Does my dog need a life vest? A Starter Guide to Dog Life Jackets

Read our introductory guide to Dog Life Jackets with hints and information on keeping your dog safe when out in the water.
Does my dog need a life vest? A Starter Guide to Dog Life Jackets


Editors Note: We turn now to the topic of dog life jackets with this introductory article. Remember to share your suggestions in the comments below or our Facebook page.


Dogs are a varied species. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours with a wide range of preferences in regard to what they eat, how they play, and what they do or don’t enjoy.

Some dogs are fearless, while others are more tentative. Some love adventuring and discovering new things, while others are quite happy to remain in a safe and familiar routine.

One major polarising aspect of everyday life for dogs is water. While some dogs love nothing more than to dive headlong into the nearest pond or stream, others will do all they can to avoid it. Much like humans, some pooches just don’t like being wet.

But whether you have a four-legged friend who loves a swim or one who’d rather not, it’s a good idea to invest in a dog swimming vest or life jacket, just to be on the safe side.

Great Dane Lifevest

Our Great Dane shows us her swimming prowess.

What exactly is a dog swimming vest?

A dog swimming vest (or dog life jacket/life vest) is essentially the same as a buoyancy aid or life jacket for humans. It helps avoid the risk of your dog coming into difficulty when out of its depth and drowning by keeping its head safely above water. Even in rougher water, a good life jacket can make swimming a safe and enjoyable experience for your canine friend.

Not all dogs take to water easily and may find that swimming simply isn’t their forte, no matter how instinctive it normally is for most animals. A life vest can also encourage a dog to make more of an effort to swim than they normally would, especially if they feel safer doing so.

However, even if your dog can swim, it’s still a good idea to invest in a swimming vest – you never know when your dog may start to tire during a swim.

Either way, a swimming vest is a relatively-small investment which could save your dog’s life.

Does my dog need a life vest? A Starter Guide to Dog Life Jackets 1

Do all dogs need swimming vests?

No, not every dog will need one. Certain breeds of dog are more naturally suited to being in the water and will not require as much assistance. Poodles, Newfoundlands, Setters, Spaniels and Retrievers are all perfectly suited to making a splash, especially as many of them come equipped with double-coats that help keep them drier.

However, you should never assume that your dog will be a fine swimmer simply because of his breed. Even the most adventurous pup still needs to actually learn how to swim in the first place.

A lot also depends on your dog’s age and health. A young, strong pup is likely to fare much better in the water than an older dog with a history of health problems, after all. Exercise caution and use common sense at all times.

It’s never a good idea to just throw our dog into the water and see if he can ‘learn by doing’, as this can terrify him and end up creating a negative association. Ease him into his aquatic experience by joining him in the water (if possible) to make him feel more comfortable, and shower him with praise when he eventually starts to paddle of his own accord.

Also, take time to ensure that the body of water you’re using is safe – avoid water where creatures could be lurking below the surface, especially in the sea. Water can also be full of bacteria and parasites that are harmful to dogs, so keep an eye on your pup after every swim and speak to your vet immediately if you notice any signs of illness. And if you suspect the body of water you’re using has a strong current or undertow, keep your dog out of it at all costs.

What to consider when choosing the right life jacket for your dog

There are several factors to consider when picking the right swimming vest for your canine friend.

: Life jackets and buoyancy aids are always designed to suit certain weights – that goes for dogs as well as humans. Make sure you choose a swimming vest that features enough buoyancy material to keep your dog afloat, especially if you own a large or giant breed.

Measurements: Take the time to measure your dog around his chest and neck, as well as his overall body length, when picking the right swimming vest. You don’t want one that’s too tight and restrictive or your dog won’t be able to swim, and if it’s too loose, you run the danger of him slipping out while in the water, which could be disastrous.

Durability: Make sure to invest in a swimming vest that’s tough enough to withstand a bit of rough and tumble, especially if your dog could be wearing it while among rocks or other locations where the material could snag on something. Go for a vest with a strong handle that won’t snap if you have to grab on to him in a hurry, and get something brightly-coloured so you never lose sight of him in the water.

Why buy a swimming vest?

At the end of the day, even if your four-legged friend is very competent in the water, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Maybe you’re a boater or canoeist who enjoys having your pooch along for the ride. Invest in a good-quality swimming vest and set your mind at ease, because it’s extremely easy for a dog to fall or jump into the water, and getting him back on board will be a whole lot more difficult without added buoyancy.

Alternatively, you may just have your dog at the beach or by the lake where everything seems safe and secure, but all it takes is for one seagull to goad him into a chase and before either of you knows it, Rover’s out of his depth and struggling.

A good-quality, well-research swimming vest purchase could be the difference between life and death for your beloved pet. But it could also help make him much more confident in the water, and grant you some peace of mind to enjoy the experience yourself.

Bulldog breed dog wearing pink lifejacket

David M.

David M.

David is a freelance writer and dog lover. He owns two dogs, Lupin and Ghost. With a degree in English and Film, his love is writing great content. David has written, edited and proofread for several publications over his career.

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