Why buy a dog life vest?
Many dogs are naturally strong swimmers, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t wear life vests when they’re out on or around the water. Accidents happen, and hazards in the water aren’t always easy to spot. It’s best always to be prepared—better to have a dog life vest and not need it than be caught in a situation where you wish you had one but didn’t. Life vests and life jackets are personal, wearable flotation devices that keep the wearer afloat and their head above the surface when they’re immersed in any body of water, either by accident or by choice. If you’ve ever been out on a boat ride, gone kayaking or paddleboarding, or taken part in other similar, water-based activities, you’ve probably ensured that you and your loved ones wore a proper life vest. However, humans aren’t the only ones who should wear life vests out on the water. If you enjoy taking your dog along for any of these activities, they must wear one.
What should you look for in a dog life vest?
- Size: Your dog’s life vest will not do them any good if it doesn’t fit them properly. You don’t want it popping off in the water or cutting into their skin and causing circulation issues. There are plenty of dog life vests for dogs of all breeds and sizes, so no matter how large or small your pup is, you shouldn’t have any issue finding one that fits them. Dog life vest sizes may be based on general breed size, weight, or chest size; it varies by brand, so make sure the factor matches your dog properly before buying a vest. Also, keep an eye out for vests with modifiable straps or other similar adjustability features to better customize the life vest’s fit to your dog’s body.
- Safety Features: A life vest is a safety device first and foremost, so it must be designed to keep your pup as safe as possible. Buoyancy, the vest’s ability to float, is perhaps the key factor. A good neck float at the front of the vest is key for keeping your pup’s chin, face, and nose out of the water as they’re swimming. A handle on the back of the life vest is an absolute must as well, as it allows you to grab, guide, and (in the case of small to medium-sized dogs) even lift them out of the water as needed. Be sure to pick a dog life vest or jacket with a bright, eye-catching color and print so you can easily spot your dog in the water at any time. One or several reflective strips on the vest provide even greater visibility. Extra padding is more comfortable for your dog and will help keep them warmer in the water. Quick-release buckles that allow you to get the vest on and off as quickly as possible are a nice bonus safety factor.
- Vest vs. Jacket: Though people often use the terms life vest and lift jacket interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. Life vests are lighter and only really cover the torso, while life jackets tend to be heavier and cover more of the body. Thus, you may want to look for a full dog life jacket instead of a vest if you want greater buoyancy for your pup, as it’ll cover more of their body. If you plan on taking your dog out on a boat or paddleboard in the ocean or an especially deep lake, a dog life jacket is recommended. For casual swims in a pool or pond or shallower bodies of water, you should be okay with a regular dog life vest.
How do you know what size dog life vest is suitable for your dog?
The best way to figure out the proper dog vest size for your pup, regardless of the vest and the company, is to take your dog’s measurements. The most important body part to measure is their chest/ribcage at the widest point. Any dog life vest or jacket worth its salt will have a corresponding size chart that lets you know the best size for your dog based on their chest girth (usually but not always measured in inches). When the life vest or jacket is on your dog and snapped shut, the fit should be snug but with enough room for you to slip two fingers underneath so they don’t choke, aren’t too restricted to move correctly, and the vest won’t cut into their skin.
Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket
No matter how large or small your pooch, you can't go wrong with this quintessential dog life jacket.
Pros: This classic dog life jacket pretty much has it all. Sizes range from an extra small to an extra-large, with straps on both the belly and chest adjustable to fit your dog’s exact features better. There are seven possible colors to choose from, all of them bright and easy to spot in the water. And most importantly, it has the usual safety features you want from a dog life jacket or vest—a floating neck front, reflective accents, a rescue handle for you to grab, quick-release buckles, and even a neoprene belly band for extra support and buoyancy in the chest and belly region. (This is especially handy for top-heavy breeds like bulldogs.) As a bonus, there are two alternate design options as well. A thicker version provides superior insulation for cooler waters or dogs that get cold easily, and a lighter version that offers superior flexibility for more sporting breeds.
Cons: This dog life jacket doesn’t have a D-ring or any other leash loop on the back. This may cause a slight issue if your dog walks in a harness since they can’t wear both simultaneously.
Bottom Line: This is a quintessential dog life jacket, ideal for pups of various breeds and sizes. It has every safety feature you could want to better keep your dog protected when out on the water.
Queenmore Dog Life Jacket with Rescue Handle
There's no reason you can't keep your dog safe in the water and make them look cuter at the same time, as this shark-like life vest aptly proves.
Pros: This dog life vest is the perfect combination of cute and practical. It’s nice and buoyant to keep your canine companion afloat in the water, and the shark fin gives it an adorable, costume-like effect to boot. You may think that a costume dog life vest like this one is limited to smaller dogs, but sizes range from an extra small up to a double extra large—most dogs, regardless of size, will be able to wear this vest. It also has a D-ring on the back for a leash, reflective accents, and an all-important grabbing handle. If you want a brighter, more eye-catching color than the shark-gray, two more color options are available and a bright-pink version with a fishtail instead of a shark fin for a more fish or mermaid-like costume appearance.
Cons: Although cute, it is a pricier vest. There’s also no neck float at the front, which may be a problem for dogs who struggle to keep their heads above the water.
Bottom Line: Many dog owners love dressing up their pups in costumes for special occasions or otherwise. This adorable shark-like life vest allows you to make your dog look even cuter while ensuring their safety during a day out on the water.
Vivaglory Dog Life Jackets with Extra Padding
The extra padding of this dog life vest helps ensure that your canine companion is as comfy as possible while they're out on the water.
Pros: Most notable about this dog life vest is the extra padding. Said extra padding increases the buoyancy of the vest and makes it more comfortable for your dog to wear, and helps keep them a bit warmer in cooler water. It has all the safety features you could want; a front neck float (which is removable), reflective accents, adjustable straps, a handle on the back, and quick-release buckles. This model also features a D-ring for leashes on the back and a good variety of bright colors (11 options in total) and sizes (extra small to extra large) measured in chest girth. All but the very deepest-chested dog breeds should be able to fit into one of these life vests.
Cons: This life vest’s extra padding makes it bulkier than most models. While the extra warmth it provides is great for ensuring your dog isn’t shivering in the water, it may also become too hot if your pup is sitting in direct sunlight on a hot day.
Bottom Line: This dog life vest is a great option for safety and comfort. The extra padding is nice and comfy and provides extra warmth for dogs who can’t self-insulate.
RUFFWEAR Float Coat Dog Life Jacket
A high-end dog life vest designed for any and all water-based activities, from swimming to kayaking to paddleboarding and more.
Pros: There’s a lot of useful features to be found on this premium dog life vest that you can’t find on other, similar models. Besides the usual grabbing handle and reflective accents, this dog life vest also features a unique telescoping neck that can be adjusted to fit most dogs’ necks, no matter how thick or uniquely shaped it might be. There’s also a loop on the back where you can attach a beacon light (sold separately) if you want to be absolutely certain you can spot your dog in the water at all times. The material itself is flexible to better fit and move with your dog, and the webbing is water-compatible to ensure it won’t stretch or loosen in the water. As an added convenience, this dog life vest is machine washable in cold water on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent (though you will have to air-dry it).
Cons: This vest is the most expensive, even though it doesn’t come with a neck float or D-ring for leashes.
Bottom Line: Your dog deserves only the best, and this high-end dog life vest offers a lot of extra useful features that you can’t find on a lot of other models. The unique, flexible fabric makes it an especially great choice for sporting dogs who can spend hours splashing around in the water.
Vivaglory Ripstop Dog Life Vest
Reflective and adjustable, this dog life vest is available in multiple bright colors to make your dog easier to spot in the water.
Pros: This classic dog life vest offers extra adjustability at a reasonable price. The neck adjustment in particular is designed to avoid your dog’s hair getting caught or stuck in the hook—an especially useful feature for long-haired breeds. There are also double snaps and fastenings around the belly for greater security. The 11 bright color options paired with reflective accents ensures that your dog will always be easy to spot in the water, while the grabbing handle on the back and D-ring for leashes make it more convenient for you. This dog life vest also features some extra padding for greater floatation purposes but without the bulk that usually comes with bonus padding.
Cons: This doesn’t have a neck float at the front, and it also tends to run on the small side even after measuring your dog.
Bottom Line: There’s a lot to love about this brightly colored and adjustable dog life vest. If you want a vest with a little extra padding for greater buoyancy but without the bulkiness, this will be the best dog life vest for you, especially if you own a smaller dog.
Even the best, most attentive pet parents can’t account for all mishaps and accidents when boating, kayaking, or swimming with dog(s). A good, properly-fitting life vest not only helps to keep your pup as safe as possible when out on the water but will bring you peace of mind as well.