When it’s a nice clear day and you want to head out onto the water with your best fur friend, a dog life jacket is an excellent addition. There is a lot on the market but they vary in form and function. Below are the 7 best dog life jackets .Whilst most dogs swim well, a bit of added buoyancy can go a long way towards having a happy pup.
Why have a life preserver?
The majority of dogs know how to swim naturally but some are a bit awkward. Certain breeds such as great Danes, have little body fat making it difficult to stay afloat. Even good swimmers can tire easily, a dog life vest will allow your furry bestie to stay in the water for longer.
There are many different styles available. Novelty, such as sharks and mermaids, single grab handle, double grab handle, side foam for extra buoyancy, and a a front flap design (for breeds that struggle to keep their head out of the water because of body shape such as dachshunds). There are some that are made more for safety than comfort.
The fabric of your dog life jacket should be waterproof, otherwise it will become heavy for your dog, may not float properly and cause your pup to get cold from the excess water.
Common fabrics used in a life vest are waterproof nylon, waterproof polyester, thickened pearl polyester, and ripstop Oxford cloth.
It is important to get the right size for your pooch when choosing canine life vests. Too tight and it may chafe or rip from too much pressure on the seams and if it is too loose, it will make it bulky, uncomfortable and hinder your dog’s movements.
The best dog life jacket manufacturers cater for all breed sizes (x-small, small, medium, large, x-large and occasionally double or triple xl). Big or heavy dogs will require a sturdy and well built jacket. They are more expensive than normal ones but if the jacket is not made for big dogs the grab handle will rip when you lift your dog, making safety an issue not to mention a waste of money. You will need to make sure the jacket you choose is appropriate for your sized dog. If in doubt, look at customer reviews for your size dog.
Most sellers will have a sizing guide, but if your dog is in between sizes, it is best to go up a size rather than down. The adjustable straps will allow you to tighten it for the correct fit.
How To Get Your Dog Used To Wearing A Life Jacket
Like any new apparel for camping and hiking type adventures, be it clothing, booties, sunglasses, a helmet or hat, a backpack, coat or life jacket, some dogs will love it straight away and others will need a bit of encouragement.
If your pup falls into the encouragement column, there are some easy steps you can take to ensure success.
First, start slow. If you try to put it on suddenly without giving your furry bestie time to see what is happening, you might scare them making it more difficult to get them to wear it. Place the life vest on the ground and let your dog sniff it thoroughly.
If it moves whilst your pup is sniffing it, they may get a fright and be too scared to go near it again. Once your pooch has decided it smells okay and is safe to touch, slowly pick it up and gently rub it on your dog’s side. This will help them see it doesn’t hurt and to leave their scent behind.
Next, put it on and gently tighten it just enough so it doesn’t slip off. You can tighten it properly later on, once your pup is comfortable.
Then, get your dog to walk around to get used to the feel. If your dog is happy, you can play a little bit of fetch to make it fun and also to see how it fits when your dog is active.
If it’s too small, it may hinder your dog’s ability to swim or chafe.
The next step is the fun one, heading out into the water. Encourage your dog to follow you in and be prepared to steady them if you need to until they get balanced. This is why a grab handle is such a good feature.
You will know when your dog is ready to go it alone, but don’t push them if they want to get out, simply come back another day and try again.
If you make them stay in the water it can put them off wanting to go in again.
Make sure to use lots of positive reinforcement throughout the whole process so it is a fun time for your dog and they know you are happy with their behavior.
A “good boy or girl” goes a long way in making your dog happy and a few treats will sweeten the deal.
The best tip I can give you is to make it fun for your dog. They will want to do it if it is fun and your adventures on the water will be a pleasant experience for you both.
What to look for when searching for the best dog life jacket
High Visibility Dog Life Jacket
Bright colors will help your dog to be easily visible in the water, especially if you are out at sea or in rough water.
A strong, well made handle
A strong handle is essential for pulling your dog into a craft or to shore. If the worst happens and your pooch falls overboard, you will need a handle to be able to grab your dog. If they are panicking it will be a tricky task as they will be swimming erratically.
A large dog can be heavy to grab hold of, especially in the water so check before you buy that the handle is strong enough for your breed of dog.
Another thing to check is that your fingers can fit under the handle. The handle needs to be large enough for your hand to comfortably fit under to ensure a strong grip.
A D-Ring is used to clip a leash onto your dog. You should only use a leash for walking on land, never in the actual boat.
If your dog is tied to the craft and you capsize they will be in danger of drowning.
Using a lead to get your dog to the dock and into the canoe or boat will make your life much easier, especially if there are other dogs around or if your pup is reluctant.
This is the most important factor in a life jacket. It should easily keep your dog afloat without them paddling and their head well above the water.
There may be times when your dog is too tired to swim, so a naturally buoyant jacket that will keep them afloat by themselves is ideal.
How to measure your pup
3 of the most important measurements are the girth, neck size and weight limits. If your dog is too heavy for the jacket, the handle may not stay secure.
The correct neck size is important because the front of the vest is what will keep your dog buoyant and their head above the water.
Also, you don’t want the velcro to come undone from too much stress on it by being too tight, or to strangle them.
If your dog’s neck is too big for the size you need, go up a size.
Most (if not all) sellers will have a sizing guide to help you determine the correct size for your dog.
If there is no neck measurement available, you can check the buyer reviews or contact the seller for a sizing recommendation.
Generally, this will be the sizing give or take a couple of inches:
Ease of mobility
The jacket will need to be comfortable for your dog to walk in, (they won’t always be in the water) lie and sit, down and wee and poop.
Also, your dog will need to have enough room to swim in it without chafing or restricting their movements. Make sure it fits properly without being too loose or too tight.
You may need to do a bit of experimenting to get the perfect fit.
The Ruffwear Float Coat comes in 6 sizes but only 3 colors. It is made of a sturdy, fast drying material.
It has reflective piping and a leash attachment and strong carry handle.
It suits both small and large size dogs and is easy to put on, although some dogs don’t like how you need to slip it over their head to put it on.
The Outward Hound Life Vest comes in 5 sizes and fits all shaped dogs. It is well made with both velcro and buckles to keep the jacket secure.
Customers have said it is comfortable for their dog both in the water and on land and is lightweight.
The sizing guide is incorrect, the jacket is smaller than the guide states so you may need to go up a size.
This jacket has convenient carry handles to assist your dog, although the XS and S only have one handle running down the dogs back whereas all other sizes have two going across ways.
The EZYDOG PFD is well made with canvas like material for extra durability. It floats very well but can be a bit bulky. It comes in a range of sizes and fits big dogs.
The reflective piping will help you to see your dog clearly in the water and the buckle and straps are sturdy. The grab handle is strong but can be a bit small in small sizes.
This jacket provides excellent safety for your dog.
The Vivaglory Ripstop Dog life Jacket comes in 4 sizes and various colors.
The colors are nice and bright and the vest has a reflective trim. It fits large dogs but is unsuitable for body shapes such as bull dogs.
Some small dogs tip on their side or upside down. It has a handy grab handle and leash attachment ring.
It has a stretchy belly strap that sometimes covers a male dog’s urination parts.
The Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket come in 6 sizes and various colors.
The vibrant colors have reflective strips and the mesh belly support allows for effective water drainage.
The adjustable buckles allow for all body shapes, although the belly strap may cover smaller dogs male urinating parts and it is not as durable as some other brands.
Our pick is the Ruffwear float coat. It has a leash attachment, strong grab handle and is well made whilst still being comfortable both on land and in the water.
It comes in 3 bright colors and 6 sizes. The reflective piping is excellent for keeping your dog visible in low level light and has an attachment for a beacon light which is sold separately.
It is fast drying and easy to put on, although some dogs don’t like it being slipped on over their head.
It is not as cost effective as some other jackets, but has a good balance of both safety and comfort.