A life vest can prevent your dog from drowning in the event of an accident. Even if your dog has excellent swimming skills, you still need a second line of defense.
Should Dog’s Wear Life Jackets?
People wear life vests whenever they are near large bodies of water, so why shouldn't your dog wear one as well?
Most dog owners think their dogs know how to swim. It’s natural, everyone assumes dogs are natural swimmers when they are born.
Unfortunately, this assumption is not completely accurate, there may be some who need help when swimming. Although there are dogs that are excellent swimmers, always observe safety precautions just in case your pup is one that tires easily.
If you plan to take your dog on a boat, a life jacket especially fitted for them is a must!
Older dogs and younger puppies don't have enough strength to swim and keep their heads above water.
Even if a dog is an excellent swimmer, it is still possible that he will become exhausted. A life jacket can help them conserve energy and have fun for a longer time.
7 Reasons Dog Life Jackets are Necessary
A trip is not complete without the company of your best friend. But just like a doggy seat belt is needed for a car ride, a life jacket is a safety precaution for a day of doggie swimming.
Doggie life jackets can help to make sure they’re safe and sound and having a good time near water.
In the pool, lake, beach, or lake, your dog is likely to show off if they're an excellent swimmer. The water will call them to come in and play. Plus, it’s a chance for you two to enjoy some quality playtime together! Make sure your dog is kept safe whenever you take it swimming by packing a dog's life jacket.
To answer your question, "should my dog wear a life vest?" the answer is YES! Most definitely!
1. Some dogs Are Not built to swim
You may believe that all dogs are natural swimmers. After all, we’ve all heard of the doggy paddle, right?
In reality, some dogs find it difficult to stay afloat. It actually depends on how buoyant their bodies are.
Breeds like Greyhounds aren’t very buoyant because of their low body fat, so they aren’t very prone to float.
Bulldogs and Pugs have large chests, making them top heavier in water. Some breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier or the Shih Tzu are powerful swimmers, but get tired easily.
The solution is a life jacket! A life jacket can help even timid swimmers stay safe in the water.
2. Even the best dog swimmers get tired
Certain breeds, like the Portuguese Water Dog with its webbed feet, or the Labrador Retriever, were bred to be strong swimmers.
But most dogs just don’t know when to take a break. My Labrador Retriever Callie, will just go on and on all day long unless I force her to take a break.
Even strong swimmers can tire easily in the water and easily get into trouble if they are not wearing a dog's life jacket.
3. Accidents and Emergencies Can Happen
Accidents and emergencies can happen, and they are especially dangerous if in deep water.
Even if the worst happens and your dog is knocked out, a good life jacket will keep his head above water.
4. There may be unseen hazards in the water
Even though swimming may seem safe for your dog, there may be hidden hazards in the water.
Lakes may contain underwater debris like branches and foliage that your dog can get caught in. Swimming against the flow of a river or stream can quickly lead to exhaustion.
A life jacket can keep your dog's head above water and potentially save their life, especially if they are swimming in the ocean with strong currents.
5. Life jackets keep your dog warm
Even dogs with thick coats can become hypothermic in cold water.
According to the American Kennel Club, a dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
If their body temperature falls below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, their body will cease functioning and hypothermia can set in.
6. You’ll be able to spot your dog in the water more easily
Dogs have a low profile when swimming, making it easy to lose sight of them in the water. But not with a life jacket!
Brightly colored dog life jackets are designed to enable you to locate your dog quickly and easily, no matter how far away you are. If you're not watching out for your dog, and they get swept away by a strong current or fall into the water, you will be glad that he has on a life jacket so you can spot him easily.
7. Life jackets have convenient handles
Dog life jackets have handles on top that make it easier to pull your dog to safety. This feature will help your dog swim and can be a real lifesaver if he ever gets into trouble in the water.
If your dog slips overboard while on a boat, grab the handle and keep him close until you can lift him to safety.
How Do I Choose a Life Jacket for my Dog?
There are many dog life vests available, making it hard to know which one is right for your dog. We wrote a blog about the 5 Best Life Jackets for Dogs.
The following are some of the most important things to consider when deciding:
A proper size vest is crucial. Adjustable straps make it easier to get a good fit without restricting your dog from swimming. A design that is adjustable will also adjust to minor changes in your dog’s size or weight.
Your pet will struggle to stay afloat if his life jacket restricts his movement. This could make him tired. An uncomfortable dog vest can also prevent your pet from relaxing and enjoying the trip. Avoid harsh products that can irritate the skin.
Internal Straps and Buckles
Buckles inside vest are more secure, as they are less likely to be caught on the side of a boat, a rock or a branch. Though, this feature is less important if you intend to use it in a swimming pool.
Color and Visibility
Bright colors and reflective materials make finding a dog much easier in water. While not so crucial for lounging around a swimming pool, it can be crucial on larger bodies of water.
The best dog life vests are made with high-quality, rip-resistant materials. Neoprene and nylon are common options.
One of the most important features of a dog’s life jacket is buoyancy.
All vests offer some level of support. However, more expensive models offer extra flotation on the sides, back, and even neck. This helps the dog keep its head above water.
As a general rule, the heavier the dog, the heavier the lift. Be aware that novelty life vests are not always as buoyant or strong as a standard one.
A handle (or two) makes lifting your dog back into the boat much easier. You can use them to guide your dog, even if he is too heavy to lift.
Some vests come with a second handle for extra control. If your dog has fallen into the water, he may be scared, so a handle could help to lift him.
How to Choose the Correct Size Life Jacket for my Dog
With your pup's safety and comfort, choosing a dog's life jacket of the right size is important.
While your dog should be able to urinate, lay down, and swim with minimal restriction, a vest should be secure enough so the vest can’t fall off.
Good news: most manufacturers offer sizing charts for dog owners to choose from. Sometimes all you need to measure is your dog’s girth, but some vests require you to measure his neck girth and his back length.
Be careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure the right fit.
Chest circumference (Girth):
Defined as the circumference of the rib cage at its widest point. This is one of the most common measurements for life jacket sizing.
Measure the circumference of the neck around its largest part. You don’t want the jacket too tight, however, since it will restrict breathing.
Some life jackets come with back length guidelines. The base of the tail should be measured to the scruff of the neck.
Your dog must remain within a certain weight limit or the vest might not provide enough lift.
When fitting your dog's life jacket, never rely on weight alone when sizing a life jacket. Dog breeds differ in their body shapes, which is why two dogs that weigh the same may need very different vests.
Hint: buy a larger size as your dog gets older if you plan to purchase puppy life jackets.
How to Put a Life Jacket on a Dog
There are certain steps to follow when putting a life jacket on a dog. Here are some common steps for putting on life jackets:
- Make sure the straps aren't too tight, as this may cause him to choke.
- Measure your dog’s length and girth before you fit them with a vest. The girth is the area between the front legs and the body.
Ensure you fit him as follows:
- Loosen the neck strap and undo all buckles.
- Attach the jacket to his back and connect the clip to his neck.
- Make sure you position it on his back for optimal coverage.
- Adjust the chest straps for a snug fit and tie them.
- The neck straps should always be loosely adjusted so the chest straps can stay it in place.
- Your finger should easily be able to run between the canine and the straps to verify they are snug.
Don’t All Dogs Swim?
The first question we asked was whether a dog needs a life jacket. All dogs can swim, right?
Actually, No. Some dogs just don't do well in the water. Breeds with low body fat such as boxers and Doberman pinschers can have trouble in the water.
Older dogs can tire easily while breeds prone to hip dysphasia may have difficulty swimming. When a dog is overexposed to cold water, it can develop hypothermia.
No matter how well a dog can swim under supervision, any dog can drown.
All dogs can get fatigued or become disoriented.
While every owner should use common sense and just like kids, you must monitor them. A life jacket can help in an immediate emergency should your dog fall overboard or grow tired while swimming.
Life Jackets for Dogs: How to Make the Right Choice
Most of us love to spend time near or on the water during the warmer months.
As part of the family, we want to include our dogs. Water safety is just as important for our dog family members as it is for our human family members.
When properly fitted, life jacket should hold the dog high in the water.
- A float under the chin keeps the head out of the water.
- A well-fitted life jacket should be simple to put on and easily adjustable once your dog is wearing it. Make sure long straps do not hinder swimming.
- An attached handle is useful in getting a dog out of water during an emergency or when it is done swimming.
- Brightly colored or reflective material can enhance visibility.
Jacket or vest?
Choosing a life jacket or vest depends on the type of swimming that your dog will be doing.
Life vests are worn primarily in enclosed areas like pools or ponds. They're smaller, lighter, and easier to swim with.
Any time you intend to be on open or rough waters, a life jacket will help you stay buoyant and visible.
Any dog, whether an experienced or inexperienced swimmer, may get tired, disoriented, or need to be given a little boost. Accidents happen without warning.
Any time your dog is in the water, on a boat, at a dock, on a beach, or on a pool deck, it is best to have a life jacket with them.
Best Life Jackets for Dogs
1. Ruffwear - K-9 Float Coat for Dogs, Buoyant, Secure, Reflective
This vest from Ruffwear supports your dog throughout the day. It features a reflective trim for increased visibility and comes in a few different bright colors.
The vest is snug without hampering their movement. It wraps underneath the belly and around the neck. In fact, it’s designed to help put your dog into their natural swimming position.
The neck piece is adjustable and can be fitted to your dog perfectly.
The vest’s material protects it while your dog is in the water.
The exterior material of the vest is made from a durable webbing that is resistant to abrasion.
On top is a strong webbing handle for easier lifting out of the water.
2. Paws Aboard Red Neoprene Life Jacket, Dog or Cat Life Preserver
This vest from Paws Abroad is available in a range of sizes. It includes two durable straps on the bottom and around the neck to get that customized fit.
Velcro is used as an added defense against accidental removal.
The vest has light padding around the back, chest, and belly area. Plus, it’s relatively thin material provides a full range of motion for your dog, but still offers plenty of buoyancy to keep them safe.
This also has a strong handle and reflective stripping is included as well.
3. Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket Size Adjustable Dog Lifesaver
This vest is available in a wide range of bright colors that are highly visible.
The color covers the material that wraps around your dog’s torso and neck. The large flotation panels add maximum buoyancy for your dog.
The straps too attached to the vest are adjustable so that you can get the perfect fit. Each strap uses velcro and a thick buckle. This way there are two layers of protection.
A strong handle sits on the top of the vest. It’s includes a plastic leash D-hook. The adjustable straps have vertical panels made from a reflective material for easier visibility of your dog after the sun goes down.
Final Thoughts: So, do dogs need life jackets?
What it comes down to is an owners preference. Only the dog’s owner can make that decision. After all, this is one case in which you are your dog’s best friend.
I have them for both my dogs and enjoy the peace of mind, knowing that if they grow tired, they’ll stay afloat. Plus, with handles, I can easily pull them out of the water.