Having dog as a companion on your boat is very rewarding.
I go everywhere with my King Charles Cavalier, Eric. He is at home on the boat and knows the environment, however, when it comes to water, he does like to fall in. In fact, Eric has fallen in the water no less than four times in the last year alone.
So, what precautions can I take to make sure he’s safe from drowning? We spend a lot of time worrying about the human crew on board, but just as much thought should be given to the four-legged crew members.
Let me introduce you to some of the best dog life jackets.
Not All Dogs Can Swim
Many people believe all dogs can naturally swim.
But while mostly true, in my experience with my own dog, it’s not. In fact, he can’t swim at all. The last time he fell in, I only realized when I saw his face poking out of the water. Almost completely submerged, he showed no signs of any swimming ability.
It was ironic on that occasion he didn’t have a life jacket. We were moored by the bank, simply able to step off the boat. With no more than a six-inch gap to negotiate, I wrongly assumed he would be safe.
There are other factors at play that could hamper your pooch’s chances of swimming to safety. Water temperature, for example. Extreme cold affects animals in the same way as humans; movements become labored and they lose energy rapidly. If the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s a good chance your dog will feel some adverse effects and hypothermia.
This is not such an issue in warmer seas and lakes, but in northern waters where temperatures are lower, you must be aware. Plus, if the water conditions are rough, be aware your dog is at a higher risk of drowning.
And if your pet falls in, how do you spot them in the water? It can be challenging to spot something on the constantly moving surface, especially if your dog has brown or dark-colored fur.
Dog Life Jackets Save Lives
As boaters, we understand the risks of boating and how to mitigate those dangers. And we do this by employing safety devices to aid us in times of peril. So why not employ the same considerations for your dog. After all, aren’t they important family members too? Treat them as equals and keep them safe.
The cost of a pooch preserver is relatively modest, with most costing between $30 – $80. So you have no excuse to not invest in one for your dog.
Measuring Your Dog for a Life Jacket
Sizing a life jacket for your specific dog is crucial, especially to be effective at saving a life. You don’t want the jacket to slip off your pet. Also, you don’t want your furry friend to wriggle free, which has been known, especially if the life jacket is too loose. Similarly, if the life jacket is too small, your dog is at risk every time you set sail.
Here are areas to measure on your dog to find a proper fit:
Length — Measure from the base of your dog’s collar to the base of their tail.
Girth — Measure the widest part of your dog’s chest, just behind the front legs.
Neck — Measure around the neck, where the collar sits.
Most dog life jackets come in standard sizes of small, medium and large. But if you have a paunchy pooch, like mine, make allowances for the girth and neck width.
Key Features of a Dog Life Jacket
- Bright Color — As we mentioned earlier, spotting a dog in the ocean may not be as easy as it sounds. For this reason, dog life jackets are typically brightly colored to make them stand out. Orange, red, yellow and even pink are commonly used colors.
- Grip Handle — When your dog falls into the water, you need some way of gaining a grip to lift them from the water. Many dog life jackets have a large, heavy-duty handle located on the top of the preserver for that very reason.
- Reflective Strips — Reflective strips help you spot your pet in the water in the dark, or in overcast weather conditions. This is a lifesaver when nighttime sailing.
- Neck Floats — The whole point of a life jacket is to keep your dog on the surface of the water, but if it tires, it is easy for the dog’s head to slip under. Neck floats prevent that from happening.
- Belly Straps — Belly straps keep your dog secure in the life jacket, even when they try and wriggle free.
- Anchor Point — Having a high-strength D-ring on the life jacket is crucial. It gives you a means of securing your pet and stopping your dog from falling in the water.
The 6 Best Dog Life Jackets
- BEST HIGH-PERFORMANCE FLOTATION DEVICE DOG LIFE VEST JACKET: Combining advanced manufacturing techniques and the highest performance materials available, our DFD is designed, and extensively tested, to give your dog the most ergonomic and comfortable fit possible.
- ADJUSTABLE DESIGN WITH 50% MORE FLOATION MATERIAL: Adjustable neoprene straps form an ergonomic, secure fit that keeps up with your dog. The EzyDog dog life vest flotation device uses superior durable construction and features up to 50% more flotation material than most other pet life jackets.
- ERGONOMIC INTEGRATED GRAB HANDLE: The integrated grab handle in our dog life vest provides and easy and secure way to handle your dog and makes it quick and easy to guide your dog into and out of the water.
- HIGHLY REFLECTIVE INTEGRATED TRIM: The highly reflective detailing designed into your EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device provide you with greater visibility and improved night time safety.
- CUSTOM SIZING FOR A PERFECT FIT: LARGE (Large) size fits dogs with a 17"-24" body length, a 27"-44" girth, and a weight of 60-90 pounds.
This EzyDog life vest comes in five sizes, ranging from extra-small to extra-large and comes in green, red and yellow for better visibility.
It also has high visibility reflective piping, a grab handle and is constructed from durable polyester.
The EzyDog claims this device gives your dog 50 percent greater floatation compared to most of the competition, and it has been ergonomically designed to be comfortable.
- Material: Polyester
- Colors: Red/Yellow/Green
- Sizes: 5 Sizes (XS-XL)
- SIZING BASED ON GIRTH: Dogs come in all shapes and sizes so whether your dog is short and stout or long and lanky, there’s a Granby life jacket fit for them. Available in sizes extra-small to extra-large, we’ve made it easy for you to choose a size that supports them based on their girth measurement. If on the higher end of this size, size up.
- SPLASH WITH SAFETY: The Outward Hound Granby Splash Life Jacket is designed with bright colors and reflective accents to provide better visibility while swimming. A front float support helps keep your dog's head above water whether they're a novice or experienced swimmer.
- NOVICE & EXPERIENCED SWIMMER FRIENDLY: The Granby Splash dog life jacket is constructed with ripstop material that provides maximum buoyancy in the water, and doesn’t restrict movement on land. Adjustable side release buckles provide a secure fit and a neoprene belly band supports their chest and belly.
- SINGLE HANDLE DESIGN: Top grab-handle provides easy access to rescue and restraint dog while swimming or on land.
- PLAY IT SAFE: No pet accessory is indestructible. Do not leave with unsupervised pets. Remove and replace if damaged
This model only comes in two color choices; orange and pink, but it has a grab handle, neoprene belly straps that are adjustable and super-comfortable, as well as a neck float to keep your dogs head above the water surface.
What makes this life jacket stand out is the price. It retails at a fraction of the cost of the competition, so is a great budget option. And because it is cheap, it doesn’t mean you get less for your money.
It even comes with reflective piping for increased visibility at night.
- Material: Nylon
- Colors: Orange/Pink
- Sizes: 5 Sizes (XS-XL)
- CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE - Measuring Body Girth is critical for getting the best fit. Do not approximate or guess! Before placing your order, please measure your dog’s Body Girth at the widest point, behind their front legs. Use our Blue Sizing Chart and pick the right size. If your pet falls between two sizes, we advise ordering the larger of the two.
- KEEP YOUR FURRIEST MATE SAFE - Vibrant colors and reflective strips increase visibility of your playful pooch day and night. Our dog life vest is equipped with a top rescue handle for a quick and easy grab on the go.
- QUALITY MATERIALS - This Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket is made of quick-dry, breathable neoprene fabrics and the right amount buoyancy. Lightweight, flexible materials allow a wide range of motion for all-day comfort. Perfect for dogs and owners who love water sports!
- FASHION FORWARD - Perfect for your fashionable first mate, this life jacket combines a stylish silhouette with premium neoprene materials and bold awesome colors and patterns.
- ADVANCED, BREATHABLE MESH UNDERBELLY - Unlike traditional life jackets, which can cause chafing and heat exhaustion, the Paws Aboard advanced design features a breathable mesh underbelly that allows for proper water drainage and drying to provide your dog greater comfort and healthier conditions. Adjustable collar and the velcro secured mesh underbelly create a custom fit for all breeds and body shape.
Like all the others listed, this life jacket has a grab handle, a D-ring, reflective strips and neck floats.
But in addition, it also has a breathable mesh belly guard to allow for water to drain faster and your dog to dry quicker. The material is also quick-drying and is fade resistant.
The straps are fully adjustable and it even has quick-release buckles.
The price is competitive, and it comes in so many color variations that you will be stuck for choice.
- Material: Neoprene
- Colors: Blue-Yellow/Grey Camo/Neon Yello/Pink/Pink Polka Dot/Racing Flames/Red/Nautical Dog
- Sizes: 6 Sizes (XXS-XL)
- MEASURE BEFORE PURCHASE: before choosing a size, please measure your dog's ribcage at the DEEPEST part; do NOT judge your dog's size from weight or other brands' standard; if your dog's measurement is between sizes, please choose the next size up
- SUPERIOR BUOYANCY: this dog life jacket is constructed with premium neoprene material and extra built-in flotation layers to enable strong buoyancy in the water without restricting your dog's movement
- COMFORT & DURABILITY: neoprene material makes this dog life vest more body conforming for maximum comfort and look less bulky than older styles; exquisite sewing process and thicken material ensure it for long time use
- STYLISH & ATTRACTIVE: bright colors and unique reflective elements not only make your dog look fashionable, but also enhance your dog's visibility in water, keeping your dog safe
- FASTENING SECURELY: fastening system around belly keep the flotation vest securely on your dog. Adjustable straps and quick-release buckles around belly and neck ensure perfect fit for your dog
This Vivaglory is comfortable to wear and less bulky than other dog life jackets, meaning it’s buoyant without restricting your dog’s movements.
As with other models, it has quick-release buckles and is fully adjustable. Price-wise, this life jacket is excellent value for money at a fraction of the cost of others.
What makes this model different is its double grip handle, which is better for larger dogs and makes it easier to lift them from the water.
- Material: Neoprene
- Colors: Blue/Orange/Red/Pink/Yellow
- Sizes: 5 Sizes (XS-XL)
- MATERIALS: High grade Polyester Oxford & Nylon Fabric, Mesh Fabric, Pearl Cotton Foam. The oxford nylon fabric is ripstop, and the mesh fiber allow for quick drying and proper drainage.
- DIMENSION: Available for 7 sizes, from XXS to XXL, meet all sized dogs. Please refer to the dimension chart to choose the right size for your dog.
- CONVENIENCE: Adjustable belt and quick-release buckles to make your dog fit comfortably, easy to put on and take off. Handle on top for quick and easy grabbing. The Heavy-duty D-ring Hook is perfect for dog leash.
- SAFETY: The front float assists in keeping dog's head above water. Reflective stripes and bright colors to enhance maximum visibility.
- NOTE: If your measurement is between two sizes, we recommend the larger size for more comfortable fit about your dog. Please allow sight deviation of measurement data due to different measure methods.
Like the Paws Aboard life jacket, this one has a mesh belly guard to allow for better drainage and quick-drying. Also, the nylon is ripstop, so it is extremely durable.
These life jackets are comfortable, and they inject a little bit of fun with a shark, mermaid and crocodile designs. The shark life jacket even has a fin!
There are features such as a grab handle, secure D-ring and adjustable straps. The price is competitive, retailing at a lot less than similar life jackets.
- Material: Polyester/Nylon/Mesh
- Colors: Blue/Blue Polka Dot/Camo/Orange/Pink/Pink Polka Dot/Yellow/Crocodile/Mermaid/Shack
- Sizes: 7 Sizes (XXS-XXL)
- CANINE LIFE VEST: A life jacket designed just for dogs; Ideal for rafting, kayaking, boating, surfing, paddle boarding and swimming
- EASY SWIMMING: Strategically placed closed-cell foam panels let your dog swim naturally and support an upright position; Strong, low-profile handle on the back to help dogs out of the water
- ADJUSTABLE FIT: Telescoping neck closure adjusts to fit different shapes and attaches securely in place; Easy-to-clip buckles firmly hold straps
- DURABLE WEBBING: Water-compatible webbing maintains stability in wet environments
- REFLECTIVE TRIM: Low-light visibility for additional safety; Integrated light loop for attaching The Beacon light (sold separately)
Unlike other life jackets, this Ruffwear is the same price no matter what the size. However, you’re paying a premium compared to the competition.
It comes in four colors, has closed-cell foam pads to keep your dog in a swimming position and has reflective strips for increased visibility. It even has a loop, located behind the grip handle, for attaching a beacon.
The telescopic neck closure ensures a snug but comfortable fit and it has easy on/off side-release buckles.
- Material: Webbing
- Colors: Blue/Red/Yellow/Orange
- Sizes: 6 Sizes (XXS-XL)
Dog life jackets are a necessary investment if you have a dog on board. That’s a fact.
I would never forgive myself if something happened to my dog while he was on my boat. And for a small price, a dog life jacket will keep your pooch safe. Of course, the best way to ensure your dog comes to no harm is to keep them inside, but I understand dogs are curious and want to be at the center of the action, so that might not be possible.
For the sake of your conscience and the safety of your much-loved pet get a dog life jacket today. It could be the smartest money you spend.
Mark Weir lives on a canal boat in the heart of England, with his wife, Julie, and his grumpy dog, Eric. Mark likes to travel the waterways in his wide-beam barge, filming his exploits as he travels. Julie paints the wildlife, and Eric likes to bark, mostly.