If your pup is regularly in or on the water, you should be looking into life jackets for dogs (or PFDs–pet flotation devices), even if they love to swim. Dogs can get tired out or they can get caught up in strong currents, whether in a river (if your pooch is keeping you company while you fly fish; see our article on fly fishing with your dog) or in the surf. And if you’re boating together, accidents do happen; the boat can turtle or your pooch can lose his footing and go overboard. Here’s what to look for to buy the best life jacket possible for your dog.
Features to Look for in Life Jackets for Dogs
- It should fit your dog snugly and securely; otherwise, you run the risk of Fido slipping out of it once in the water. Make sure none of the straps cut into your pooch’s tender parts. And while we love the convenience of Velcro, be aware that it can clog with hair, particularly if your canine is a shedder. If you choose a jacket with Velcro fasteners, be sure to give the strips a good cleaning before each use so that they can secure fully.
- Make sure the vest has flotation material under the neck as well as supporting the body, which will help keep your dog’s head above water.
- Look for bright-colored vests with reflective material on them. This will make your dog much easier to spot when the sun goes down.
- The vest must have a handle on the back to allow you to pull your pup from the water. Make sure the handle is made of a sturdy material, securely sewn to the vest. It’s best for the handle to be situated up around the shoulder area to prevent your dog’s head from dipping into the water when he’s being pulled out. .
Best Life Jackets for Dogs
In looking for the best life jackets, we turned to boating experts BoatUS and Practical Sailor, both of which ran a number of jackets through real-life tests with real-life dogs.
This is available in six sizes, which provides for optimal fit, with easy-to-clip buckles. The handle is positioned right behind the dog’s neck. RuffWear also sells the Beacon Safety Light separately, which can be clipped to a loop on the vest.
Outward Hound Life Jackets
Outward Hound makes a number of doggie life jackets, and we particularly like the Dawson Swim, which is available in five sizes, covering dogs from 5 to 100 pounds. It’s made of neoprene, with flotation panels flanking your pup on either side and under his neck, which will keep your dog warm in the water.
This vest is available in five sizes, accommodating dogs from 2 to 120 pounds. With the UnderDOG, 90 percent of the buoyancy is situated under the chest and neck. The vest has reflective trim.