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Do Dogs Need Life Jackets?

Whether your pup is a seasoned paddleboarder or you’re just getting started with canine-friendly water activities, you may be wondering what type of gear you actually need.

As you’re packing up your dog’s harness, collar, and leash, you may find yourself asking: Does my dog need a life jacket?

We’re here to cut through the confusion and answer that question definitively. In short, yes, all dogs can benefit from wearing a life jacket during water adventures. Let’s dive into the benefits of life jackets for all types of swimmers, what to look for when searching for a dog life jacket, and how to find the right fit for your canine companion.

Benefits of Life Jackets for Dogs

Even the strongest swimming dogs can benefit from wearing a life jacket around water. These vests provide crucial buoyancy, keeping your dog's head above water if they get tired, disoriented by currents, or overwhelmed by waves. This can be a lifesaver in unexpected situations, allowing your dog to rest and recover until you can help them.

Life jackets also often come in bright colors and reflective materials, making your pup easier to spot in the water, especially during low-light conditions. Ultimately, outfitting your pup with a life jacket means they can join you on more adventures, whether you’re embarking on a river rafting excursion or just chasing waves in the ocean.

Dog staying afloat in water with Ruffwear's Float Coat™.

How to Choose the Right Dog Life Jacket

When you begin searching for life jackets for dogs, there can be an overwhelming amount of options. Here’s what to look for:

  • Buoyancy: A life jacket provides buoyancy, keeping your dog's head above water and allowing them to rest or paddle with ease. This translates to a more enjoyable experience for both of you, with less worry and more wet-nosed fun.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Many life jackets come in bright colors and feature reflective trim. This ensures your dog is easily spotted in the water, especially during low-light conditions or if they become separated from you.
  • Secure Fit and Comfort: You should choose a life jacket with a comfortable, secure fit that won't restrict your dog's natural swimming motions. Look for features like strategically placed flotation panels and adjustable straps to ensure a snug yet unrestrictive fit.
  • Quality: Choose a life jacket built with durable materials and construction to withstand your dog's water adventures, season after season. Pay attention to the materials used for the shell, foam, webbing, and buckles.

You’ll find all of these features and more in Ruffwear’s Float Coat™.

All About the Float Coat™

The Float Coat™ in Wave Orange.

When it comes to canine aquatic adventures, our Float Coat™ stands out as the ultimate companion for your water-loving pup. This premium life jacket isn't just about keeping your dog afloat; it's about creating a safe and comfortable experience that fosters confidence and encourages exploration.

The Float Coat™ boasts a combination of strategically placed PVC-free, high-buoyancy foam panels. We test buoyancy throughout the development process following the guidelines of human PFDs. This design offers exceptional flotation without compromising your dog's natural swimming gait. Unlike bulky vests that can restrict movement, the Float Coat™ allows for a full range of motion, letting your dog paddle with ease.

Woman lifting her dog out of the water with the Float Coat™ handle.

The Float Coat™ incorporates thoughtful features to keep your dog secure in the water. A strong grab handle allows you to easily lift your pup out of the water if needed, and a secure leash attachment point ensures you can stay connected to your adventure buddy during any water activity (for more inspiration, learn about how the Float Coat™ came to be).

This dog life jacket also has a telescoping neck closure that adjusts for a range of dog sizes and is permanently attached and secure. And lastly, the Float Coat™ features tonal reflective accents for visibility in low-light conditions, as well as a light loop for attaching The Beacon™️.

How to Find the Right Fit

It’s important to choose the right size for your pup’s gear to ensure a comfortable, secure fit. Unlike human life jackets that rely on weight, Float Coat™ sizing is based on the girth measurement of your dog's rib cage, the widest part just behind their front legs. To ensure a snug fit that won't restrict movement, use a soft measuring tape to get this measurement.

Woman measuring her dog's girth.

Once you have it, head over to our handy sizing chart to match your pup's measurement to the appropriate size. If your dog falls between sizes, we recommend opting for the smaller size for a more secure fit.

Now that you know how beneficial dog life jackets can be, all that’s left to do is gear up and get out there.