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Most dogs love a good romp in the water and are naturally inclined to swim, splash, and have fun in any body of water. Whether you’re heading for a pool, river, lake, or the ocean, it’s important to keep your pet’s safety in mind and choose a well-fitting dog life jacket.
It’s true that most canines instinctively know how to “doggy paddle,” but never be overconfident about your dog’s ability to swim. A scared or tired dog can begin to struggle to stay afloat in the water and even strong swimmers can be overcome by a powerful current. For safety’s sake, always use a life jacket when taking your dog on a boat or for dogs that aren’t naturally strong swimmers or face mobility issues or advancing age.
When shopping for a dog life jacket, the most important factor to consider is the size of the jacket. You’ll need to know your dog’s weight and chest measurement but some jackets may require you to measure the body length and neck circumference as well. You should choose a life jacket that will maximize visibility, looking for a bright color, and perhaps even a version with reflective strips. A handle is an essential feature; it can help you to hold on or retrieve your dog in an emergency. Other factors to consider include a D-ring to attach a leash and the placement of floatation panels. With a well-fitting dog life jacket, you and your pup can safely have fun on the water.
Here, the best dog life jackets.
Best Overall: Outward Hound Granby Dog Life Jacket
Our top dog life jacket pick is the Outward Hound Granby Dog Life Jacket. This affordable jacket comes in a variety of sizes and provides everything you need to keep your dog safe. Ranging from x-small to x-large, Outward Hound can fit a dog ranging from 11” to 44” in girth. It comes in either plain orange or a fun fish design, and features dual grab handles for easy rescue if your pup finds himself in need of a quick lift to safety. Two belly buckles and a chest strap help guarantee a perfect fit around your pup while surrounding foam panels keep him afloat.
Outward Hound is a popular choice among dog owners. Reviewers say this affordable life jacket stands up to regular use and isn’t bulky or uncomfortable for all-day wear. If you’re hunting for a great low-cost, high-quality option, this dog life jacket is a great choice.
Best Budget: Vivaglory Ripstop Dog Life Jacket
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for your pet. The Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket comes in eight vibrant colors and five sizes, and fits dogs with chests from 12” to 38”. An easy-to-use grab handle allows you to help your pup out of the water and reflective strips keep him visible, even in low light. A comfortable velcro and buckle system keeps your dog comfortable for hours of much-needed exercise.
Reviewers appreciate the affordability of the Vivaglory Jacket and say it’s easy to put on and take off. No matter your budget, keeping your dog safe is key, and with a lower price product like Vivaglory, you can still enjoy the dog days of summer.
Best for Small Dogs: Frisco Dog Life Jacket
You want to be sure that your pup’s life jacket is secure and fits him just right, but it can be difficult to find the perfect sizing for smaller dogs. The Frisco Dog Life Jacket comes in five sizes, with the smallest aimed towards teacup pups, such as chihuahuas and toy poodles. Plus, though it offers optimal protection, it’s not overly bulky or heavy, so it won’t weigh your small dog down. The x-small jacket comes with one grab handle and three buckles to ensure a perfect fit. The bright orange color helps you spot your pup in an emergency, and soft 20mm foam panels keep him buoyant and above water.
Owners say the Frisco Dog Life Jacket is well-priced and durable. They also mention that unlike some competitors, it fits well according to the size chart.
Best for Large Dogs: EzyDog Doggy Life Vest Jacket
Many mistakenly think that their large breed dogs don’t need a life jacket, especially working breeds such as Labradors. But the truth is, even your Olympic canine swimmer needs water protection. The EzyDog Doggy Life Vest is a great choice for large breed dogs because its largest size fits pups over 90 pounds. With a safety grab handle and reflective bands, the EzyDog is designed with your large dog’s safety in mind. It comes in five sizes and yellow, red and camo colors. It also features a strong D-ring for a leash—and even a zippered storage pocket, so you can hide a few treats for post-swim.
Dog owners say the EzyDog Life Vest is a great choice for large, active breeds who may be a little rougher than normal on their gear. Many reviewers say it holds up against strong pups and provides a secure, safe fit.
Best Design: SwimWays Sea Squirts Dog Life Vest
Though your pup’s safety always comes first, we love products that add a little something extra just because. The Swimways Sea Squirts Dog Life Vest is a fun life jacket with a little surprise: a shark fin. Swimways comes in small and medium sizes and works best for dogs between 15-50 pounds. The jacket has three buckles for a secure fit and is made of flexible foam to keep your pup above water all day long. The soft top fin adds a fun twist, one that’s sure to put a smile on your face as your shark pup glides around the water.
Dog owners rave about the Swimways Vest, remarking that it’s an affordable way to upgrade from a typical life jacket.
Best for Active Dogs: RUFFWEAR Dog Life Jacket
There are many different reasons you may purchase a dog life jacket, but some watersports are a little more intense than others. If you and your pup like to ride crashing waves or kayak for hours, a rugged jacket such as the Ruffwear K9 Life Jacket is your best choice. Though you’ll spend a little more, this life jacket is designed for active dogs, providing enough coverage to keep him safe without restricting his movement in the water. It comes in six sizes, xx-small through x-large, and features sheltered side buckles that won’t get in the way during use. Though the jacket features reflective strips for low-light situations, you can even add on a Ruffwear light to keep your pup safe in the dark.
Reviewers are extremely happy with the Ruffwear product, saying that while it’s slightly more expensive than many of its competitors, it’s well worth the price. Whether you’re taking your pup on a paddleboarding adventure or you simply want a little added protection, this jacket is a great pick.
Best Multipurpose: Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket
The Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket is perfect for those beach days spent on and off the water. This durable jacket works as both a rain jacket and a life vest, providing protection against the elements when your pup is on land and buoyancy when he’s on the water. It comes in five sizes, and its bright red color makes it easy to spot your dog. Two traverse handles allow for easy maneuverability in and out of the water, and every product includes a lifetime warranty against defects.
Because the Kurgo Jacket is lightweight, many owners use it on rainy day walks in addition to long boat rides. If you want a product that will get a lot of use all year long, consider the Kurgo Surf N Turf Jacket.
Best Durable: NRS Dog Life Jacket
If you’re worried about your best friend wearing out their life vest, we love LL Bean’s ultra-durable NRS Dog Life Jacket. Its heavy-duty handles are strong enough to haul your dog in and out of the water, with buckles to ensure it doesn’t accidentally come loose. The jacket’s shell consists of 1,000-denier Cordura nylon, which is simultaneously strong and lightweight. The vest also includes reflective tape for safe nighttime swimming and is available in sizes ranging from x-small to x-large.
LL Bean is one of the top manufacturers of outdoor goods, so it's not surprising their canine products earn rave reviews from buyers. Several write that the NRS Dog Life Jacket is comfortable and easy to put on, and feels incredibly secure thanks to its handles and high-quality construction. If you’re looking for a life jacket that’s built to last, this is the one.
The Outward Hound Granby Dog Life Jacket (view at Amazon) is our top pick because it features dual grab handles, a neck float, and adjustable straps. It's available in a wide range of sizes, which makes it a solid choice for dogs large or small. You can't put a price on safety, but the Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket (view at Amazon) is a good option if you're on a budget. It's available in eight colors and five sizes and still includes essential safety features, including a grab handle and reflective strips for visibility.
What to Look For
The most important thing to look for in a canine life jacket is the right size for your dog. A well-fitting life jacket can be a lifesaver for your pet. Use your dog’s weight and measurements along with the manufacturer’s size chart to find the right size life jacket. In addition, most versions are equipped with adjustable buckles that will help you dial in the fit so that the jacket fits just right, rather than being too tight or too loose. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that adjustable buckles can make up for ordering the wrong size life jacket for your dog.
Many dog life jackets are available in bright, bold colors for good reason—they improve visibility. If your dog is in the water, a brightly colored life vest can make it easier to spot your pet. You may also consider looking for a life jacket with reflective strips if you will be using a life jacket on your dog in dusky or dark conditions.
Handle and D-ring
Look for a dog life jacket with a secure, sturdy handle on the back. The handle can be used to pull your dog from the water in the event of an emergency. Be sure that the handle is designed and attached in a way that will support the weight of your pet. It’s a good idea to test it out before heading to the water for the first time.
In addition to a handle, many dog life vests have an attachment point for a leash. This D-ring is usually located near the base of the handle and gives you a spot to secure a leash, in the event that you remove your dog’s collar while using the life vest.
Buoyancy is the primary purpose of a canine life jacket, so check out the placement of floatation panels. Look for a jacket that provides balanced floatation and allows for a natural swimming motion. Ideally, there should be floatation panels along the front, sides, and bottom of the jacket. Some versions also include a neck floatation panel that will help dogs to keep their head above water.
Do dogs need life jackets?
A life jacket is a good idea for any dog that spends time on, in, or around the water. Though most dogs instinctively know how to swim, they may grow tired or become frightened—inhibiting their ability to continue swimming. Plus, most dog life jackets have a handle on the back that you can use to grab your dog in a potentially dangerous situation.
Do dogs have to wear life jackets on boats?
Laws may not require your dog to wear a life jacket while on a boat and the U.S. Coast Guard does not regulate floatation devices for dogs. However, a life jacket is a good idea for any dog on a boat. In the event that your dog falls overboard (or jumps into the water), the life jacket can provide buoyancy support and also provide you with a handle to assist in pulling your dog back in.
How do I measure my dog for a life jacket?
Most manufacturers of dog life jackets provide specific measuring instructions. Generally, your dog’s weight, chest, and neck measurements will determine what size life jacket is required. To measure your dog’s chest, place a tape measure behind the armpits and at the bottom of the rib cage—this should be the widest part of the chest. Bring the tape over the dog’s back and down to the rib cage to find the total girth of your dog’s chest. You may also need to measure your dog’s neck and body length to find a life jacket that fits securely and comfortably.
Can dogs wear human life jackets?
You should always use a proper fitting canine life jacket for your pet, rather than attempting to make a human life jacket fit. Life jackets designed for dogs have support panels and buckles in the right places to support canine anatomy and ensure a secure fit. In addition, most dog life jackets have a D-ring for a leash, along with a handle, to keep firm hold on your pet.
How should a dog life jacket fit?
A properly fitting dog life jacket should fit close to the body without being overly restrictive. It should allow your dog to breathe easily and also allow for a full range of motion—including walking, running, and jumping.