Best Dog Life Jackets: All You Need to Know

With summer in full swing, trips to the pool, lake, and other fun areas are aplenty — and we certainly wouldn’t want our four-legged friends to miss out on all the fun!

But just as with humans, dogs should always wear a personal flotation device when in or around bodies of water, including pools.

We’re not going to just cover the best dog life jackets, we’ll also cover why your dog needs a life jacket, what features to look for, what exactly a dog life jacket is, as well as how to get a proper fit for your dog.

So, read on and look forward to your next day in the water with your pup at your side.

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best dog life jacket

Why Your Dog Needs a Life Jacket

You might think your dog doesn’t need a life vest or jacket because they are already a good swimmer but there are a number of reasons you should put one on your dog.

Dog’s can tire easily in the water. When your dog gets tired before they reach land they could drown if there is no-one around to get them out of the water.

Dog life jackets have a handle on them that makes it easy for you to pull your dog out of the water if they get into trouble.

The bright colors on the jackets or vests help you and other people out on the water to clearly see where your dog is. This can prevent accidents, especially where boats and other water craft are concerned.

If something happens to you out in the water, your dog will have a better chance of getting to shore with a life jacket than without.

They are a great way to introduce your dog to water and swimming and keep them safe at the same time.

Recommended Reading: The Best Ways to Exercise Your Dog

Features to Look for in a Dog Life Jacket

Bright color and reflective strips. This will make sure your dog is highly visible in the water to you and others out there.

Buoyancy. This is the key to keeping your dog afloat. Different vests and jackets with have floatation around the neck, belly, back, and sides.

Buoyancy around the neck and chest are particularly important to keep your dog’s head out of the water.

Handles. These make it easy to grab your dog out of the water quickly. One handle is fine for puppies and small dogs, but you may need 2 handles for larger and heavier dogs.

Size and fit. Take the right measurements (we cover this below) and make sure you buy the right fitting jacket for your dog. This will make sure the jacket stays on them in the water so they don’t slip out.

Adjustable. Most good life jackets will have adjustable straps and fittings so you can make sure your dog gets a good fit.

Dog Life Jackets vs. Dog Life Vests

For starters, let’s clear up the simple differences between dog life vests and dog life jackets. A life vest for dogs is smaller, easier to put on and remove, and mainly covers just the front of your pup’s body.

Dog life vests are most suitable for safer situations in which the body of water is not too turbulent, like a swimming pool. They will be smaller and less restrictive, produce only minor amounts of buoyancy, and have fewer buckles or snaps so they are quick and easy to take on and off.

Dog life jackets should be your only choice for use in and around larger or more turbulent bodies of water. If you’re taking your pup near a rough ocean or on a boat ride on a river or lake, your choice absolutely has to be a life jacket.

Dog life jackets will give your dog more buoyancy. They cover most of your dog’s body, have bright coloring, and more snaps or buckles. This makes putting them on and taking them off more time-consuming.

While they will tend to be more expensive and difficult to deal with due to the necessary increases in materials and production, a life jacket rather than a vest is the proper choice in almost all cases.

Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about which is the right one for your four-legged friend…

Best Dog Life Vest

If you do decide you only need a vest for your dog then the FurryFriends Dog Life Jacket is a cute and fun option.

It is a functional dog floatation device that supports your dog while swimming.

The cute and flexible dorsal fin on the tip provides a quick way to grab your dog out of the water when needed.

It is made of heavy-duty durable polyester/nylon mix and comes in small, medium, and large sizes.

Best Small Dog Life Jacket or Puppy Life Jacket

Our pick for the best small dog life jacket or best puppy life jacket has to be the Ruffwear Float Coat.

Though it comes in sizes for all dogs, it wins out for our smaller pups due to its large, sturdy, and easy to grab carrying handle.

Strong handle. The thick, super strong handle is located on your dog’s back, making it easy to find and grab onto should you need to make a quick grab for your dog.

Smaller dogs tend to have more trouble keeping their heads above water, and puppies are particularly likely to be frightened by the new experience, so having the well-constructed handle right there on their back adds a lot of peace of mind.  

You will have no trouble pulling your dog out of the water into your boat or kayak using this built-in handle.

Reflective strips. The bright coloring and reflective strips make it easier to keep on eye on your puppy or small dog while they’re in the water (a variety of colors are available).

Adjustable straps. The adjustable collar straps will help keep your dog inside the jacket, and it tucks away nicely into a hidden pocket.

There are a few drawbacks, with getting the fit right when you first receive the Ruffwear Float Coat being a common one. But once you’ve got everything adjusted to fit your dog (learn more about sizing and fitting your dog’s jacket later in this article), you are good to go out and enjoy your summer.

This is a premium, well-designed, and extremely durable life jacket for your dog. It has a lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects.

Runner Up for Best Small Dog Life Jacket

Our runner-up in this category is the Vivaglory Reflective Dog Life Jacket. The extra bright safety colors and reflective strips help to enhance your dog’s visibility. It has extra padding to enable good buoyancy for your dog while in the water.

The velcro fastening system around the belly and neck help to keep your dog securely fastened in the jacket.

It has a convenient grab handle on the top for easy rescue by hand or boat hook, and a D-ring for attaching a leash.

The adjustable nylon straps, flexible underbelly panel, and quick-release buckles ensure the perfect fit for your dog. It is available in 5 sizes, from XS to XL, and 7 colors.

While not as well designed as the Ruffwear, this is a decent option if you don’t want to spend as much.

Best Large Dog Life Jacket

Our choice for the best large dog life jacket is an offering from industry leader Outward Hound.

Bigger dogs will obviously have different requirements than their smaller counterparts, with the Outward Hound Ripstop Dog Life Jacket excelling in all areas.

Dual handles. For starters, it contains dual rescue handles, a great feature should you (hopefully never) need it, as many people would have trouble fetching dogs of the 55lb+ category out of the water with only one hand.

These dual handles are constructed to add strength and durability for grabbing your dog.

It also has a full piece of cloth under the belly for extra support and weight distribution when pulling your dog up by the handles.

Bright colors and reflective accents. You’ll also find multiple areas with reflective strips that enhance safety further by making your pup more visible in the water. It also comes in 3 bright colors, one of which is a neat ‘Fun Fish’ design.

best large dog life jacket

Front float support. With float in the front of the jacket, it helps give your dog extra buoyancy where it’s most needed.

This jacket provides plenty of flotation around the body, even for bigger dogs, without adding too much bulk.

Durable. The durable ripstop material is good for repeated use without much wear and tear, and it dries quickly.

Adjustable side release buckles. The adjustable straps make putting on and removing the Outward Hound Ripstop Dog Life Jacket a breeze. The slim design allows for plenty of freedom of movement for your large dog to enjoy the water.

A range of sizes. While we recommend this as the best dog jacket for large dogs, it does come in a range of sizes.

To avoid size issues be sure to check the sizing chart you’ll find on the link below before purchasing.

We’ve also included a section below on fitting your dog’s life jacket that you may find helpful.

Runner Up for Best Large Dog Life Jacket

Our runner up for large dogs is the EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Life Jacket. It is made from high-performance durable material and gives your dog an ergonomic and comfortable fit.

It has adjustable neoprene straps for a secure fit and provides plenty of flotation for your dog. The ultra-buoyancy foam is strategically positioned within the vest to keep your dog in a natural swimming position at all times.

While not as supportive or as well designed as the Outward Hound jacket, this is still a good life jacket for your dog.

The Outward Hound has more flotation around the neck which tends to lift your dog’s head out of the water better.

The EzyDog jacket is bulkier and perhaps a bit more durable with its canvas like material.

Recommended Reading: How to Tell if Your Dog Needs More Mental Stimulation

Fitting Your Dog’s Life Jacket

To buy your dog a life jacket or vest you will need to know the following:

  • your dog’s weight.
  • neck measurement.
  • girth measurement (around the ribcage behind front legs).
  • back measurement from the base of the head to the base of the tail.

Sizes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so it is important to correctly measure your dog to get the right fit. Compare your dog’s measurements with those listed for the product you are purchasing and choose the closest one for your dog.

  • Slide the vest over your dog’s neck.
  • Close the buckles and straps around the neck, chest, and belly.
  • Adjust to your dog’s size. Not too tight, you should be able to fit your fingers between the strap and your dog’s body.

Watch this video on how to fit a dog life jacket that goes into more detail:

Have a Happy Summer!

Hopefully, this has given you all the information you need to make your time on the water with your dog full of fun and free of worry.

There are many types of life jackets for all kinds of dogs, pick one that is perfect for your pup.

Remember to always supervise your dog around water. Don’t leave the life jacket or vest on your dog for too long if they are out of the water. They will get hot and your dog could overheat.

Make sure your dog knows how to swim and is comfortable around water so you can have some fun in the sun.