Pup Deck? These Superyachts Were Designed With Their Owners’ Dogs in Mind

When Nirvana launched in 2012 from Oceanco, the 290-foot, bespoke superyacht was one of the largest the Dutch yard had ever built at the time. But that wasn’t the only talking point: along with stainless-steel Balinese artwork sculpted around the elevator shaft to resemble a whirlpool, the vessel’s main salon was decorated with two large terrariums filled with the exotic reptile pets of its Russian owner, including water dragons, chameleons, and bearded lizards.

By its very definition, a custom yacht is tailored to each individual owner, so it’s understandable that when those owners want to spend time with their pets on board, they become an important design consideration—even if that means implementing an innovative aquarium design to prevent fish from getting seasick in rough weather (as was the case with another Oceanco launch, 2008’s Wheels).

More from Robb Report

While Oceanco may have found itself something of a specialist in housing unusual marine life onboard, the most popular pet to design a superyacht around are our favorite four-legged friends: dogs.

Roberto Cavalli Superyacht Freedom.
Roberto Cavalli’s Freedom had special sloping steps across the yacht so that the late designer’s two German shepherds could move freely.

Feadship’s Lady Christine has sensors placed at the height of the owner’s dogs that opened doors as they passed through the yacht, while another Feadship, Aquarius, has a special door in the owner’s study to let the dogs in and out. The yard is now building a yacht with an automated canine pee-pad.

Over at Heesen, a pee-pad is referred to by the more PC “canine relief area.” One was incorporated into Ultra G, a custom 197-foot superyacht launched in 2023. This self-flushing space on the side deck is finished in synthetic grass and comes complete with sensors, cameras and sprinklers.

“Ultrahigh net-worth individuals have been looking at solutions to adapt their preferred mode of transport to welcome their pets as they travel,” Heesen CCO Mark Cavendish told Robb Report. Dog ownership is booming—almost 9 million dogs were purchased during the pandemic alone—and this is now reflected in designs for both bespoke and semi-custom yachts.

Dog kennels aboard a Sunreef yacht.
Sunreef designed cages into a guest stateroom for safe passage for the owner’s dogs, but they hide away when not in use.

Sunreef Yacht’s catamarans have been made to order for the likes of Rafael Nadal and Fernando Alonso, and currently the Polish yard has a Sunreef 60 in build with a dedicated pet cabin.

“When pets are onboard, the cabin is equipped with secure cages, ensuring their safety and comfort during the voyage. However, when the dogs are off the boat, the cabin transforms into a guest accommodation,” said Marta Kaszuba, Sunreef’s Interior Manager.

While the on-board kennel is a one-off, Sunreef gets regular requests for built-in dog bowls and even nets to provide extra safety on board, Kaszuba adds.

On a 60 Sunreef Power already in the water, the yard has incorporated a dog-friendly paddle pool, where the platform is equipped with a special net to create a safe swimming place. While the on-board kennel is an extreme, Sunreef gets regular Special dog bowls and nets to provide extra safety on board are two of the most popular features that owners enquire about, Kaszuba adds.

fat chihuahua dog standing on box, old chihuahua dog in sunlight
Master and Commander. Some owner’s dogs inevitably assume the captain’s position.

Naval architect Tommaso Spadolini believes that while ensuring pets have a comfortable presence onboard is achievable, the adaptability of dogs to boat life depends on their breeds.

Spadolini worked with late fashion designer Roberto Cavalli to create Cavalli’s 88-foot CCN  (Cerri Cantieri Navali) superyacht Freedom with his beloved German Shepherds, Lupo and Lapo, in mind. “Every pathway was carefully planned to ensure the dogs could move around easily and enjoy the onboard experience stress-free,” says Spadolini. The incline of the internal stairs was tailored specifically to allow them to ascend and descend effortlessly.

A smart design also enabled the aft gangway to transform to the appropriate angle to serve as a ladder for the dogs to enter and exit the water. “It was a delight to witness their enjoyment of it,” Spadolini, a dog lover, says.

Superyachts designed around dogs.
Heesen’s Ultra G has a sensor-activated “canine relief area” for the owner’s pooch.

Similar considerations were made on the 164-foot Amare II, another Heesen launched in 2020. When the owner’s two dogs—Jessie, an 11-year-old cocker spaniel and Vidar, a three-year-old Swiss shepherd—inevitably throw themselves into the water after the owner and family, a submersible SeaScape swim platform is lowered into the water to retrieve the dogs. “Dragging a big dog out of the sea is quite hard,” says Amare II’s captain, Nick Powell, from experience.

Amare II’s nine crew have adapted to running a superyacht with dogs: alongside the design features incorporated into the build, all the furniture has a special nanotech coating for protection (“we still have our original carpets,” Powell shares) and there are even doggy freezers to store food in and defrost when required. “We carry a month’s supply of food for them,” Powell says.

Dogs on Board, Heesen Amore II
White might seem risky with two dogs, but Amare II‘s furniture has a nanotech coating to resist stains.

When the yacht is under way in rough conditions, the dogs are dressed in lifejackets. Usually, however, the itinerary is more relaxed, hugging the Mediterranean coast. And, instead of fussing for last-minute beach club reservations in Mykonos or Saint-Tropez, the crew scope out dog-friendly trails using apps like AllTrails and Google Street View. “We will already have a walk organized for the boss to take the dogs,” Powell says. “We don’t want him to get told off for being with them where he shouldn’t.”

The crew love having the pooches on board, Powell adds, even if there’s sometimes some confusion over who is real the boss. “The Swiss shepherd barks at me, because occasionally he feels like I’m trying to be the captain,” he says. “He clearly thinks there’s only one captain on the boat.”

Best of Robb Report

Sign up for Robb Report's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.