Staff, Courtesy of Outdoor Hound
Before you load your dog in the car for a day of kayaking, frolicking in the pool or hitting the surf, make sure you pack the life jackets—for both of you. Not every pooch is a natural swimmer, and even if yours is a pro, she can still tire, making it hard to keep her head above water. So, find the best dog life vest for your pooch—then go have some fun in the sun.
What to Look for
Before we get to the reviews, let’s consider the must-have features. While there are no Coast Guard standards for dog life jackets (the way there are for human ones), here’s what you should look for:
D-ring: Your dog’s life jacket should come with a D-ring so you can attach a leash to keep your dog close, in the water and out.
Handle: A handle sewn into the top of the coat makes it easier to haul your pup in and out of the water. These also help you teach your dog to swim because they let you hold the handle like training wheels until your dog is a confident paddler.
Good visibility: Bright colors and reflective strips make it easy to see your pooch no matter the weather, day or night.
Balanced flotation: Balanced floatation works with a dog’s swimming ability, not against it. Too much buoyancy—or flotation in the wrong places—can flip the dog or put them in a position they can’t swim in. Look for flotation in the belly, back and sides. If your dog isn’t a strong swimmer, tires easily, or has a short snout, also look for a front flotation pad to keep his head out of the water, even if he’s incapacitated.
The proper fit: When your dog’s life jacket is properly fitted, it keeps the coat snugly in place without bogging her down in the water. For a custom fit, try a jacket that bases sizes on the dog’s girth and comes with adjustable straps. Some float coats also offer quick-release buckles to make fast work of taking off the jacket.
How We Selected
All the dog life vests we reviewed rated at least four stars and most of them have ratings of 4.5 and better. We considered the must-haves on the list above, along with a range of styles and colors, including a couple of cute options like shark fins and mermaid tails. (Who says fun can’t be functional?) We also covered a host of price points, from budget options to top-of-the-line, so you can find the right fit for your doggo—and your wallet.
Best for Small Dogs
Outward Hound Standley Sport Life Jacket for Dogs
This durable, high-quality dog life jacket features a front float, which fits under the chin, to help keep your pup’s head above water. That’s especially good for small dogs, inexperienced (or less strong) swimmers and those with short snouts. However, this float coat might not be the best fit for larger breeds, since the handles aren’t reinforced. In some cases, they broke under the stress of hauling big dogs out of the water.
Best for Visibility
Fragralley High Visibility Dog Life Vest
While this dog life vest gets top marks for its superior buoyancy and human-grade materials, what sets it apart is its range of eye-popping colors, which make it easy to spot your dog, even during bad weather or at night.
This is a good fit for larger and naturally buoyant pups (like Labs, poodles, and Portuguese water dogs). Since most of its lift is in the back, it can make it difficult for short breeds, small breeds, or front-heavy pooches like pugs and bulldogs to keep their heads above water.
Outward Hound Grandby Dog Life Jacket
With more than 17,000 ratings—90 percent of them 4 stars and up—the Granby is a fan favorite. It’s made to fit a variety of canines, from corgis to Afghans, with adjustable straps based on girth. It’s got extra safety features like reflective accents, which make your pup visible even in the dark. And it’s perfect for all swimmers from newbies to old pros.
A few pet parents noted that if the jacket fits on the large side, it can slide and make swimming difficult. So, measure carefully.
Snik-S Dog Life Jacket Shark With Shark Fin
Several dog life jackets have shark fins, but most position them over the hind quarters, which can cause extra lift at the back and knock your friend off balance. The mid-back fin and the ultra-thin fabric of this dog life jacket help keep your canine in a natural swimming position. Bonus: The thin fabric dries quickly when you’re back on land.
Users mentioned wishing the handle were a little sturdier and padded to make it easier to pick up your pup. This float coat can also run a little large, so you might want to order a size down.
Best for Active Dogs
Vivaglory Neoprene Sports Style Dog Life Jacket
This sporty, neoprene life jacket is designed with three adjustable straps and side-release buckles, so it’s as easy to modify the fit after your pup gets wet as it is before. The sporty styling adjusts to both the neck and body, making it comfortable and easy to move in, so Fifi can get around easily, whether she’s running in the sand or chasing a ball into the water. Make sure the Velcro hooks face away from skin—otherwise it could cause some irritation.
Queenmore Ripstop Dog Safety Vest
This life jacket dries quickly, adjusts easily, keeps your dog safe with reflective accents, and does it all with whimsical mermaid appeal. The neck, belly and back floats offer all-around buoyancy. The strong, low-profile handle makes it easy to scoop your little mermaid out of the water. Some reviews noted that this might be better for smaller canines, since a couple of breeds over 50 pounds had difficulty staying afloat.
Best at Staying Put
Pawz Pet Products Neoprene Dog Life Jacket
This patriotic life jacket hits all the basics: It’s reflective, has a handle and sports a D-ring for leashes. It also has heavy-duty hook-and-loop fasteners around the belly and neck that keep it snugly in place, even when it gets wet. One reviewer noted that the jacket never loosened when submerged the way other jackets did. The weight of the material, which makes it buoyant, could also make it hot in the summer. So, watch your friend during warm weather to make sure he’s not overheating.
EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Dog Life Vest Jacket
This attractive float coat combines high-performance materials and innovative design to keep your pooch safe wherever she roams. Plus, the ultra-buoyant material promotes an easy swimming position, perfect for canines of all ages and abilities. The company commits their dog life jackets to rigorous testing on water and land to ensure they are both comfortable and ergonomic.
Some users noted that getting the right fit with thick-chested pups could be tough, so boxer and Rottie owners might want to look elsewhere.
Best for Large Dogs
Kurgo Surf n Turf Dog Life Jacket
This clever life jacket doubles as a personal floatation device and a raincoat (just remove the floatation layer and you’re ready for stormy weather). Its two handles make it easier to lift your dog out of the water—great for large or heavy breeds. It’s also constructed of rugged ripstop material, which means it’ll stand up to whatever your pup dishes out.
The brightly colored vest comes with reflective trim for nighttime visibility and two metal D-rings make leash-connecting easy. There’s no padding under the belly straps, so watch for skin irritation if you’re lifting your pup out more than once or twice a trip.
Best for the Planet
RUFFWEAR Float Coat
This jacket’s PVC-free GAIA foam panels are soft and comfortable and, best of all, good for the planet. The shape of the jacket supports a natural swimming position, and the adjustable neck fits a range of canines, from Chihuahuas on up.
Water-compatible webbing remains stable when wet, so it won’t stretch or loosen in the water. It has a low-profile handle that lets you easily help your dog onto dry land. The only downside is the price. This is a more expensive life jacket, but the quality shows in the ratings—93 percent give it 5 stars.
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