For most dogs, getting in or onto the water is a recipe for guaranteed fun and adventure, setting tails a-wagging as soon as the wet stuff appears. Most breeds of canine are purpose-built for swimming and love nothing more than to dive headlong into the nearest lake or river.
However, not every pooch likes getting wet, and even the best swimmers can get into bother on the open water – this goes for humans too, of course.
Dog Life Jackets – Summary Table
|Position||Dog Life Jacket||Online Rating||Available Online|
|1||🏆 Ruffwear Float Coat||Buy on Amazon|
|2||Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket||Buy on Amazon|
|3||Outward Hound Ripstop Dog Life Jacket||Buy on Amazon|
|4||Bunty Dog Swimming Vest||Buy on Amazon|
|5||EzyDog Life Jacket||Buy on Amazon|
|6||Suyi Pet Swimming Life Jacket||Buy on Amazon|
|7||SILD Pet Life Jacket||Buy on Amazon|
Why do dogs need to wear life jackets?
For one of two reasons, really.
On the one hand, your dog may be a great swimmer and absolutely adore the water, but no matter how capable he is out there, he can still tire over time and require assistance.
Unlike humans, dogs can’t lie on their backs and float when they start to become exhausted, and will simply keep paddling until they just can’t paddle any longer. In this instance, a swimming vest (or dog life jacket) allows them to rest their weary legs and effectively enjoy their swim session more thoroughly.
On the other hand, your dog may not be able to swim at all, in which case going in the water could be an uncomfortable (or even traumatic) experience. This is where a life vest can prove invaluable as it can give your furry friend the confidence he needs to let instinct take over and start paddling.
When should my dog wear a life jacket?
There are certain occasions when a dog should absolutely wear a dog life vest and others where it is optional.
The first and most obvious instance in which a dog should wear a life vest is when he’s joining you on board a boating vessel. No matter how obedient your dog is, and regardless of how strong a swimmer he might be, any dog can easily fall off a boat and find himself in a dangerous situation. You wouldn’t let a child aboard a boat without a buoyancy aid on, so why should you take the chance with your beloved pet?
As previously mentioned, dog’s aren’t great at staying afloat and will paddle instinctively until they become exhausted and drown. A dog that falls off a boat into water – especially if it’s rough or choppy, or has a strong current – will tire very quickly without some extra assistance from a swimming vest to keep his head above the surface. It’s also much harder for an owner to pull his or her dog out of the water if there’s nothing to grab on to – another plus point for swimming vests, which usually come fitted with strong handles for just such an occasion.
Even if you aren’t bringing Fido along on your boating trip, however, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when water is involved. Dogs can easily fall into swimming pools where escape for anything that can’t climb a ladder is next to impossible. Lakes and ponds can also prove hazardous to dogs, so if you think your pet might fall into or purposefully enter a body of deep water, stick a life jacket on him.
Features of a good dog life jacket
Not all dog life vests are created equal, so there are a few factors you’ll need to take into consideration when selecting the one that’s perfect for your pooch.
- Size. First and foremost, make sure the life jacket you choose actually fits your dog properly. Like a dog harness, it can’t be too loose or your pet could slip right out, and if it’s too tight, he may struggle to swim with it on. Measure your dog carefully for the correct size before making a purchase that could potentially save his life.
- Colour. Choose a vest that’s brightly-coloured or even fluorescent. The more visible he is, the safer he’ll be in the water. The grey-coloured shark swimming vests are a fun novelty, but they may not be the best option for keeping your four-legged friend safe in the sea.
- Buoyancy. This one is super important for obvious reasons. Make sure you pick a swimming vest with enough buoyancy to keep your dog above the surface of the water. Look for vests with extra buoyancy around the head and neck, as not all come with this feature.
- Handles. Finally, go for a swimming vest with handles (most have them, but some don’t). Again, they’re a great feature if you need to pull your dog out of the water, especially if he’s heavy or boisterous.
After taking the above factors into consideration, it’s time to measure your dog for his swimming vest. Take a measurement from the bottom of his neck to the part of his body that begins to slope downwards, just above his tail. Follow this up by measuring behind his front legs and a little further back towards his hindquarters. Finally, measure around his neck.
When you fit the swimming vest for the first time, take extra care to make it a positive experience for your dog. If the initial “trying-on” moment is awkward or is accompanied by discomfort or even pain (if straps are too tight or something catches), your dog may forever associate his swimming vest with those feelings, and react accordingly if you try fitting it again. Shower him with praise when he sits placidly for his fitting and gives him a treat afterwards – do the same when removing it, as this experience can also be tricky.
If purchasing online, take what other customers have said into account, especially if they own the same breed as you. Of course, if you can pick up a swimming vest in-store, that’s always a great option as you can try it on your dog immediately – many pet stores allow you to bring your dog into the building and try before you buy, which an added bonus.
Top 7 Best Dog Life Jackets
Overall, our top 7 best dog life jackets are:
1. 🏆 Ruffwear Float Coat
|RUFFWEAR Life Jacket for Dogs, Medium Sized Breeds, Adjustable Fit, Size: Medium, Sockeye Red, Float...||40 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
It features a telescoping neck closure and a sturdy top grab handle for lifting your dog quickly and easily out of the water. It is brightly coloured with reflective trim to help keep your dog visible at all times and is made from non-abrasive material similar to mountaineering technology.
It also features sheltered buckles and 2 clip fastenings under the belly. This swimming vest comes in 6 non-bulky sizes, from XX-Small to X-Large.
- Brightly-coloured with reflective trim
- Dual fastening clips under the belly
- Plenty of sizing options
- The non-bulky design promotes natural movement
- More expensive than most swimming vests
- Some sizing issues
2. Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket
|Vivaglory New Sports Style Ripstop Dog Life Jacket with Superior Buoyancy & Rescue Handle, Lake...||79 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
It features plenty of extra padding for added buoyancy, keeping your dog afloat at all times without adversely affecting his ability to swim.
Its fastening system keeps your dog secure, while additional straps make it easily adjustable to suit your pet’s body size and shape. It also features sturdy grab handles and a D-ring for lead attachment, and it comes in 8 highly-visible colours complete with reflective trims so you won’t lose sight of your dog when he’s enjoying a swim.
- Durable material and sturdy design
- Plenty of colour options
- Highly visible
- Comes in 5 sizes
- One year guarantee
- Sizing issues for some dogs
- Some complaints about stitching
- Not the best swimming vest for small dogs
3. Outward Hound Ripstop Dog Life Jacket
|Outward Hound Pupsaver Ripstop Quick Release Easy-Fit Adjustable Dog Life Jacket, Large, Bright...||118 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
This high-visibility life vest features reflective strips to help dog owners spot their furry friends in the water, especially in dim light, and its dual top handles make lifting your dog out of the water easier than in the case of other pet swimming jackets.
This is a strong, durable vest made from quality materials to give you added peace of mind when exploring the high seas (or wherever you find yourself) with your four-legged friend.
- Dual top handles
- Highly visible with reflective strips
- Easily-adjusted chest and neck flaps
- Quick-release buckles
- Front floats to keep dog’s head above water at all times
- Can be very difficult to find the right size
- Not very visually-appealing
- Can be on the more expensive end of the spectrum
A well-made but awkwardly-sized swimming vest that effectively keeps dogs buoyant in the water. The dual top handles and reflective trim are added bonuses.
4. Bunty Dog Swimming Vest
|Bunty Dog Swimming Life Jacket Buoyancy Aid Float Vest Adjustable Water Pet - Pink - Medium||48 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
According to the manufacturer, “Bunty Buoyancy aides guarantee you peace of mind when walking your pet near hazardous bodies of water.”
This simple-looking little swimming vest features Velcro straps and extra safety clips for added security, as well as a useful handle on top and metal ring for a lead attachment. It’s easy to adjust and comes in three sizes and two colours with reflective strips as standard. Previous buyers have praised it for being unobtrusive for dogs in terms of eating, swimming and toileting. This one’s very much on the more affordable end of the scale.
- Very affordable
- Looks good
- Reflective strips for increased visibility
- Doesn’t restrict the dog’s movement
- Only two colour options
- Limited size range
- Sizing issues, and no size chart available
- Not as easily adjusted as some other swimming vests
This is a cheap and cheerful little swimming vest. As you might expect, it’s attractive-looking with reflective strips, handles and adjustable fastenings. It is, however, more limited than most vests in terms of size and colour, and the lack of sizing chart has proved frustrating for some buyers.
5. EzyDog Life Jacket
The manufacturers of the EzyDog Flotation Device call it “the ideal solution for dogs who have trouble swimming or just need more confidence in the water”.
This is a great dog life jacket in terms of how it positions your dog in the water, keeping him in an upright position at all times to avoid capsizing.
It’s designed to fit snuggly and ergonomically and is fitted with Ultra-Buoyancy foam to help your furry friend retain his natural swimming position.
Crucially, it doesn’t restrict your dog’s movement, allowing for a fun and largely independent experience on the water. It is fully adjustable and features an integrated grab handle for a quick exit from the water.
This little number has 50% more floatation material than the majority of swimming vests on the market.
- Fully-adjustable for a snug and comfortable fit
- Handle on top so your dog can be grabbed easily
- Reflective trim for increased visibility
- Increased, high-quality floatation material
- Criticism aimed at the handle and neck flotation
- Sizing issues
- One of the more expensive dog life jackets
6. Suyi Pet Swimming Life Jacket
|suyi Pet Dog Swimming Life Jacket Reflective Saver Preserver Floatation Vest Coat With Adjustable...||12 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
This is one of the more affordable options, though it’s maybe a little feature-light. It’s a straightforward swimming vest with an appealing design (polka-dots, anyone?) that doesn’t inhibit your dog’s ability to swim, toilet or eat while wearing it.
Key features include reflective strips for increased visibility, a lead attachment loop for walking the dog to the water, a mesh underbelly for quick drying, and good-quality buckles to keep your dog secure. It comes in five sizes and three colours – yellow, blue and pink.
- Visually appealing and brightly-coloured
- Quick-drying and easy to clean
- Reflective stripes for good visibility in dim light
- Secures with Velcro straps and buckles
- Top handle for quick doggy removal from water
- Some issues with sizing
- Limited reviews available
- Basic design with limited floatation
7. SILD Pet Life Jacket
|SILD Color Pet Life Jacket Size Adjustable Dog Lifesaver Safety Reflective Vest Pet Life Preserver...||18 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
And last, but by no means least, is the SILD life jacket. This another affordable option for the discerning dog owner and would be a good ‘starter’ swimming vest for someone hoping to adjust their dog to wearing one longer-term.
It can be used in a variety of water-related situations, such as boating, a trip to the beach or lake, or even surfing (according to the manufacturer, anyway!).
Its lightweight design and mesh underbelly help it dry out quickly and reduces any restriction your dog might experience when swimming.
As with many dog life vests, it features reflective strips, easily-adjustable straps, a range of colours and sizes, and enough buoyancy material to keep your pooch afloat at all times.
- Lightweight and easy to dry
- Reflective strips for increased visibility in poor light
- Colourful, attractive design
- Quick-release buckles with additional Velcro fastenings
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Sizing can be a little off (too large for some dogs)
- The buoyancy chin flap can be obtrusive for dogs when not in the water
- Very limited external reviews available
Another very affordable, attractive-looking option for those on a budget, the SILD pet life jacket comes in a sufficient range of sizes and colours to suit most dog owners. It’s basic in design and has limited floatation built in, but it does the job when it comes to boosting your dog’s confidence in the water and keeping him safe during his paddle.
The best dog life vest you choose for your dog will depend heavily on the dog himself. Every pooch is unique and may require a few fittings from several life vest options before the right one is hit upon. Take the time to ensure you have the perfect dog life jacket for your canine companion by prioritising his safety and comfort on the water.