.

Cantabrian dog on board fishing

Cantabrian dog, one more sailor. Photo: Marieta Lainz.


Born to sail, they have traditionally lived on the fishing boats of the Cantabrian coast, intelligent, hardworking, hardworking and excellent swimmers, they have a resistant and impermeable coat. In fishing and merchants they worked to collaborate Onboard, kept boats clean of rats, were able to bring ropes and moorings to land or other ships, and even carry messages from boat to boat.

They love water and are excellent divers. Their character is friendly and they are also excellent companion dogs.


The crossing of the breeds described above has produced some hybrids very fashionable and if we rely on genetics, the result should give us very good dogs to have on board. The Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle) and Cockerpoo are two of the favorites and although they are robust, loyal and water enthusiastic, they need to be trained from small to give their best.

For those with fairly large boats (15 meters or more) it is difficult to find a better dog than Newfoundland. With very dense fur, great physical strength and webbed feet developed specifically for swimming, they are used worldwide for water rescue. It is true that they often weigh as much as an adult man, but in addition to their unrivaled passion for water and their ability to save shipwrecked, they are fantastic with children. His patience, tranquility and stoicism are unlimited.

Those who have smaller, open boats can try out the Terrier dogs. If they manage to make them behave, or they do not bark and do not bite their ankles, any Terrier is well equipped for life on board. A Jack Russel or a Border Terrier are some of the favorites among sailors and if you put a life jacket with a handle on the back, it has the added advantage of being able to carry it around like a furry bag, which is very funny.

If the dogs described above are not enthusiastic, and if you give English well, have a look at Dog Breed Index. It has a tool to select pets that allows you to enter the features you are looking for and keep a pre-selection that fits your lifestyle. It is very easy to use and the best comes later: you can equip your dog with an array of nautical accessories, from life jackets to special stairs for dogs, lights and even transponders adapted to the necklace. Great …