English Bulldog on a Sailboat – is this okay?

When I finish my schooling I am planning on traveling long-term by sailboat (cruising) to various parts of the world, starting with the Caribbean. At first my immediate thought was, “A bulldog should be better suited to a 42 foot sailboat than any other breed, seeing as how they are mild-mannered dogs who just lie around most of the time. Until I bought your book I didn’t really grasp just how serious heat stroke is in bulldogs. I knew they were more prone to overheating, but I had no idea they could develop heat stroke in 80 degree weather. That’s what really shocked me. We have air conditioning in the sailboat, but only when we are plugged into a marina. When out sailing the air can’t run off batteries of even wind or solar power. So we are pretty much limited to fans in warm weather while under way. This is the only thing that poses a real problem in my getting an english bulldog. I don’t believe exercise would be a problem because we would spend more time in marinas than sailing, so going for walks wouldn’t be an issue. The thing is when we are sailing from one location to the next, would my bulldog overheat in the warmer hours of the day? This is killing me! I am in love with sailing, and I am in love with english bulldogs. I just can’t bring myself to choose one or the other. I just wish there was some way the two could go together and keep my bulldog comfortable as well. This is why I was curious about miniature bulldogs. But I am really only interested in the english bulldog. I have seen various products that aid in keeping your dog cool in warm weather such as cooling pads that the dog lies on, cooling bandanas, cooling vests, etc. Do you think it is possible to keep a bulldog cool on a sailboat with no A/C, but lots of cool shade in the cockpit and of course in the cabin if we avoid temperatures over 90 degrees while keeping fans on the bulldog during warmer hours of the day, along with lots of cool freshwater for him to drink, possibly a cooling pad for him to lie on, maybe even a kiddie pool in the cockpit for him to lie in? What I’m saying is I am willing to do anything to make it possible to keep an english bulldog comfortable on a sailboat. Keep in mind it would only be warm in the afternoon hours while making a short 1-2 day crossing from one location to the next. The majority of the time we would be in a marina running the A/C. I would worship this dog, and would never leave him in a situation that may harm him. And if it is absolutely impossible to keep a bulldog cool and comfortable with no A/C for a couple of days at a time, then I would do the responsible thing and not get a bulldog, even though it would break my heart.

What is your view on my situation? Any advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated.


Hi Lori

In your situation I think you could manage a bulldog.
I’d be especially careful in choosing one with minimal
breathing problems – this requires careful research of breeders.

Then if you keep your bulldog in the shade with a breeze and possibly
a cooling vest or wet t-shirt, he should be ok.  Stuffy heat or
ourdoors over 80 just laying around is very dangerous.
A cooling pad would also be a good idea.

And you could also invest in a life jacket for your bulldog.  They
do not really swim well because of the large head and chest.
But they do love the water, so a life line attached to a harness
would also be a good idea.
I live in Denver and when it gets over 80 degrees inside my home,
I notice that my Archie starts to lay around and sometimes just
pants.  I turn on the air conditioning for him when it gets this warm.
He’ll gravitate to the cool tiles and hardwood floor in the heat, and
avoids his fleece bed.

Sometimes I take my Archie outside when it’s 90-something and
I’m hosing down the deck.  I host him down too, but I don’t let
him run around for more than 10 minutes.  And I keep a very
close eye on him.

You can tell when they start to overheat.  They start panting
really hard with tongue extended way out.  Or they vomit.
This are both signs to take action immediately in cooling
them off.

A bulldog can overheat in the winter if they get too excited
and run around the house with other dogs.  I’ve had this
happen with Archie at Thanksgiving.  But I can tell because
he starts to pant.  They don’t know they can’t keep up with
the other dogs!

I have heard of many bulldog deaths where some ignorant
owner has their dog chasing them while they mow the lawn.
The dog collapses and dies before they can get them to the
vet.  But this is because they did not know about the over-

Anyway if you are knowledgeable about the symptoms and
if you just observe you will learn pretty quickly what your bulldog’s
limits are.

So I think you’ll be fine sailing the seas!  It would make a good
news story!

Let me know when you get one.

your bulldog pal,




  1. BRIAN
    August 31st, 2009 | 2:48 am

    Please be careful. I just lost my english bulldog on Friday after a walk on Thursday. We got him and watered him down. Ended up taking him to the vet and getting IV fluids. He started having blood coming out of his rear and he passed away about 16 hours after his walk. I feel so horrible. I was told by the vet this breed and overheat just by sitting out the house.

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