Storing Dry Dog Food

“Huh?” you’re asking. “What’s there to know about storing dog food? It comes in a bag, you take the bag aboard and scoop some out each day.”

We adopted/rescued our dog, Paz, when she was just 4 weeks old.  And as you can see from the photo of her a few days later, she loved her kibble.  Not knowing any better, I just kept it in its bag under the nav station.

Within a couple of weeks, though, Paz turned up her nose at her own food bowl but would devour the exact same food aboard a friend’s boat (luckily, their dog Sophie didn’t mind sharing).  And then a few days later I discovered ants in our bag of kibble.  That bag went in the trash and I went over to Amazing Grace to talk to Sophie’s mom about the problem.

Just like your food, storing your dog's food needs a bit of special attention on a boat. Three easy steps to make sure your dog's food stays fresh and bug-free.

Over the next few weeks, Tonya taught me about being a dog mom, and Sophie taught Paz about being a dog since Paz’s “birth mother” hadn’t been able to.

Tonya’s first question to me was how did I store our cereal.  Did I just roll down the top of the bag and stick it under the nav station?

Well, no.  If I did that, the cereal would quickly get stale from the humidity and full of bugs from being left open.  And so it hit me:  Paz’s food had gotten stale (why she had turned up her nose at it) and then full of ants.  I later learned from other friends that dog food is also susceptible to weevils.

The next bag I stored just as I did Dave’s Cheerios.

1.  Just like cereal, kibble needs to go in a plastic bin with an airtight lid.  Look at something such as the Rubbermaid Lock-It 2-1/2 gallon  (40 cup) container that is airtight — available on Amazon US.  There is also a 50-cup Lock & Lock bin that’s more of a “bin” design which seems very convenient, but several reviews in numerous places state that it does not have a totally airtight seal, and that both moisture and ants will get in.

2.  Like many other grain-based foods, adding a couple of bay leaves will discourage the weevils.  Of course, don’t give the dog the bay leaves — although our vet says they’re not toxic.

3.  And putting a drop of clove oil on the outside of the lid will discourage ants.  Note that most dogs don’t like a strong taste of cloves in their food, so don’t put cloves in the dry food.  Again, cloves aren’t poisonous to dogs.

NOTE:  While bay leaves and cloves aren’t considered to be toxic to dogs, it’s always possible that a particular dog could have an allergy.  I know all about weird allergies — Paz is allergic to rawhide!

A couple of other notes on dog food:  we could always find some type of dog food in Mexico and Central America.  Larger cities typically had better brands of dog food, which were usually sold at vet offices.  Further,  just as with flour, we soon learned that buying kibble in larger stores — or large vet offices — had far less chance of weevils and other bugs.

And we learned to transfer the food to its plastic container immediately upon taking it on board and getting rid of the bag — and potential bugs — immediately.

UPDATE: About a year ago, we switched to Sojo’s dog food (read my post about why it works well on a boat) and I can store unopened bags just as they come from Amazon, but I still store open bags this way — I just use a smaller canister!

I’d assume that cat food should be stored the same way as dog food, but we’ve never had a cat and thus I don’t really know if there are any differences.  If you have any knowledge of cat food, please add a note in the comments!

Storing your dog's food needs a bit of special attention on a boat. Three easy steps to make sure your dog's food stays fresh and bug-free.

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  • Diane Dashevsky
    Posted at 24 August 2011 Reply

    Iris also makes truly airtight containers. They come in a variety of sizes and configurations and can be found in “farm and garden” stores, Big Lots, Walmart, and online – Amazon carries them. I have used them for the past 8 years to store exotic bird food (full of nuts, dried fruits and veggies!) and the food always stays fresh and bug free. They are not the “cheapest” containers out there, but trust me…I have found that you get what you pay for when it comes to “airtight” containters…the flat/rectangular 12 qt. Iris Airtight has found many uses on our boat…we even keep a number of hand tools/parts in them so they don’t rust. Our new small dogs food is currently in the 12 qt size but I’m thinking of getting the one with the elevated bowl attached to the top…will update if I decided to go that way. Oops! Forgot…you can check for a store near you that carries their products on their website:

  • Jackie
    Posted at 09 November 2011 Reply

    Just found out we have a stowaway onboard. Any guaranteed ways to flush out/kill the dirty rat????

    s/v Lively Lady

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 09 November 2011 Reply

      Two that have worked for friends:

      1. Is there a nearby boat with a cat who is a “known” mouser? If so, borrow it for a few days, if you don’t have a major cat allergy. In all seriousness, this worked well — results within a day — for two boats that we know of . . . but not all cats are mousers!

      2. A trap, baited with peanut butter. Peanut butter seems to work much better than the better-known cheese. You can keep traps out of reach of kids and pets, and the critter will end up in a location where you can dispose of it. Make sure that the trap is right for the critter — that is, a mouse trap for a mouse, a rat trap for a rat — as one that is too small or too large will be ineffective.

      You can also use poison (such as D-Con), but I don’t like to for a couple of reasons: (1) the critter is likely to go off in a really inaccessible place to die, and will begin to decompose there — and stink up the whole boat; and (2) if you have any children or pets aboard, they can get into the poison.

      If you are still in the marina or boat yard where you think it came aboard, you need to watch out for more (I know, this isn’t what you want to hear). One option is to leave and anchor out — if your boat is not connected to shore, they can’t come aboard. But that often isn’t practical. I saw one boat with “rodent shields” on their dock lines and just found them online:

      Mouse and Rat Shields

      Inasmuch as the owners of this boat weren’t aboard when we were there, I honestly don’t know if they are effective, or whether you could make something similar yourself.

      Good luck!


  • Krissy
    Posted at 26 March 2013 Reply

    Air tight containers is a rule with cat food as well. I did this long before I got a boat. Definitely cheaper when buying in bulk! Another thing to consider is cat litter. Its very nature is to absorb liquid and it will do so whole heartedly right from the air even! Definitely needs to be in air tight and water tight containers. This is especially true of wheat, corn, pine or other plant based litters as they are prone to be lovely feeding grounds for bugs.

  • Crystal Bleecher
    Posted at 14 November 2016 Reply

    Great tips! We also love using these Softstore containers to store dog food. They are waterproof, air tight, collapsible, easy to open/close, and hold 30lbs of dog food. We have 2 on board.

  • Patti Tennis Flynn
    Posted at 14 November 2016 Reply

    Bichons would make perfect boat dogs!

  • Captain Mark Covington
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    We have two toy poodles that are 10 years old. They are brothers. We brought them aboard our yacht over 3 years ago. Due to allegories we order our dog food from a well known source. We purchase it in 28 lb. bags to be more cost effective. Since we use a food saver for our food, we use it also to store our dog food. We have an air tight screw on quart container and package our food in a portion to fill it. No worries with storage, bugs, going stale, etc. Works for us.

  • Becky
    Posted at 04 June 2017 Reply

    My husband has eaten nuts from Costco for years, so we’ve accumulated enough (about 20) of those plastic “jars” with the screw on lids, that I now buy a 40 lb. sack of dog food and transfer the kibble into those jars and store those. Then I can grab what I need to take on the boat. (At least we have plenty of storage for those aboard!) This is for our Springer.

  • Mark and Cindy - s/v Cream Puff
    Posted at 04 June 2017 Reply

    Paz is sooo cute

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