Pooch PFDs: Why Your Dog Needs a Life Jacket

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
Dogs are known to be avid swimmers, but it’s important to outfit your pup with a pooch PFD. Plus, we give your our picks for the best dog life jackets.

One of the key deciding factors to where we camp during the summer is the quality of the leash free zone available to vacationing pooches. One of our favorites has the most amazing beach for ball-throwing and better still, a large cap rock where sticks can be tossed for dogs that love to feel the air between them and the water before splash down. During one visit when our big black lab Chase jumped in to fetch a stick and just kept on swimming, out past the target and seemingly towards an island a couple miles out. It took a lot of frantic calling to get his attention and ultimately turn him back towards shore, but such is the nature of the water-loving pooch that seems compelled to paddle to exhaustion

Let’s face it, while we all love to see our little guys enjoying water sports it’s as important to monitor their activities and whereabouts as those of a young child. Rivers have currents, docks have entry points but sometimes few suitable exits for a tired dog and poor judgment calls (à la Chase) can result in longer than expected swims and pooped pooches struggling to find shore.

Related: 6 Salty Safety Tips For Your Dog On A Boat

I know we all love to see our dogs swimming commando but there are times when a little support is needed to ensure his safety and our peace of mind. Thankfully today’s manufacturers have addressed this need via a series of streamlined designs that ensure ease of mobility and superior safety features for our water-loving sidekicks.

Some tips to making the right choice for your pet?

Buoyancy: Make sure the vest is capable of keeping a dog the size of your pooch afloat. Next, determine how it keeps your dog afloat – some have flotation devices under the belly as well as at the sides to keep his torso fully afloat while others have support around his neck to keep only his head above water until help arrives.

Color: Pick something bright that you can spot easily should he head out on his own or that a boater / jet-skier can see should he tumble off a boat in the middle of a lake. Some versions even have reflective material should your pet disappear at dusk. Bottom line – bright equals visible.

Handles: If your pooch is likely to swim off the back of a boat or dock, you may need to be able to lift him back up out of the water. A well-constructed jacket with built-in handles will make your job that much easier.

Fit: Think too tight shoes. If it’s uncomfortable he isn’t going to want to wear it so make sure your pet’s vest is the proper size and allows him to lie, sit and relieve himself.

As for who makes the best vest, here are some of the top designs on the market:

Outward Hound’s High-Flotation Neoprene Life Jacket. Not only does it tick many of the above boxes in terms of comfort, visibility and easy exit from the water, any scuba diver knows that Neoprene offers a little extra insulation for temporary protection from chilly waters. The organization also offers a super step-by-step video to help you size Rover up for his life jacket.

Ruffwear’s K-9 Float Coat is another flotation device that meets many of the recommended features including reflective panels, adjustable straps to keep it comfortable for your pooch as well as strategic placement of the closed cell foam panels which allows for a natural swimming position when your pet is wearing it.

EZYDogs’s Doggy Flotation Vest offers adjustable neoprene strapping so you can ensure an ideal fit as well as reflective piping for dogs who like to swim at dusk. Interesting feature is a leash attachment loop at the top which allows you to fit Rover up in his vest, then walk him to the boat / let him swim alongside your boat without losing track of him.

Kurgo’s Surf N Turf Coat is a clever design that is not only a life vest but also a three-season shell in one. The flotation piece includes reflective trim, high visibility colors, two handles for easy extraction from the water and for some reason, a bottle opener! Remove the flotation devices and you have a waterproof shell that can take your pooch through the fall and winter.

NRS CFD Dog Life Jacket is designed for rugged dogs that are likely to expose their flotation device to a lot of wear and tear. Designed using the organization’s heaviest 1000-denier fabric for the shell, it offers five points of adjustment to ensure a comfy fit, handles, reflective trim as well as a secret zippered pocket for snacks and treats (I’m thinking a zip-loc bag may be in order here).

Mary Simpson is an animal-loving writer and communications professional. A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include orange tabby Chico, tuxedo Simon, and jet black Owen. She enjoys running, politics, exploring local wine regions and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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