If you’ve ever spotted life vests for dogs on sale and wondered why a dog would need a life vest, you’re not alone. Ask just about anyone and they’ll let you know that all dogs are good swimmers and can swim just fine because of their natural instincts. However, this isn’t always the case.
Just like humans, our furry best friends love the water and love to swim, but if they’ve not been exposed to the open water a whole lot, they’ll be bad swimmers. Throw bad weather, deep water and distractions into the mix and your dog could be heading for a disaster. That said, if you are planning on taking a vacation that involves open water in any capacity, it’s a good idea to put a life jacket on your dog.
For those of us who routinely take their dogs to the beach, out on the boat or to a lake house for vacation, you might have a dog that’s comfortable around the water. That’s fantastic, however, it’s still recommended that you have a life jacket for your dog in the first aid or emergency box in your car or boat. If there’s an accident, a storm, or you’ve noticed your dog is acting a little different than usual, it’s better to be safe and just put them in a life vest. This way they’ll be kept safe and above water at all times.
Best dog life jacket – KONG Sport AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest (Recommended)
Does a Dog Really Need a Life Vest?
The short answer will always be yes. Regardless of whether you have a dog who loves the water or a dog who’s not too fond of it, you should have them in a life vest if you’re not able to watch them or have them in your hands them at all times.
One thing to remember is that dogs can be very easily distracted, especially if they’re still a puppy or there are other animals around. If your dog is out on the boat with you they could accidentally fall overboard or even jump out if something catches their eye. If they’re not strong swimmers, this could end in tragedy.
Puppies will also be cause for concern. On the beach or the lake, puppies are likely going to be incredibly hyperactive and chasing other people and animals or even boats on the water. This excitement is great fun to watch, but when it becomes an issue is when deeper water comes into the equation. A distracted puppy could run out into deeper water and lose their momentum and sink.
Lastly, even the best swimmers should be wearing life jackets on the water. We all know accidents can happen at any time and a dog’s life vest is that one essential piece of equipment that can effectively stop something tragic occurring.
Emergency Situations You May Not Expect
As we all know, an emergency or accident can’t be predicted and often times we don’t even think certain situations are possible. This is why we’ve outlined a few potential risks and emergency situations for you. If your dog hasn’t got on a life vest, these situations can be deadly.
Capsizing a Boat
If you’re out on the water in your boat, there might be a chance that your load isn’t completely even or you might have put far too many items or equipment pieces on your boat. This increases your chances of capsizing if you’re moving a little too quickly, or if you make an emergency sharp turn. Without a life vest on yourself and your dog, you might find that you’re struggling to keep yourself afloat let alone your dog, and if you’re out on the water for a while, losing the energy to tread water isn’t an option.
A situation that is almost entirely overlooked is the potential of flash flooding. If you live in a flood zone, you might one day see your home becoming inundated rather quickly leaving you no time to prepare. This is where having a dog life jacket in your emergency kit becomes essential. You’ll want to be able to aptly deal with your family and belongings without having to keep your dog at an arm’s length.
Beachfront or Lake Accidents
Not quite the accident you’d expect is someone else’s recklessness causing a commotion scaring your dog. This might force your dog to run to safety towards the water, leaving them stranded at the beach water or in the lake alone, with no way for you to get to them quickly. If you’ve already put them in their life jacket, they’ll be fine floating on the lake or at the beach until you’re able to go out to get them after the incident is dealt with.
Dog Life Vest Snapshot
If you’re looking for a dog life vest you can trust, we’ve listed two of the best for budget buyers and safety-focused buyers. Take a look below.
The Best Dog Life Vest for Safety
Our top choice for a dog’s life vest when safety is concerned is the Ruffwear K9 Float Coat Dog Life Jacket. This life vest adapts to the dog’s size, fits snuggly and also offers support. The reflective coating and handle also mean the jacket is perfect for emergency situations.
The Best Budget-Friendly Life Vest for Dogs
Our top choice for a dog’s budget life vest has to be the Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket thanks to its versatility and a variety of essential safety features. The jacket also features a front float tube under the neck and below your dog’s head, to keep their nose above water at all times. Where the life vest’s versatility really comes in is when it needs to be used for multiple breeds. You could purchase five of these for five different dog breeds and have no trouble fitting them all.
Our Favorite Dog Life Vests of 2019
If you’re looking for some insight into the best dog life jackets available in 2019, we have the perfect set of reviews below. Whether you’re concerned about spotting your dog in the dark, keeping them afloat in rough conditions or just want something that fits snuggly, we have the perfect reviews for you.
Take a look at our top choices for dog life jackets below.
As mentioned above, our overall winner for the best life vest for your dog this year is the Kong Sport Aqua Pro Life Jacket. You’ll quickly notice that it fits a range of sizes which is fantastic for keeping the newest member of the family safe in the water.
The leading feature of this dog life jacket is its ability to allow for completely free movement. There’s nothing too tight or restrictive and it makes sure your dog will keep having plenty of fun on the water.
Some key areas of dog life jackets to look for –
Slips Right On: because the coat is so well-fitting and designed to sit so snuggly, it just slips over your dog’s head and clips up like a typical harness for a secure fit. It takes just a few seconds to put on and you’re all done.
Head Support: the jacket’s telescoping neck support loop makes sure your dog or puppy’s head is kept above water at all times, making sure there’s that added support in an emergency.
Robust Materials: one of the most enticing parts of the Ruffwear K9 Float Coat is that it’s made from high-quality nylon. This means sun damage won’t be an issue and the grab handle is going to stay fixed in place no matter how heavy your dog is.
Adjustable Fit: as we mentioned above, the sizing is perfect and allows for free movement whilst also keeping your dog strapped in. It’s not a one size fits all solution, but it’s certainly easy to choose a weight and height when ordering and expect it to fit perfectly.
EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device
Our top pick for our smaller furry friends is the EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device as it’s perfectly suited to dogs that aren’t very long in the torso such as a bulldog. The life jacket is also optimally lined with buoyant padding so your small dog will be held above water no matter their weight.
Our favorite parts of the EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device include:
Clips and Handles: rather than strings or Velcro straps, this life jacket has adjustable clips with a handle in between them. This means you’re able to loosen and tighten the life jacket to fit your dog the best, even as they’re wearing it.
Straps Extend All the Way Around: unlike some dog life jackets, the straps on the EzyDog jacket wrap around the entire vest. This means you have for more control of how tight the jacket is around sensitive parts of your dog’s body. The chest can be kept tight whilst the stomach area can be kept looser depending on your dog’s body type.
Plenty of Sizes: to make things even easier, the EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device comes in a whole suite of set sizes that can be adjusted after purchase. Whether in the market for a size XXS, an XL for a large dog or anything in between, the EzyDog will have it.
Breathable Gaps: the vest’s open-ended shape and airy design mean that your dog won’t feel enveloped and they’ll also be kept cool. Essentially this will mean that you can keep their vest on for hours on end without them prodding you with their paws asking to have it taken off.
Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket
A perfect choice for medium to larger sized dogs comes the Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket which provides plenty of flotation support and also comes with a much welcomed lifetime warranty. The Kurgo doggy life jacket is also a fantastic option for those who want a bright and easy-to-spot jacket for dogs that love to go on their own adventures.
The most enticing part of the Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket include:
Optimally Visible: as mentioned, the jacket is fantastic for those of us who own dogs who enjoy running off to the water on their own. You’ll find that the only color to choose from is an intensive bright red which incorporates bright and reflective strips.
Also a Winter and Rain Coat: along with being a fantastically bright red life jacket, the vest’s inner buoyant closed-cell foam can be pulled out and replaced with a warm padded layering. This way whether rain or shine, the jacket can be used as a winter coat. Just remember to always put the inflatable lining back in when you head back to the beach or out on the boat.
Horizontal and Vertical Handles: the handles you’ll find on the Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket are designed in two different orientations so that you’re able to grab your dog from any angle to pull them from the water. You can also use both handles at once if you want to hold your dog for longer periods of time as weight distribution will make being held more comfortable for them.
Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket
And now our leading choice for the most affordable, effective and reliable dog life jacket for those on a budget. The Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket is your best bet if you’re looking for a highly buoyant and reliable life preserver for your dog. Also, consider the Outward Hound Granby model too. These life jackets have all the essentials, comes in a variety of designs and sizes and will keep your dog safe on the water.
The best parts of the Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket are below:
Quick-Release Buckles: for emergency situations, you can almost instantly free your dog from the flotation vest and get a hold of them. This is a perfect solution for those times when your dog’s vest might be caught or tied up to something and you need to quickly get them free. This will be especially important if you’re in the woods by the water.
Bright and Reflective: coming in only bright colors will mean you’re going to have a visual of where your dog is at all times, even if they’re wandering into the mangroves or woods by the lake of the beach. At night simply shine a torch to see the reflective trim.
Neck and Head Support: on top of all the buoyant side padding, the Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket also comes with foam panels that sit in a telescoping neck closure under your dog’s head to keep it afloat. If there’s an accident or if your dog does fall into the water, the neck support will keep their head from sinking below the surface even if they are an extra large dog.
Top Considerations for Your Dog’s Life Vest
When it’s time to choose a life jacket for your dog, there are a few top considerations you should keep in mind. If you haven’t chosen a jacket, or want to look for a few bestseller pet products from retailers like Paws Aboard that we haven’t yet reviewed, you have to remember to factor in a few things to make sure your dog’s kept safe out on the water.
A few of the most important safety, fit and features to look out for include:
Weather Resistant Materials
If you’re a regular out on the water or at the beach, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether your dog’s life vest is still strong enough to keep them safe. A cheaper and subsequently weaker material will deteriorate over time. This could mean that in an emergency your dog might be able to break out of the jacket, or the handle might come off completely when you go to pick them up.
Look for weather-resistant nylon or vinyl and stray from solid plastics or softer fabrics.
A Single or Simple Fitting Mechanism
Of course, you don’t want to invest in a dog life preserver that takes 15 minutes to put on because of ropes or string fasteners. Look out for dog life vests with clips or adjustable toggles. This way you’ll be able to quickly slip the vest on and off.
Remember, your dog has feelings and will know what’s going on. If their life vest takes a while to put on, is uncomfortable or has clips or strings that pinch or hurt them, they won’t want to wear a vest. They’ll run away from you and you’ll struggle to put it on. Look for jackets with neoprene belly bands as these will have the softest lining.
Look for Emergency Grips
For a dog flotation device to be safe, it needs to have a handle of some kind. You’ll need to be able to quickly pull your dog from the water in an instant if there’s an emergency. It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how obedient your dog is, they won’t respond to you when they’re afraid or in an emergency situation so an emergency grip is essential.
Remember Reflective Strips
One thing so many of us forget is the reflective strips on our dog’s life preserver. If you’re out on the water in the evening, you must have a dog life vest with reflectors on it. If your dog does, unfortunately, slip overboard or even runs off in the night, you’ll want to be able to spot them right away.
Prioritize a Snug Fit
As we mentioned above, your dog won’t want to wear something that doesn’t fit them. This is where design and adjustable toggles come in. Look for a vest design that is going to provide plenty of adjustable features. Don’t forget about neck and head support either, you want a vest that is going to fit correctly but also keeps the head above water.
No Loose Strings or Flaps
This is not a complete essential, but it is something to consider, especially if you’re going to be near mangroves or areas with a lot of branches. Make sure the vest either has no loose strings or a hanging D-ring. Also, ensure it has a sheet of nylon that can velcro to cover them. You might find your dog running by a boat or a tree and if their vest has strings and flaps hanging off it, you’ll have them caught on a branch.
The bottom line is this: if you have a dog and ever take them to visit a body of water or even the pool, you should have them in a life jacket, just as we do with poor swimmers we take out on our boats.
As dog life vests are becoming increasingly more affordable, feature-packed and more comfortable, there isn’t really an excuse not to have one on the boat and in the house for emergencies like flooding. No one wants the stress of having to keep an incredibly close eye on a pet dog or new puppy to make sure their heads are above water, and it’s no fun for your dog to have to stay on dry land the entire time the family visits the lake.
It’s so important not to take extra risks and endanger a pet or have them injured because they weren’t wearing a life jacket when they were near the water. Focus on searching for a high-quality life vest for your dog and keep it with you whenever you take them near the water, even if it’s just the pool.