Best Dog Life Jacket - What You Need To Know

Obviously, dogs are known to be a great swimmers. However, we should know the fact that even the best paddlers couldn’t swim for a long time.

And you don’t want an unfortunate disaster to happen to your dog, right?

Well, at least invest into something that would make your mind at peace once with your dog during a precious time in deep water. So, a dog life jacket seems to be the right thing to have!

Simply defined, a dog life jacket is a piece of gear like a jacket having no sleeves which are filled with air or even light material and is intended to help your dog float once into the water.

There are numbers of life jackets intended for the use of our dear canine. But, you should be extra careful when choosing the best one.

What Is the Difference Between A Life Jacket And Life Vest?

First, there is a need for you to determine the difference between a life jacket and a life vest. Is there really any difference or none? Well, both of them are considered as PFD for dogs or Personal Flotation Device for dogs.

However, there could be a bit difference between the two. Here we go!

Life Jackets

This one covers more area for dogs. It is designed to offer visibility at the same time buoyancy.

This kind of PFD is considered as best for dogs at the beach or once in a boat. In case the dog jumps or falls overboard, having the right life jacket could help him to stay afloat up until rescued.

In most cases, they come in designer colors, still, bright safety colors could make a dog in the water a lot easier to spot from the shore or from the boat.

At the same time, these jackets have a handle at the back making it less difficult to hoist the pet out of the water as you’ve reached him.

Life Vests

Best Dog Life Vests

On the other hand, life vests for dogs are best used once into swimming.

There might come the point wherein you feel like taking your dog to a pool for an exercise or rehabilitation, you might need the help of a life vest.

Life vest for dogs offers extra buoyancy and confidence in order for the dog to perform an exercise without having to struggle in keeping his head above the water.

Also, vests are also best used once you constantly supervise the dog.

Both are useful if you want to be more watchful about the safety of your dog in the water.

However, take note as well that a PFD, either a jacket or a vest, isn’t a total replacement for supervision, hence you must always keep an eye on your dog once near any type of water.

When is Life Jacket Needed by the Dog?

his would be answered by first knowing the type of dog that you have. Why? So that you can understand the physical ability that they have.

We also know that dogs are good swimmers, still, this doesn’t mean that you simply dismiss the idea of a safety vest of a life jacket altogether.

So, if you plan to have your dog with you when boating, there is a need for a canine life jacket for them. And this is especially important once you get into open water such as during skiing or fishing.

Reasons Why Dogs Need to Wear Life Jacket for Water Activities

Consider the following good reasons why dogs must wear a life jacket once enjoying water activities:

Reasons Why Dogs Need to Wear Life Jacket for Water Activities

Swimming Ability

Dogs that are intended to work in water feature water-resistant coats, a tail that works like a rudder and webbed feet.

Though these breeds are said to be comfortable in the water and they are referred to as strong swimmers, they could still run into trouble in some cases particularly if they become fatigued.

If dogs have a large chest and small hindquarters, they are considered top-heavy and so they aren’t strong swimmers.

Dachshunds, Boxers, and Bulldogs could have a hard time trying to stay floating are more apt to sink like a rock.

On the other hand, dogs with pushed-in noses along with short-legged breeds tire quickly.

There are also small dogs such as Shih Tzu, Pekingese or Yorkshire Terrier may take to the water just fine however could be chilled quickly and might not have the stamina to survive once they fall off the boat.

Some other breeds which don’t typically do great in water are the Siberian Husky, Greyhound, Doberman Pinscher, Chihuahua, Basset Hound, Alaskan Malamute, and Chow would require a use of life jacket.

Lifesaving Help in Accidents or Emergencies

Imagine a dog that jumped off or has fallen off the boat in the ocean, yet isn’t rescued.

This dog could have a long swim back to the shore and perhaps might not have the energy for it. These unforeseen situations could definitely develop putting the dog into the water.

Nevertheless, with a properly designed dog life jacket will keep the dog’s head above the water, though he becomes unconscious, and would keep him afloat once he’s tired.

Life Jacket Offers Peace of Mind to the Dog Owner

You wouldn’t know what would happen next once you are in the water with your dog. But, that shouldn’t restrict you and your dog to have fun during water activities.

So, a life jacket can give you peace of mind knowing that if the dog runs into trouble while swimming or even the dog falls off the deck of a dock or a boat, he would still stay afloat up until rescued.

With a life jacket for your dog, both of you can enjoy any kind of water activities.

How to Measure the Dog for a Life Jacket?

There are different manufacturers of life jacket and they are also using different measurements in determining the proper life jacket size.

However, most of them rely on a combination of three different measurements.

Prepare yourself with a tape measure and you can obtain the measurements of your dog by doing the following:

Chest Circumference

To obtain the chest circumference measurement, you have to wrap the tape measure around the rib cage of your dog. Make sure you measure the rib cage of the dog at its largest part, particularly right behind the front legs.

Back Length

Most manufacturers would recommend measuring the back length of the dog from a point wherein the neck meets the back or shoulders to a point at about two to three inches ahead of the tail base.

Neck Circumference

Mostly, life jackets rest around the junction in between the neck and body of the dog.

Simply wrap the tape measure around the lower portion of the neck then down near the shoulders.


For some manufacturers, they would include a weight guideline to ensure that the life jacket offers sufficient buoyancy keeping the dog afloat. So, pick a life jacket which matches the weight of your dog once such information is given.

How to Choose the Best Life Jacket for Dogs?

When picking the right life jacket for your dog, there are numbers of features that you should consider to come up with the best choice. Here are the things you need to consider:

How to Choose the Best Life Jacket for Dogs


Indeed, a rescue effort could be severely hindered once you can’t find your dog to begin with.

So, there is a need for you to choose a life jacket that is brightly colored like pink, orange or another color that isn’t commonly found in the water.

You definitely want to gaze out onto a large body of water and pick your dog out. Another great plus is reflective markings particularly if you commonly make overnight boating trips.


Always ask yourself if the life jacket really works. If the life jacket doesn’t actually keep the canine afloat is not a life jacket at all.

There is a need for the life jacket to be made with enough buoyant material to keep the canine afloat easily without restricting too much movement or even putting the dog into an unnatural swimming position.

So, simply said, a life jacket should assist the dog in order to stay above water not end up hindering the effort. The buoyant material must be placed along the torso of your dog and their head preferably.


Once not in its accurate size, a life jacket might make it hard for the dog to keep afloat.

Once it’s too small, there will be no enough buoyancy to keep them floating. On the other hand, if it’s too large, the dog might slip right out.

So, better choose a life jacket which comes in various sizes so you could be assured that it would fit your dog.

Beware of those life jackets that come as “one size fits all” or those who are only available in a few broad sizes. And also look for life jackets with specific weight limits.


Dogs don’t have the ability to climb ladders and would need your help to get in and out the water once in the boat. So, handles on their life jackets could make this task a lot easier.


Of course, you want the dog to be comfortable wearing the life jacket. The outside material has a significant role to play in this matter.

You must avoid substances which scrap or rub the skin of your dog and keep an eye out for developing bald spot under the straps.

You should consider life jackets with large buckles which don’t concentrate all the pressure on a certain location only. You can have mesh as the best choice, particularly for those with large dogs.

What Are Some Safety Tips for Life Jackets?

Yes, a life jacket is a great help to keep the dog safe once into the water, however, it will not totally guarantee such safety, especially if you will not do your part as well.

So, there are common-sense practices that every dog owner should know to reduce the possibilities of injuries or accidents.

Some of these safety tips are the following:

Inculcate a positive attitude about the life jacket

It would be a lot easier to put the life jacket on your dog once you help instill a positive attitude regarding wearing the flotation device from the outset.

With this, it would help the dog feel a lot more comfortable wearing the life jacket ensuring a great time while swimming around.

In order to make this one a success, you have to start slowly or long before you plan to use it on the water.

Start the introductions several days before planning to go to the beach or lake or boating. You can take the life jacket out the package and let the dog smell it for a minute as he comfortably sits on an indoor dog potty.

You can give a reward through a treat for sniffing the vest, letting the dog realize that the vest is cool and awesome.

If you observe that the dog is comfortable with the life jacket, you can gently put it on him. Try to pet and reassure him for a few minutes in case he doesn’t seem to like it or the dog becomes fearful.

You can simply rest the vest on the dog loosely, provide treats, like the biggest dog toys and remove the vest after a few seconds.

Gradually increase the time that the best is on. If the dog feels pretty comfortable, connect the straps and cinch them up to fit snuggly.

Next, let the dog run around for a bit while wearing the life jacket before you take it off and give the dog plenty of goodies in elevated dog bowls and praise him as well.

Simply repeat the process or do this as often as needed until the dog becomes comfortable with wearing the life jacket making him ready for the water.

Make sure that the straps are properly secured and adjusted

Do not let your dog jump into the water unless you are sure that the straps are properly tight.

Straps that are too loose may lead to shifting the dog’s body in the life jacket making it difficult to swim with a natural motion. It would increase the chances of unwanted dangerous situations.

Also, if the straps are too tight, they might restrict the movement of your dog causing abrasions or making it a lot more difficult to breathe.

So, make the straps be just tight enough that you could barely squeeze your two fingers between the strap and the dog’s body. Check the straps as well to ensure the clips are all connected securely.

Match the life jacket to the planned activity

There are different life jackets that are intended for different activities as well. There are some that serve as a life-protecting device which is made from very high-quality materials.

These vests are made for use in deep water where they offer plenty of buoyancy and boast fairly nondescript styling.

Also, some vests are made to help the dog stay afloat so they aren’t made as a true safety device.

They would feature funny or cute appendages like mermaid tails or shark fins and are really adorable.

They are also not ideal for deep-water use, instead, they are used around the pool wherein your dog could swim in style.

When connecting a life jacket to a tether or a leash, always use caution.
It would be great if you can pick a life jacket that is equipped with a D-ring wherein you could attach a tether or leash.

By this, it would be a lot easier to keep the dog safe as you walk to the pool or a lake.

But also, make sure to test the strength of the D-ring before relying on it to keep your dog from running out into the traffic.

D-rings are designed for light-duty use so they might not be capable of withstanding the strong pulling behavior of your dog.

Plus, these rings would also make it a lot easier to keep the dog from straying too far in the water once you switch out the leash for a long rope if its swimming time.

Also, it’s a great technique for dogs who are stubborn as they begin to swim.

With a tether, you can simply drag the dog back to the shore gently. You just have to use caution once tying the dog to a leash or a tether while swimming.

He might not be able to swim or might suffer an injury if the rope gets caught around the neck or leg of your dog. Constant vigilance is required if you are to use a leash or a tether.

Never let the dog swim unsupervised

Even if you have the best life jacket worn by your dog, you should not let your dog swim without your supervision.

Life jackets only reduce the danger related to swimming but they are not perfect so dogs could still get into trouble while padding around.

Make sure that the dog doesn’t drift off to possibly dangerous areas like those subject to strong currents or those areas with underwater hazards.

Simply limit your dog’s swimming to wide-open places as this would reduce the chance of being in an unwanted situation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the most important FAQs about the dog’s life jacket:

What is a dog life jacket and how does it work?

A dog life jacket is referred to as a floatation device that fits around the torso of the dog and keeps them afloat.

Primarily, it is used for emergency situations but could also be used for beginning or weak swimmers who require a bit of help once in the water.

In most cases, a life vest for a dog has buoyant materials in many locations along the torso and back which keep the pet on the surface. And there are straps that hold the vest in place as the dog swims.

What size of the life jacket does my dog need?

Well, this can be determined by looking at the particular sizing chart of a certain company or brand. Most brands would use a dog’s chest circumference in determining the size.

But, it is recommended that you choose a life jacket that utilizes more than a measurement to determine the perfect fit.

Indeed, all dogs are shaped differently. Some dogs might have a very broad chest and be small everywhere else. It would be more accurate to use multiple measurements in order to determine the size of your dog.

How should a dog life jacket fit?

Before you buy a life jacket for your dog, be sure to check the sizing guide of the brand and measure your dog to determine the right size. You’ll know that sizes would widely vary from a certain brand to another.

There is a need for the life jacket to fit snuggly on your dog without moving around too much, however, it shouldn’t be too tight as well.

It is suggested that you test the life jacket on your dog first in a safe environment, like a pool, before trying to use it in a more threatening situation.

Does a dog need a life jacket once on a boat?

Of course, yes! Not all dogs are able to swim, and not all are great swimmers.

If your dog has never been in the water before or if the dog is known as a weak swimmer, using a life jacket while on the boat will help a lot in keeping them safe.

On the other hand, even if you are too confident that your dog is a good swimmer, they can float indefinitely. Well, in an emergency case, they might still need a life jacket.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! Before planning of going to the beach or enjoying any kind of water activities, make sure that you have a life jacket ready for your dogs along with the other essentials needed like premium waterless dog shampoo.

For you to have the right life jacket for your dog, you also need to be guided accordingly.

So, the information provided above will surely help you buy the best one out in the market today!

Do not go shopping without having the knowledge of what you are really going to buy, on what kind of life jacket that your dog really needs!

If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Photos from: AntonioGravante /, graphicphoto /, BrandonSeidel /, TeriVirbickis / 

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Big pet lover and a dog training and behavior expert who loves to share his knowledge and experience. Happy owner of two amazing dogs Labrador Bela and Jack Russell Terrier Piksi and one cuddly cat Tom.

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