Sailing, kayaking or just walking along the shore are fun activities for the whole family, but what about the four-legged members? Anyone who owns a dog knows that many are strong (and often enthusiastic) swimmers so they’re fine around water, right? But can all dogs swim or do they need a bit of help?
Not always. While most dogs can swim, they’ll eventually get tired. If you’re sailing and your dog jumps or falls overboard it could be a while before you can turn and sail back to the rescue. That could end in tragedy unless you have the appropriate safety gear – a doggie life vest. Flotation devices for dogs are available and they’re not just for emergencies either. If you enjoy kayaking and there’s no space for your dog on board now there’s a solution, because with a life vest for dogs, he can swim along beside you over long distances. Sounds like fun? We think so, so here are some of the top life jackets for dogs.
With seven sizes available you can get a K9 Float Coat to fit just about any dog, from a dachshund to a German shepherd. Each size has a generous 5-6 inch adjustment range too, so if you buy one for your puppy you won’t have to upgrade a few weeks later.
So what’s it like? In short it’s an excellent piece of gear, very well made to a clever design. The Float Coat is a one-piece unit, so there’s no chance of a playful dog managing to wriggle out of it; more importantly there are no dangling straps or buckles that could get dangerously snagged. Instead there’s a simple body with the adjustable collar permanently attached. The straps that adjust the collar tuck neatly away into an attached pocket. The jacket itself isn’t bulky but still gives lots of support, thanks to its high quality foam. It also lets your dog float in a natural swimming position to minimize fatigue.
Nice detail touches include the sturdy grab handle on the back, which is invaluable for hauling your dog back into the boat – or holding onto and letting him pull your kayak or tube. The Float Coat is available in two shades of yellow and two more of red. They all feature reflective trim, making them highly visible in any conditions. This flotation aid is perfect for just about any water-loving dog.
The Outward Hound is a cheaper option than the K9 Float Coat and isn’t quite as neat – there are quite a few external straps – but it’s available in six sizes and will accommodate almost any size dog, from a 90 pound Labrador right down to the smallest yorkie or pug. It’s one of the best puppy and small dog life jackets around. The Outward Hound is still a high quality product, too, with a neat under-chin front float to help your dog keep its head above water even in rough conditions. If the K9 is out of your price range, or you have a very small dog, this is a great choice. If you’re not sure if your dog needs to wear a life jacket, it may be a good idea to start with a lower price option such as this one.
Falling midway between the Float Coat and Outward Hound in both price and features, the DFD is a smart, well put together one-piece design with an external adjustment harness. It seems to be very comfortable and uses high quality materials; the shell is tough Cordura, while the adjustment straps are neoprene. Five sizes cover girths from 19 to 48 inches, so this isn’t ideal for very small dogs, but most owners will find one that fits. The EzyDog DFD is one of the best large dog life jackets available. The DFD also has a strong back grab handle and hi-vis reflective detailing.
Another mid-range one piece design, the Paws Aboard looks quite boxy at first glance. That’s deceptive though, because its foam panels are quite soft and flexible. The collar and belly straps secure with both Velcro and buckles, for security and easy adjustment., and there’s a good grab strap on the back. Where this jacket shines is on dogs with a large chest; if you have a powerful breed like a boxer or bulldog this will fit them comfortably without restricting their movements. It’s available in red or yellow, both with reflective trim.