How to Choose a Dog Life Jacket

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There's no denying it, your dog is a water dog. From boating and kayaking to swimming and exploring the beach, your pup loves being in a pool or lake more than anything — and their safety should be your top concern. Investing in a dog life jacket will help your dog keep their head above water when they overtire or discover turbulent waters too difficult to maneuver.

Let's explore the importance of a dog life vest and how to choose the best one for your pet based on their water activity level and the features of the garments.

Why Your Pup Needs a Dog Life Jacket

Not all dogs know how to swim. Animal Planet explains that swimming isn't an innate ability for dogs, which means that some pups may sink like a stone when they hop into a body of water. For that reason alone, it's a sound idea to get a dog life jacket for your pet's watery adventures.

Even if your dog is an all-star when it comes to dock diving and paddling across the lake, a life vest could really come in handy. If you visit a friend's home for a summer BBQ and your pet falls into the deep end, would they know what to do in a pool without a ramp or steps to get out? A life jacket might just save their life in the event of unintended water entry.

Golden Retriever wear life jacket swim in swimming pool. Dog swimming.

That said, it's good to know some dog breeds are indeed more apt to act like a fish in water. The best swimmers include English setters, golden retrievers, Irish setters, Newfoundlands and water spaniels, per Animal Planet. On the other hand, breeds with short legs and short snouts, such as dachshunds, pugs and bulldogs tend to be poor paddlers.

Remember: Any dog can have a panic moment in the water. Even the best swimmers should be fitted for a dog life vest to be as safe as possible around water.

It's also worth mentioning that you should never force a dog into the water. They should choose to inter a pool, lake, pond, ocean or other body of water on their own. Some dogs may have no intention of learning to swim or explore water, and that is okay. For those that are interested, first start by introducing them to shallower ends where they can walk in and out before allowing them to try swimming.

What Type of Dog Life Vest Does Your Pet Need?

As you begin to shop for a vest, you'll discover that they're sized based on weight, torso length and general size or breed of dog. It's a good idea to measure your pet from the base of the neck to the base of the tail, and to know the pet's current weight. A life vest should fit the dog with precision, and it shouldn't be too loose or snug.

Decide which features are important based on the types of water activities you plan to enjoy with your dog. The American Kennel Club (AKC) says these four features are the ones to pay close attention to:

  • Color: You want your dog to be visible at all times, whether you're in bight blue ocean waves or a dark green backwater lagoon. Would a patterned vest be best? Or, maybe a neon orange hue? Some dog life vests also include reflective stripes for those who take their pets on early morning or late evening outings.
  • Cut: There are many styles of dog life vests. You'll soon discover that a simple dog vest is preferred for casual swimmers, or pets that are going to be near water and are simply wearing the garment to be ready for a potential accident. Life jackets, on the other hand, offer more body coverage and visibility for highly active water dogs.
  • Handle: If you're a boater or love lounging poolside, a reinforced handle positioned at the top of the dog's back is helpful. This feature allows you to lift the dog suitcase-style up, out of the water and into the boat or onto dry land.
  • Ring: Do you let your pup swim out into a lake on a long lead? You'll need a place to attach the leash to ensure that you can reel the dog back in if they wander too far or if a problem arises. Choose a metal ring over plastic for durability.

You'll also want to test your dog's comfort level with the life vest. These can sometimes be bulky and dog's don't take well to them. While, they may just need time getting used to it, if you notice that your dog truly doesn't enjoy being put in their life vest, you may want to consider a different cut or size. If after some trial and error with different life jackets, your dog still doesn't seem keen to wearing one, you may want to consider keeping your dog away from deeper bodies of water. That doesn't mean they can't still enjoy a romp through a low-level creek or a swim in the family pool with you, but in areas where a life jacket could save their life it's best to play it safe and leave them on dry land.

Whether you're lounging by the pool or planning a day at the lake, making sure your furry companion is safe will give you peace of mind. As you go on more water adventures, your pet will quickly learn that when you bring out the water vest it's time for fun in the sun — and that's something you can both get excited about!

Contributor Bio

Angela Tague

Angela Tague

Angela Tague is a pet mom and writer living in the Midwest. When she's not making a mess in the kitchen, exploring nature trails with her dog, or attending a yoga workshop, she's writing full-time for multiple lifestyle and technology brands. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.