K9 of Mine
Let others know!
best-dog-life-vests

Dog Life Vests: Our Top Picks For Flotation Safety!

Does your canine have a taste for the high seas? Some dogs love to go on boating adventures with their owners, and who can blame them?

While nautical dogs make great skippers, they need to be outfitted with the proper gear to keep them safe. Just as adults and children need life vests, so do dogs.

Why Do Dogs Need Life Vests? Can’t They Swim?

Dogs are great swimmer, but even the best paddlers can’t swim for long, and should an unfortunate disaster occur while out at sea, your dog would have no better chance of swimming to safety than you would.

While even water-loving dogs should be equipped with dog life jackets, they are even more important for dogs with low body fat like Greyhounds, senior dogs, and dogs with health or mobility issues.

Are Dog Life Vests Just for Boat Trips?

Not necessarily. Dogs can get tired and drown just like people do. In fact, there are thousands of dog deaths each year from dogs falling into swimming pools.

best dog life vest

Dog life vests are also a great idea for water activities around lakes. Your dog wants to be by your side at all times, to the point where they may put themselves in harm’s way to be near you.

If you’re water skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, or participating in any other kind of water activity where you will be visible to your pet, it’s best to put them in a life vest to prevent exhaustion.

Dog life vests can also be a handy aid when first introducing your dog to water, as the flotation provides a sense of security for uneasy pooches.

What To Look For In a Dog Life Vest

  • Buoyancy. Naturally you’ll want a dog life jacket with the proper amount of buoyancy to keep your pet afloat in the water. Some dog life vests have flotation under the belly, as well as the surrounding back and sides. Some vests also have flotation in the neck area to help keep your dog’s head above water.
  • Bright Color. Brightly colored vests help your dog stay visible in the water and protect against boaters or jet skiers. Many vests also feature reflective material for even more visibility.
  • Handles. If you’ll be needing to pull your dog out of the water, you’ll want strong handles on the dog life jacket. This lifting ability means that in some ways, a dog vest can double as a dog lift harness, but if you have a senior dog who is mobility impaired, it’s best to opt for a harness designed specifically for lifting.
  • Size and Fit. Make sure you’re purchasing a dog life vest that is the proper size for your dog. Make sure dog is comfortable, can sit and lie down comfortably, and can relieve himself. For the best fit, make sure to measure your dog’s girth and torso and choose a matching size.

Best Dog Life Vests: Reviews and Ratings

These life jackets for dogs have received favorable reviews and are trusted vendors, setting you up with the best gear to keep your dog safe at sea. We’ll help you choose the very best dog life vest for your canine!

Quick Picks: Best Dog Life Jackets Our Rating Price
Pick #1: Ruffwear K9 Float Coat $$$
Pick #2: Outward Hound Granby $
Pick #3: Paws Aboard Doggie Life Jacket $
Pick #4: Kurgo Surf n Turf Dog Life Vest $$

Continue reading for more in-depth reviews

1. Ruffwear K9 Float Coat Dog Life Jacket

About: The Ruffwear K9 Float Coat is the one of the highest rated dog life jackets, with extreme quality and reliability. While it comes at a higher price point, it’s definitely well merited, as this canine life vest is top-notch quality.

Best For: Kayakers and Active Water Dogs

The Ruffwear K9 life jacket is made of extremely durable, abrasion-resistant material, and features a top handle that lets you lift your dog out of the water when necessary.

The vest also offers strategically-placed closed cell foam panels, which lets your dog stay in his natural swimming position. The vest’s telescoping neck closure is adjustable, which helps allow for natural and comfortable canine movement.

You’ll note that this jacket has additional flotation beneath your pooch’s belly to ensure he stays afloat. There are also no exposed straps or buckles, to avoid any chance of dangerous snagging. Lastly, we love that this vest has reflective trim – this will make sure you can easily see your dog in the water, even at dusk or when waves get a bit choppy.

This canine life jacket is available in several sizes from xx-small to x-large. It also comes in a number of fun colors including yellow, orange, dark red, bright red, and blue with pink highlights.

PROS: Owners adore this life vest for a number of reasons, with many reviewers impressed with the quality of the material and the extra flotation underneath the dog’s belly to keep the dog afloat (a feature that isn’t always present in other dog life jackets).

Many buyers were also very pleased that this vest is designed to have no exposed straps or buckles. Everything can be tucked away, with owners feeling confident that their dog would not get snagged on any foreign objects. Kayakers noted that this feature was especially helpful when lifting their pet into a kayak.

CONS: This dog life vest is at a higher price point than most others. Still, it’s clear that this jacket earns its price.

 

best dog life jackets

2. Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket

About: The Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket is another popular dog life vest available and is manufactured by the reputable and trustworthy Outward Hound brand.

Best For: Affordable With Quality

Sale
 

The Outward Hound flotation vest has a comfortable and durable neoprene belly band, as well as fully adjustable chest and neck flaps. Like most other recommended vests, this water jacket also has top handles that can be used to hoist your pooch into the boat.

The quick-release buckles mean that the vest is easy to put on and take off, plus this vest also uses a front float feature to help your dog keep his head above the water.

The dog life jacket comes in several sizes, ranging from X-Small to X-Large, so there’s something for every dog! The jacket also comes in a few different colors: pink, orange and clownfish-patterened (you’ll see what I mean).

PROS: Considering the huge number of satisfied customers and extremely affordable price, we can definitely recommend the Outward Hound dog life vest as a smart pick.

CONS: Some buyers have found the fitting sizes to be inaccurate, requiring the return and re-purchase of different sizes.

It’s also worth noting that the model featured here is a newer model with improved quality, so some older reviews you find of the Outward Hound life jacket won’t be accurate.

Outward Hound Sizing Guide

dog PFD

3. Paws Aboard Doggy Life Jacket

About: The Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket comes in several different sizes depending on your dog, and is quite the steal (in our opinion) when it comes to a budget-friendly canine water vest.

We love that the Paws Aboard Canine Life Jacket provides a heavy duty velcro fastening system for your dog’s belly and neck, along with adjustable straps.

The flotation vest also has a top handle for pulling your dog up out the water. It comes in sizes from xx-small to extra-large, and is available in yellow, blue polka dot, yellow polka dot, or nautical pattern (fun)!

It’s also worth noting that users report the product exchange system works smoothly and effortlessly, so you don’t need to stress too much if you order the wrong size.

PROS: Customers like that this vest is lightweight, easy to get on and off, and a breeze to clean. It’s solid quality at a reasonable price.

CONS: While many customers feel very satisfied with the product, a few have mentioned the straps tearing with larger, heavier dogs. The velcro belly straps may also not be ideal for breeds with lots of fur, as fur can get caught in the velcro.

The Paws Aboard Life Jacket is available from Amazon and Petco.

Paws Aboard Sizing Chart
SIZE WEIGHT LENGTH NECK GIRTH BODY GIRTH
XX-Small 0-6 lbs 6.5 in 7-9 in 11-16 in
X-Small 7-15 lbs 8.5 8-12 in 15-19
 Small 15-20 lbs 11 in 12-20 in 17-22 in
 Medium 20-50 lbs 14 in 20-25 in 21-31 in
Large 50-90 lbs  16 in  24-30 in  30-37 in

4. Kurgo Surf n Turf Dog Life Vest

About: The Kurgo Surf n Turf Coat is an all-in-one jacket, serving as a life vest as well as a 3 season shell jacket. The flotation layer can be removed to double as a waterproof jacket for your canine. That’s right, this flotation vest can also function as a rain jacket or light autumn coat!

Best For: All-In-One Jacket for Shallow Waters

The Kurgo Life Vest offers two handles for lifting up your dog, and two metal d-rings for leash connections. The vest is available in bright, highly-visible colors, along with reflecting trim for added visibility.

This flotation jacket comes in several sizes from extra-small to extra-large (but it only comes in one color – red)!

It also bears mentioning that all Kurgo products are backed with a lifetime warranty, so you can ensure this vest will last a lifetime.

PROS: Very versatile, with the ability to serve as a water vest, rain jacket, or light coat. Is stylish and slim fitting compared to other life jackets for dogs.

CONS: Reviewers note that this dog life preserver does not provide as much support and flotation as other offerings, as only nylon straps (with no flotation) support the dog’s underside.

While this dog PFD may be appropriate for shallow waters, I’d suggest other life vests for heavier seas.

Kurgo Sizing Guide
SIZE NECK GIRTH BODY GIRTH
X-Small 8-13 in 14-20 in
 Small 12-23 in 18-25 in
 Medium 18-27 in 24-32 in
Large  28-36 in  35-45 in

5. EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device (DFD)

About: The EzyDog DFD comes highly rated, mid-priced dog life vest that is great for the boat or beach.

The vest contains an added amount of ultra-buoyant material, designed to keep your dog in a natural swimming position, along with adjustable neoprene belly straps for an ergonomic, secure fit.

The vest’s nylon d-rings can be used to attach a leash, and the reflecting detailing offers ultimate visibility. The easy-to-grab handles also allow for lifting your pup up out of the water when it’s required.

You can find this life jacket in three different colors – green camo, yellow, and red.

PROS: This highly rated dog flotation device provides quality and comfort for water activity.

CONS: Some reviewers wish the design was tapered in the back, rather than square-shaped, since this shape tends to lift dog’s rear horizontally to the head (whereas other designs purposely allow the dog’s bottom to drop, so their head can more easily remain above water). Also, does not have XXS size.

EzyDog Sizing Chart

dog life jacket reviews

6. PetCee Quick Release Life Jacket for Dogs

About: The PetCee Quick-Release Life Jacket is a cute and affordable life jacket for dogs, which includes a pretty nifty feature: It has an extra float that rests under your dog’s chin. This helps poor swimmers to keep their head above the surface while swimming around.

The PetCee Life Jacket is designed to be a rugged and durable vest, while still being very comfortable for your dog to wear. It relies on three different straps (two that wrap around your dog’s belly and one that wraps around his chest) to stay in place, and each of the straps features a quick-release buckle making it easy to put on or take off.

You can get the PetCee Life Jacket in any of five different versions. You can get the normal version of the jacket in blue or pink, or you could opt for one of the versions that come with an attached shark fin (black or blue) or mermaid tail (pink).

Reflective trim is included with all of the color options to help make it easier to see your dog in low light. A D-ring is also located on the back of the life jacket, giving you an easy way to attach a leash to your dog.

Sizing

Chest / Neck / Back Length

  • XS: 11.8 – 15.7 inches, 6.7 –  9.84 inches, 7.87 inches
  • S: 16.1 – 18.9 inches, 11.8 – 15inches, 9.84 inches
  • M: 19.7 – 22.3inches, 15.7 – 16.9 inches, 11.8inches
  • L: 21.7 – 27.6inches, 15 – 18.9 inches, 13.8 inches
  • XL: 28.3 – 37.4 inches, 18.9 – 22.3inches, 17.7 inches

The manufacturer recommends going with the larger size if your dog falls in between two.

PROS: The PetCee Quick-Release Life Jacket is a great option for dogs who have trouble keeping their head above water, thanks to the included chin float. It is also very affordable, while still being well made. Additionally, you can get this jacket in any of several fun styles and color patterns.

CONS: A few owners reported that their dog did not like the chin float. Additionally, this doesn’t appear to be the most buoyant life jacket on the market, so it is probably best to try it out in the shallows and see how it works for your dog before heading to deeper waters.

7. Onemore Choice Camo Pet Life Preserver

About: The Onemore Choice Camo Life Preserver is a heavy-duty life jacket that features a unique camouflage print. This makes it a great choice for fowl-retrieving dogs, as it’ll help keep your dog hidden from the ducks or geese you’re hunting.

Best For: Hunting and Fowl-Retrieving Dogs

This life jacket includes a number of features to help ensure it provides a comfortable, yet snug fit. Three straps (one that goes around the chest and two that wrap around your dog’s belly) are included, and each features a quick-release buckle to make it easy to put on or take off. The belly portion of the vest is made from breathable mesh to ensure your dog remains comfortable while wearing it.

A handle is stitched to the back, making it easy to help your dog get into or out of the water, and it also features a D-ring on the back, so you can clip your dog’s leash to the vest. Reflective trim is attached to the vest to make your dog more visible in low-light conditions. 

PROS: This is obviously a fantastic choice for hunting dogs, given its camouflage appearance, but it will also work for dogs who just want to go for a swim at the local pool. The included handle and D-ring leash attachment are both nice features, and the breathable mesh appears to help keep dogs more comfortable while wearing it.

CONS: Some owners complained that both the handle and D-ring would break if too much force was applied to them, so this is jacket is probably not great for heavy dogs or those who pull on their leash. A few owners also mentioned that they needed to cut away a bit of material to prevent the vest from rubbing their dog’s skin in an area or two.

8. SwimWays Sea Squirts Dog Life Vest w/ Fin

About: The SwimWays Dog Vest is a fun yet functional life jacket that features a big blue dorsal fin on the back. This lets your dog practice his Jaws impression while swimming around at the pool or lake.

Best For: Getting Laughs At The Pool

The SwimWays Life Vest comes with a metal D-ring to which you can clip your dog’s leash and a handle on the back that makes it easy to control or lift your dog (note that this handle lies perpendicularly to your dog’s body, unlike most other vests, which feature a handle that aligns with your dog’s back).

Two belly straps and a chest strap (all of which feature quick-release buckles) are included to keep the vest snug on your dog.

While this vest is absolutely adorable and seems to function fairly well, it’s probably best suited for a pool or lake-side frolicking, but likely is not be heavy-duty enough open, choppy waters.

This vest is available in small for dogs weighing 10 to 20 pounds (chest size: 17 – 23 inches, neck size: 12 – 15 inches) and medium for dogs weighing between 20 and 50 pounds (chest size: 21 – 30 inches, neck size 16 – 24 inches).

PROS: This vest is simply adorable, and it’ll surely turn heads at the beach or pool this summer. This vest received really good reviews from most owners, it appears to work very well, and it seems to be easy to put on or take off your dog.

CONS: This vest is not appropriate for large dogs, and several owners reported that it appears to run a bit small.

9. HAOCOO Dog Life Jacket

About: The HAOCOO Life Jacket is a high-quality life preserver that is available in a wide array of colors and styles. You can select a fairly standard life jacket shape if your pup prefers to keep things low-key, or you could choose from several fun and silly styles that resemble mermaids, sharks or lobsters. There are 15 different options in total.

Each of the styles features top-notch materials, as they’re all made from high-grade polyester oxford and nylon fabric, mesh fabric, and pearl cotton foam. Two belly straps and a chest strap (each of which features a quick-release clip) will keep the vest snuggly attached to your dog, and reflective strips are included to ensure your dog is easy to see.

A handle is also included on the back to make it easy to lift or help your dog into or out of the water, and a D-ring is situated on the back to give you a place to attach a leash or tether. The life jacket comes in seven different sizes:

  • XXS: Body Length: 5.9 inches / Neck Girth: 7.5-10.6 inches / Body Girth: 11.0-14.6 inches / Weight: 3.5oz
  • XS: Body Length: 8.3 inches / Neck Girth: 9.8-13.8 inches / Body Girth: 11.8-16.5 inches / Weight: 5.3oz
  • S: Body Length: 10.2 inches / Neck Girth: 14.2-18.5 inches / Body Girth: 16.1-20.9 inches / Weight: 5.6oz
  • M: Body Length: 11.8 inches / Neck Girth: 15.7-18.9 inches / Body Girth: 16.1-24.8 inches / Weight: 7.1oz
  • L: Body Length: 13.8 inches / Neck Girth: 16.5-21.3 inches / Body Girth: 19.7-29.5 inches / Weight: 8.8oz
  • XL: Body Length: 17.7 inches / Neck Girth: 19.7-28.0 inches / Body Girth: 27.6-37.4 inches / Weight: 12.3oz
  • XXL: Body Length: 18.9 inches / Neck Girth: 24.4-35.4 inches / Body Girth: 34.6-48.8 inches / Weight: 15.9oz

PROS: The HAOCOO Life Jacket is a great option for many dogs, as it comes in a very wide variety of sizes, styles, and colors. Most owners reported that it was very well made, plenty buoyant and provided good value for your dollar.

CONS: There aren’t any obvious shortcomings, although a few owners experienced sizing issues. It is probably wise to err on the large side when picking your size, as several owners complained that the size they chose was too small for their pup.

Having trouble deciding? We can’t blame you – all these life vests for dogs received great reviews. However, based on research across all websites, we feel we can most confidently recommend the Outward Hound and Ruffwear K9 Float Coat.

Both these dog life jackets received a very large number of reviews and performed repeatedly well in outside tests, making us more confident in the evaluation.

dog life jacket

How to Measure Your Dog for a Life Jacket

Different manufacturers use different measurements to determine the proper life jacket size, but most rely on a combination of three different measurements.

Obtain the measurements by doing the following (you’ll need a tape measure):

  • Chest Circumference. Wrap the measuring tape around your dog’s rib cage to obtain the chest circumference measurement. Be sure to measure your dog’s rib cage at the largest part – typically right behind the front legs.
  • Neck Circumference. Typically, life jackets rest around the junction between your dog’s neck and body. Just wrap the measuring tape around the lower portion of his neck, down near the shoulders.
  • Back Length. Most life jacket manufacturers recommend measuring your dog’s back length from the point where the neck meets the shoulders/back to a point about 2 to 3 inches ahead of the tail base.
  • Weight. Some manufacturers also include a weight guideline to help ensure the life jacket will provide sufficient buoyancy to keep your dog afloat. So, be sure to make sure you pick a vest that matches your dog’s weight if such information is provided.

Safety Tips for Life Jackets

Fitting your dog with a life jacket will help keep him safe but doing so isn’t a magic bullet – you’ll still need to embrace a few common-sense practices to reduce the chances of accidents or injuries and ensure that everyone goes home happy, tired and smiling.

1. Instill a Positive Attitude About the Vest

It’ll be much easier to put the life vest on your dog if you help instill a positive attitude about wearing the floatation device from the outset. This will also help your dog feel more comfortable wearing it, which will ensure he still has a great time while swimming around.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to start slowly — long before you intend to use it on the water.

Ideally, you’d start the introductions several days before heading to the beach or lake. In a calm place (like your living room), take the vest out of the package and hold it in front of your dog for a minute so he can smell it.

Reward your dog with treats for sniffing the vest – we want him to realize the life vest is a super cool and awesome thing!

Once he seems comfortable with the vest, gently put it on him. If he doesn’t seem to like it or becomes fearful, just try to pet and reassure him for a few minutes.

At first, just rest the vest on him loosely, give some treats, and then remove the vest after a few seconds. Slowly increase the time that the vest is on. Once your pooch seems pretty comfortable with the loose-fitting vest, connect the straps and cinch them up so they fit snuggly. Follow the same pattern as before by leaving the vest on 10-seconds or so (with treats dispensed), then removing, then putting on for 30 seconds, a minute, and so on.

Next, you’ll want to let your dog run around for a bit while wearing the vest, before taking it off and giving him plenty of praise and goodies.

Repeat the process again in a few hours or the next day. Do this as often as necessary (always giving plenty of positive reinforcement) until he becomes comfortable with the vest and doesn’t mind donning it. At this point, you should be ready for the water.

As your dog begins adapting to swimming with a life jacket, also consider incorporating dog water toys to make the sea a truly fun place to be!

2. Always Make Sure the Straps Are Properly Adjusted and Secured

Before letting your pup jump in the water, make sure that the straps are appropriately tight.

If the straps are too loose, your dog’s body may shift in the vest, which may make it difficult for him to swim with a natural motion. It will also increase the odds of him “barrel rolling,” and ending up upside down in the water, which is obviously a dangerous situation.

Conversely, if the straps are too tight, they may restrict his movement, cause abrasions or even make it difficult for your pup to breathe.

Ideally, you’ll want the straps to be just tight enough that you can barely squeeze two fingers between the strap and your pet’s body.

It’s also a good idea to give all of the straps one last glance, to make sure the clips are all securely connected.

3. Match the Life Jacket to the Intended Activity

Different life jackets are designed for different activities. Some serve as a true life-protecting device, so they are made from very high-quality materials.

These types of vests are made for deep-water use, provide plenty of buoyancy, and usually feature fairly non-descript styling (although they may come in a variety of colors, they’ll generally forego the shark fins and other fun embellishments).

On the other hand, some vests are designed to help your dog stay afloat, but they aren’t really intended as a true safety device. Many such vests feature cute or funny appendages, such as shark fins or mermaid tails, and they’re usually adorable.

These life jackets are not ideally suited for deep water use; they’re best used around the pool, where your pooch can swim in style.

It’s also worth pointing out that you’ll often pay more for the former style than you will the latter style.

dog life vest

4. Use Caution When Connecting a Life Vest to a Leash or Tether

Most good life jackets and vests come equipped with a D-ring to which you can attach a leash or tether. This can make it easier to keep your dog safe while walking to the pool or lake.

But, you’ll want to test out the strength of the D-ring (as well as the associated stitching) before you rely on it to keep your dog from running out into traffic. The included D-rings are generally intended for light-duty use, so they may not be capable of withstanding your strong husky’s pulling behavior.

These rings will also make it easier to keep your dog from straying too far in the water if you switch out the leash for a long rope when it is time to go swimming.

This is also a great technique for dogs who stop listening once they start swimming – sometimes they have so much fun swimming, they become rather disobedient. But with a tether, you can just drag them (gently) back to shore.

Just be sure to use caution when tying your dog to a tether while swimming. If the rope gets caught around your dog’s legs or neck, he could become unable to swim or suffer an injury. Using a tether requires constant vigilance from the owner.

Some owners find that it is easier to keep the rope from entangling a dog by attaching something buoyant (such as a poodle noodle section) to the rope about 1- to 2-feet away from the ring. This isn’t a foolproof technique, but it will keep the rope out of your dog’s way to some extent.

Generally, it’s best to not use a tether if possible, as your dog getting tangled in it could be quite problematic. Some stinky treats are usually compelling enough to get most dogs back on board the boat or beach!

5. Never Let Your Dog Swim Unsupervised

Even if you outfit your dog with the finest life jacket money can buy, he still requires supervision while swimming. Life jackets drastically reduce the danger associated with swimming, but they aren’t perfect, and dogs can still get into a bit of trouble while paddling around.

You’ll need to make sure your dog doesn’t drift off into potentially dangerous areas, including anywhere subject to strong currents or places with underwater hazards.

It’s also a good idea to limit your dog’s swimming to wide-open places, where he is surrounded by nothing but water. This will reduce the chances that he’ll run into something or become snagged.

And while pools are generally safer than lakes, rivers or oceans, they aren’t completely safe. Accordingly, you’ll still want to supervise your dog when he goes out for a dip in the backyard.

For example, dogs often have trouble getting out of the pool (in fact, be sure to scroll down to check out our article about pool ramps, which are designed to help make it easier for your dog to get out of the pool). They can also become trapped by filter intakes or overflow drains.

Enjoy the open seas with your dog and their new life vest!

Also, consider checking out our articles on:

Last update on 2018-11-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the Author Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Senior Editor at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

follow me on:

Leave a Comment:

8 comments
Add Your Reply

 join our pup pack!

Get tons of great dog training tutorials, canine gear guides, hot news about the latest doggy discounts, & more - all delivered to your inbox!

envelope

By signing up you agree to our terms