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Boating, surfing, kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding — these popular water sports are even more fun with your dog. Water safety is as important for dogs as it is for children. Your dog should always wear a dog life jacket in case he tires, needs an extra lift and to prevent a water-related drowning. Many people refer to canine floatation devices as dog life jackets or dog life vests.
Criteria for best dog life jackets
“A canine flotation device supports dogs as they swim with strategically placed foam panels that support a dog’s natural swimming position,” says Becky Hendee, senior marketing manager for outdoor dog gear and clothing company Ruffwear. “We recommend looking for a canine flotation device that is built to be buoyant while allowing for unencumbered movement.”
Another important feature of a dog life jacket is a strong handle on top to help your dog get out of the water. For example, if your dog falls (or jumps!) off your paddle board, you can grab the handle to help him get back on. Becky also recommends looking for a canine flotation device with reflective properties, allowing you to easily see your pet, and a D-ring for attaching a leash.
Make sure the dog life jacket you buy meets the following criteria:
- brightly colored, so easy to see
- allows for unencumbered movement
- handle on top
- reflective properties
- D-ring for attaching a leash
- adjustable straps for better fit
List of best dog life jackets
The following top three dog life jackets (canine flotation devices) all have our must-have-to-buy criteria and the companies that make them have an excellent reputation for making outdoor gear for dogs.
This is a pretty affordable flotation device at $15.99 to $27.99. Comes in five sizes for dogs from 5 to 100 pounds. There is a chart available with both weight and girth measurements, which is helpful and sizing is important. Available in four bright colors: orange, green, pink and yellow. Plus, it has a front neck float to help keep your dog’s head above water. There is a dual top grab handle, adjustable straps for a better fit and it has reflective accents.
Comfortable yet safe, this life jacket has neoprene lining with high-contrast color and reflective accents. Comes in bright red or bright green and five sizes from XS to XL. Costs varies depending on size, from $44.95 to $69.95. There’s a nifty size chart on the Kurgo site and how-to video, where you measure neck, chest and back, or you can contact the customer-care team for help. The dog life jacket has two steel D-rings (one doubles as a bottle opener) for leash attachment and two traverse handles. Plus, there are adjustable chest and belly straps for a better fit.
This is a premium fully-featured dog life jacket, costing $89.95. It’s available in six sizes to better fit dogs of all shapes and sizes. There is convenient sizing tool where you just need to measure the widest part of your dog’s rib cage. Comes in three colors: red sumac, wave orange and blue dusk. Has a strong top grab handle, a leash clip-in and reflective trim. Made with PVC-free foam for maneuverability and comfort. The neck closure is adjustable for a better fit.
How to size a dog life jacket
Generally, you’ll find canine flotation devices available in sizes for small, medium or large dog breeds, with some brands offering extra-extra-small, extra-small and extra-large versions as well. Look for a canine flotation device with straps that allow you to make small adjustments to fit your dog’s specific size.
- A canine flotation device should fit snuggly but not too tightly and should not cover your dog’s entire back.
- Your dog should be able to move freely while wearing the device but should not be able to wriggle out of it.
- Make sure you can slide no more than two fingers between the device and your dog.
With a properly-fitted canine flotation device, your dog will be ready to join you on your next water-related outing. As Becky says, “Canine flotation devices allow humans and their dogs to continue their waterborne adventures with confidence, safety and fun!”