Dogs are fantastic hunting companions. They not only provide a bit of company, they can help you achieve success in the field. Most hunting dogs are tasked with finding or retrieving birds, but some breeds are used in other contexts, such as tracking and treeing raccoons and other fur-bearing mammals.
But no matter what type of prey you pursue, or how you rely on your dog to help, you’ll likely find that a hunting vest can keep your dog safer and more comfortable while doing his job. There are a number of different types of hunting vests available, so you need to be clear about your goals to obtain the best model for your pooch.
Below, we’ll explain the various types of hunting vests, run down some of the things you’ll want to look for when making your choice, and recommend five of the best options available to help you make your choice.
Incidentally, if you are interested in obtaining a hunting dog, check out our list of the best hunting breeds.
Quick Picks: Best Dog Vests for Hunting
- SafetyPUP XD Reflective Vest [Best High-Visibility Vest] — This blaze orange vest will make it easy to spot your hounds in forests or fields, and it is built from durable materials so it will last for years.
- Browning Neoprene Vest [Best Camouflage Vest] — This is an ideal vest that will help keep your dog warm and protect his chest, while still keeping a low profile.
- Mendota Products Skid Plate [Best Protective Hunting Vest] — This is a great vest for dogs who require chest protection while working in the field. It’s also blaze orange, to help improve your dog’s visibility.
Different Types of Hunting Vests
Dog hunting vests come in a few different styles, as they are used and intended for a few different purposes. Some of the most common ways hunting vests are used for dogs include:
Make Your Dog More Visible
It’s obviously imperative that you remain aware of your dog’s location when hunting — you don’t want to accidentally hit your dog because you didn’t see him. One way to help prevent such eventualities is by fitting your dog with a high-visibility hunting vest. Such vests are usually blaze-orange or day-glow green, and they’re typically lightweight.
These types of vests are most appropriate for upland bird dogs, as they are allowed to run loose in the same vicinity from which the birds will appear to the hunters. They can also help you keep an eye on tracking dogs too.
Keep Your Dog Warmer
Even though most hunting dogs tasked with working in cold weather have a thick coat, some may need a little extra help staying warm. This is especially true for waterfowl-retrieving dogs, who must jump in the frigid water time and again over the course of the day (hopefully).
Hunting vests made for such purposes are typically made from neoprene, as it provides a great fit and retains its ability to warm your dog even when it’s wet. However, vests intended solely for use on dry ground may be made of wool or synthetic materials.
Note that because waterfowl-retrieving dogs are rarely close to the line of fire, and you don’t want to spook approaching ducks or geese, these types of vests usually bear camouflage colors and patterns.
Protect Your Dog from Cuts and Punctures
Dogs must often run through dense and inhospitable vegetation while hunting, and even though their fur provides some protection, punctures, cuts, and abrasions are common. But if you provide your dog with vest designed to protect their chest or abdomen from these types of hazards, you can prevent most of these injuries from ever occurring.
These types of vests are often called “skid plates,” and they usually contain some type of durable plastic material to protect your dog from sharp sticks and thorns. These types of vests are usually orange or some other high-visibility color.
Increase Your Dog’s Buoyancy
Over the course of a successful day of hunting, your dog may have to swim a significant distance. He’ll also have to jump into the water, negotiate obstacles, and swim back with a mouthful of fowl and feathers. Point being, he’s gonna have to work hard all day long.
But you can give your pup a little help and provide an additional measure of safety by providing him with a hunting vest that contains a floatation aid. Often, such vests essentially resemble camouflage lifejackets, but they usually have a few design features that make them particularly well-suited for hunting dogs.
Shield Your Dog from Rain
Even though most hunting dogs are of the rough-and-tumble variety and won’t be distracted by a bit of rain, it still makes sense to keep them as dry as possible. This will help keep them warmer and more comfortable, which will ensure they perform at their best.
We’ve written about raincoats for dogs before, but hunting dogs need something that’s a little tougher and more durable than a vest designed for more pedestrian use. You’ll want a vest that is made of high-quality materials which won’t irritate your dog’s body, and you’ll generally want it to be orange for visibility’s sake.
Double-Up for Additional Protection
Some vests can be used simultaneously to help provide the best protection possible.
For example, you may want to use a skid-plate-style vest to protect your dog’s chest and belly from sticks and vegetation, as well as a lightweight orange vest to improve his visibility (skid-plate-style vests rarely cover much of your dog’s back, so they don’t improve visibility very much).
You could also use a camouflaged neoprene vest while waiting in the blind but throw a high-visibility orange vest over this to keep your dog visible while heading to and from the truck.
You may need to play around with the adjustable straps to help achieve a good fit in this manner, and it may be necessary to order the outer vest in a larger size so that it will fit over the inner vest. But, don’t hesitate to use two different vests if it will help your dog remain comfortable and stay safe.
Things to Look for When Picking a Hunting Vest
Hunting vests vary widely in terms of durability, efficacy, and comfort – even within a given style category. To ensure you get the best vest for your dog, try to select a vest that satisfies the following criteria:
No matter what style hunting vest you choose for your dog, you must select one that fits securely. This will help prevent abrasions and provide a good fit. Some vests allow you to adjust the length of the straps via plastic sliders, while others use Velcro straps to provide flexibility. Either style will work, just choose the one that you feel best suits your pup.
Durability is imperative when picking a hunting vest – low-quality vests will simply not hold up to the rigors of fieldwork. Typically, you’ll want to look for materials like canvas, neoprene or thick nylon, and avoid thin, flimsy materials, which are certain to rip easily.
Unless you are looking for a camouflaged vest to help keep your pooch hidden from passing birds, you’ll want to select a model that is brightly colored and comes with reflective trim. This will help increase your dog’s visibility even further when hunting in low-light conditions, and it’ll also make your pup easier to see during nighttime walks in suburbia.
Leash or Collar Access
You don’t want to be forced to remove your dog’s vest every time you need to attach his collar. Fortunately, some of the best hunting vests make it easy to access your dog’s collar or harness while he’s wearing it (you can also find plenty of dog coats with built-in harnesses if you’d prefer).
The Five Best Vests for Hunting Dogs
It can be overwhelming to browse through the myriad hunting vests for dogs available on the market. But we’ll try to make this a little easier by providing one recommendation for each type of hunting vest below.
1. SafetyPUP XD Dog Reflective Vest
About: The SafetyPUP XD Reflective Vest is the best option available for increasing the visibility of your dog. It is a great choice for upland bird hunters working areas with relatively light vegetation, as it’ll make them easy to see without impeding their mobility.
- SIZING - Fits Dogs 61 lbs to 100 lbs. Chest Diameter 27.5" - 35.75"
- DURABILITY - 300D Oxford Weave fabric and reinforced stitching ensures a more durable vest to...
- SAFETY Blaze orange fabric and reflective trim make your pet highly visible to both cars and hunters...
- COMFORTABLE - Easy adjustable straps and dual sided fabric keeps the vest comfortably in place...
Features: The SafetyPUP XD Vest is made from 300D Oxford Weave fabric, to ensure it lasts for years. The eye-popping blaze orange color is visible from long distances, and it is trimmed with reflective material for even greater visibility. The vest stays in place via a Velcro belly strap.
The vest is available in six sizes: extra-small, small, medium, large, and extra-large. It is backed by a 100% money-back guarantee, so you can shop with confidence.
The vast majority of the owners who tried the SafetyPUP XD Vest were pleased with the product. Most report that the vest greatly improved their dog’s visibility, was quite durable and easy to keep clean. It’s also available in sizes to suit most dogs and affordably priced.
Negative reviews were very rare. A rare few owners reported incidents the material ripped, but such reports were drastically outweighed by the number of owners who praised the vest’s quality and durability.
2. Browning Neoprene Vest
About: If you want to keep your dog warm while diving into icy waters, the Browning Neoprene Vest is a great option. But this vest will not only help keep your dog warm while swimming (or waiting patiently in the boat), it will help protect his chest against abrasions and cuts too.
- BROWNING | Since 1878, Browning has continued to represent "The Best There Is" in firearms and...
- QUALITY MATERIALS | 3mm neoprene fabric featuring authentic Realtree MAX-5 Camo promotes enhanced...
- TRIM-TO-FIT | Vests are designed to be trimmed in common friction areas for improved comfort and...
Features: The Browning Vest is made from 3-millimeter neoprene fabric, and features a cut-to-fit design, which helps you tailor the fit to your dog’s body. This helps ensure that the vest won’t rub his armpits or chest while wearing it all day long.
The vest is available in two color patterns: Realtree MAX-5 CAMO and Mossy Oak Bottomlands to match the habitat you’re hunting and help your dog keep a low profile. Front and top Velcro strips help ensure a good fit and keep the vest in place.
The Browning Neoprene Vest also comes with a built-in protective chest plate, and it is equipped with a handle on the back to help you control him when necessary or pull him out of the water if he starts getting tired. It is available in three sizes: small, medium, and large.
Most owners who tried the Browning Neoprene Vest were happy with their purchase. Neoprene is a great material for keeping your dog warm and comfortable, the included handle is a great feature, and the choice of two different camouflage patterns helps ensure you can keep your dog hidden while waiting for the ducks to appear.
The most concerning thing with this vest is the lack of a high number of user reviews. However, Browning is a well-known, high-quality manufacturer of a variety of hunting and outdoor products, so it isn’t as big of a gamble as it would be with a lesser-known manufacturer’s product
3. Mendota Products Skid Plate
About: The Mendota Products Skid Plate is designed to protect your dog’s chest and belly from the thorns and sticks he’ll encounter during a day in the field. And although it isn’t the vest’s primary purpose, it will also help improve his visibility slightly, which provides additional value.
- SKID PLATE: The Skid Plate protects your dog’s chest, stomach, and side areas that are hardest hit...
- MATERIAL: Made with two layers of water resistant 1000 denier Cordura nylon. Adjustable strap system...
- TRUSTED: Recommended by veterinarians to protect post-surgical wounds. Used by hunters and trainers...
- MENDOTA GUARANTEE: Mendota's gear for dogs is built to last, we guarantee it for the life of your...
Features: The Mendota Products Skid Plate is made from 1000 denier Cordura nylon, which is comfortable for your dog to wear and durable enough to last for years. It’s water-resistant, so it’ll also work well in wet conditions.
The vest is held in place with nylon webbing straps with quick-release buckles, which make it easy to put the vest on or take it off. Adjustable sliders allow you to tweak the vest to fit your dog’s body perfectly and keep the protective portions of the vest in place.
The vest is available in four sizes: small, medium, large and extra-large.
Most owners were pleased with the Mendota Products Skid Plate and reported that it worked exactly as intended. It is a great way to protect your dog’s chest and increase his visibility without impairing his mobility or comfort.
A few owners noted that the material was somewhat rough. While this may mean increased durability, it also makes ensuring a good fit even more important to prevent abrasions. This is particularly true for dogs with short coats.
4. Camo Pet Life Preserver Jacket
About: The Camo Pet Life Preserver Jacket is designed to help increase your dog’s buoyancy and provide an additional measure of safety while he’s retrieving ducks and geese from the water. And to help ensure that your dog remains hard for approaching birds to see, it is covered in a camouflage print.
- ✅ COOL CAMO PRINT - The camouflage print featured on our dog life vest is always a fave among...
- ✅ ADJUSTABLE DESIGN - To ensure a secure fit, the pet life jacket is equipped with ultra durable...
- ✅ REFLECTIVE DETAILS - Our adjustable dog life jacket is also enhanced with reflective accents...
Features: The Camo Pet Life Preserver features a three-layer design. The two inner layers are made from polyester and nylon, while the outer layer is made from mesh to ensure your dog remains comfortable and is able to dry out relatively quickly once he’s returned to the boat.
A padded strap encircles your dog’s chest and two additional straps wrap around your dog’s belly to keep it in place. Quick-release connectors make the vest easy to put on or take off. A handle is attached to the top and a plastic D ring is sewn to the top and serves as a great place to attach a leash or tether.
The vest is available in five sizes: extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large. The manufacturer recommends erring on the large side when making your choice.
The Camo Pet Life Preserver Jacket gives you an easy way to keep your duck-retrieving dog safe on your next hunt. Most owners reported that it fit well and kept their dog afloat, and several specifically praised the attached handle.
There weren’t many complaints about the Camo Pet Life Preserver Jacket – most owners were very pleased.
5. Ruffwear Track Jacket Dog Vest
About: The Ruffwear Track Jacket is a field-tested garment, designed to increase your dog’s visibility, without impeding his ability to work alongside you during your next hunting trip.
- SAFETY JACKET: A high-visibility, reflective jacket for extending adventures into the evening;...
- MAXIMUM VISIBILITY: Blaze orange fabric and reflective side panels for daytime and nighttime...
Features: The Ruffwear Track Jacket is a lightweight vest, made from durable, waterproof polyester. It is blaze orange to make sure you and everyone else in your party can see your pup, and it even features reflective strips for additional visibility. The vest also includes a loop for attaching the Ruffwear Beacon Safety Light (sold separately).
The vest comes with well-designed straps to ensure it remains in place, as well as low-profile, side-release buckles to make it easy to put on and take off. You can machine-wash the vest (use the gentle cycle and cold water) when necessary, and it hang dries very quickly.
Most owners thought the Ruffwear Track Jacket worked very well. Several considered it to be the best safety vest they’d purchased for their pup, and a few reported that it had worked well for several years.
There just aren’t many downsides to the Ruffwear Track Jacket. It won’t keep your dog very warm, so it isn’t an ideal choice for cold climates, but it will work in most other scenarios (it’ll even help keep your dog’s body dry in the rain).
Do you use a hunting vest for your dog? Tell us all about your experiences in the comments. Let us know which model you use and what type of hunting you do with your dog. We’d also love to hear about any especially helpful features the vest provides as well as any problems you’ve experienced.