So, it's summer time and you're thinking about taking your dog out for a swim. Well, we've all been there, and those of us that haven't done that yet surely think about it a whole lot every time summer's around the corner.
Any dog owner that has ever thought about taking their dog to any place where they could take a dip in their water as their little heart pleases, be that in a private pool, a public beach or anywhere of that sort, has asked themselves just how safe it would be to allow their dogs to get that close to water.
Thankfully, that's what dog life jackets & vests were made for!
And, since that's what you're here for, then let's get right into our list of the best dog life jackets & vests, shall we?
Our List Of The Top 5 Dog Life Jackets - (Updated List For 2018)
Top Pick: Outward Hound Ripstop Adjustable Dog Life Jacket with Rescue Handle
Pick #2: Paws Aboard Double Designer Doggy Life Jacket
Pick #3: Ruffwear K9 Float Coat Dog Life Jacket
Pick #4: Fido Pet Products Paws Aboard Neoprene Doggy Life Jacket
Pick #5: Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket
*Note: The links in the table above, as well as several links in the remainder of the article below, will take you to over to Amazon.com where you can find out more information about the products, such as current prices and customer reviews.
Best Dog Life Jackets - Our Top 3 Picks
Wide & Accurate Size Variety: To start off, Outward Hound made the smart decision of producing this life jacket in a huge variety of sizes, ranging from XX-Small all the way to X-Large, taking into consideration all dogs of all possible sizes.
As we'll be talking about in a section below, one of the critical factors that goes into determining the best dog life jacket is how well it can fit on YOUR dog, something which is already a given with this life jacket from Outward Hound.
Lightweight: Moving on, this dog life jacket "hits two birds with one stone", as you'll notice for yourself that it's very lightweight (meaning your dog will be very comfortable wearing it for an extended period of time without feeling like there's a rock on their body they need to get off in order to breath), all while being made of the highest quality materials that ensure extended durability.
If you've tried any other life jacket on your dog, you'll notice right away how this one feels way less bulky than the other ones, especially on smaller sized dogs where even the least bit of difference matters.
This is a sign that Outward Hound has done a tremendous job in getting their measurements with sizes right on point, something that many other dog life jacket manufacturers terribly miss up.
With other dog life jackets, and this is especially true if you're getting one for a small sized dog, you take a look at their measurement chart, choose a size accordingly and can't wait until the item arrives at your doorstep, only to be very disappointed that it doesn't fit your dog barely as much as it should have.
Front Float Support: Now, to talk a little bit about safety features, there's a front float support in the form of a small pad that ensures your dog's head is kept above the water at all times and that they don't mistakenly get it under the water, which would beat the purpose of getting one of these things in the first place.
The pad is a thick one that's also made from very high quality material that keeps your dog's head comfortable, and isn't a thin pad that makes your dog's head feel very uncomfortable when supporting them for extended periods of time, nor is it a very bulky one that also makes your dog feel very uncomfortable after some time.
Back Handle: Another critical factor that absolutely must be a part of any dog life jacket for it to be deemed the best dog life jacket is a handle of the back of the jacket which you can use to very easily (and without causing even the least bit of discomfort for your dog) to lift your dog and move them back to wherever you want them to, be that back to shore or back on the boat if they manage to fall off.
Without such a handle properly placed on the back of the life jacket, removing your dog from the water and placing them back wherever you want to will be a very stressful event on your pooch, one that they should never have to experience.
Wide Size Variety: Just like our #1 pick above, you're free to choose from 11 sizes that would best work for your all, all the way from XX-Small to X-Large as well.
Excellent Straps Design: Paws Aboard have done an outstanding job designing the straps on this life jacket, as you'll see for yourself just how comfortable it feels for your dog to wear it, even if we're talking about relatively larger dogs with broad chests.
While other dog life jackets will give dogs an uncomfortable feeling of being a bit too tight on their chest, something which makes them want to call it quits on swimming and makes them want to get rid of this thing after only a short bit, this isn't the case with this product.
You see, it's very tiny details like this that either make a product succeed like this or fail miserably like other dog life jackets out there on the market which you should stay very far away from.
Lightweight: Besides the very comfortable straps on this jacket that won't bother your dog's chest at all, this jacket is also very light in weight (just like our #1 pick above), a factor which is just as important when it comes to ensuring your dog remains comfortable wearing it even for prolonged periods of time.
After switching from other dog life jackets to this one, many dog owners report that their dogs used to panic right after they step into the water, but are now fully enjoying their time there as if they're natural born swimmers that have always been in the sea ever since they were young puppies.
Yes, this is exactly the kind of difference you'll notice when you switch from a life jacket that used to make your dog feel very uncomfortable to one that makes them feel very comfortable.
Pick #3 - Ruffwear K9 Float Coat Dog Life Jacket
Highest Of Quality Material: If you're worried about low quality material that means you losing out on durability, design flaws that come with cheap dog life jackets (such as very bulky head pads) and the like, then this jacket is definitely something you should have a look at.
Heavy Duty & Very Durable: Durability wise, this is probably the best option for you to go with if you're one to frequently take their dog on water trips, or else this may actually be a little TOO durable for your needs and you'll end up paying too much for something you don't really need.
In case your water trips with your dog aren't that too frequent, you're better off going with either our #1 or #2 picks above, which get the job done just fine for less frequent usage.
Why Should I Invest In A Dog Life Jacket For Fido?
Whenever it comes to dogs and water, you have to think about Fido the same way you would think about having your little kid take a dip in there, meaning that properly equipping them with a life vest would be the first thing that comes to mind.
Whether your dog can do head to head with Michael Phelps and beat him to an Olympic medal in swimming, or it's your dog's first time taking a dip in the water, a life vest goes a very long way in making this whole ordeal a very less stressful one for you as their owner, and makes it a much more safer one for them since any risk of something bad happening to them inside is practically nullified.
Do you know just how many dogs die on an annual basis just because they go in the water without a proper plan B in case something bad happened to them and they needed help to get out?
Statistics point out that there are around 4000 dog deaths a year just from drowning. That's 4000 dog deaths a year that could have very easily been avoided just if the dog had been given a life jacket to wear.
And, when you consider that buying a dog life jacket for Fido is (most of the time) a one time purchase that you won't need to do again, it's a real shame that not many dog owners take up on this responsibility.
Even if you think that you've got the best swimmer in the world in your dog, here are a few situations that could lead to potential disaster that could ultimately mean you losing your dog forever just because you didn't take an extra step to ensure their safety.
Your dog sustains a physical injury in water that severely affects their mobility and, therefore, their ability to get out of the water safely without drowning.
Even if your dog doesn't necessarily suffer a physical injury inside the water that hinders their mobility, some dogs (such as senior dogs) have their mobility fairly limited because of natural reasons, and these dogs should most definitely be given life jackets to wear.
Or, you may just have a puppy that wants to swim but hasn't yet properly developed the capabilities to support itself in water on its own.
The possibilities are endless, so we won't go on and on just to list them all here, you get the point.
Your dog suffers from a sudden health condition in water such as a sudden and severe decrease in blood sugar levels, a sudden and severe decrease in blood pressure, breathing difficulties, fainting, seizure, etc .. that means they have 0 chance of getting back out of the water on their own without drowning.
Imagine you and your dog are out on a boat trip when, all of a sudden, it jumps for some reason or falls off the boat.
What situation would you rather be in in such an event?
You having equipped your dog with a life jacket beforehand and having all the time in the world to get down in the water and get them back up on the boat in a very calm demeanor, or you not having equipped them with a life jacket beforehand and having to act very fast to get down in the water and save your dog before they drown to death?
But Wait, Aren't All Dogs Naturally Good Swimmers?
This is a misconception that many dog owners believe in for some reason, one that gets them in trouble in the first place.
The fact of the matter is, no, not all dogs are naturally good swimmers.
Sure, some dog breeds are naturally born good swimmers, but other dog breeds are born terrible swimmers that couldn't remain afloat by themselves for 2 seconds if their life depended on it, so why take the risk when you can be 100% safe?
What Criteria Exactly Determine The Best Dog Life Jacket?
So, why exactly are bright colored dog life jackets that stand out like a sore thumb much better and safer for Fido to wear than dog life jackets with colors that fit right in the general color scheme of wherever they're swimming?
You probably guessed it by now - a bright colored dog life jacket that clearly stands out from the rest of the environment around makes it much easier for whoever is around to take notice of your dog wherever they may be.
This comes in very handy if you've allowed your dog to go for a quick swim somewhere where a few people having fun with their Jet-skies are around, as this makes it tremendously easier for these people to take note of your dog's presence and make sure not to come in unexpected contact with them and possibly physically hurt them by mistake.
Besides the color of the dog life jacket itself, some dog life jacket manufacturers will put certain materials in their products that create a very bright reflection from their strips, a feature which makes it even easier for people nearby to notice that your dog is there.
Buoyancy, the ability of something to float in water (or any other liquid for that matter), is a deal breaker when it comes to dog life jackets.
The best dog life jackets will have optimal levels of buoyancy that minimize any effort on your dog's part to remain afloat, meaning their energy levels will remain high and they won't get tired nearly as fast as they would had they been exerting effort themselves to stay on top of the water.
If you're taking your dog for a swim because this is your exercise session for the day, or if you have them in water because you're training them to do something there, this advantage of keeping your dog afloat without them exerting any notable physical effort makes all the difference in the world in them being able to complete the exercise/training session or you having to call it quits after just 10 minutes because your dog has already given it all they've got just trying to stay on top and not go under.
Proper Size & Fit
The last thing you want to do is go out of your way and invest your hard earned money on a dog life jacket for Fido, only to find out that it doesn't fit them at all or is too big for them and they need one that's smaller in size.
In either of these two cases, your dog won't be able to properly swim in such a life jacket, which obviously beats the purpose of investing in one in the first place.
This is why the best dog life jacket for your dog may be different than the best dog life jacket for someone else's dog depending on size.
This is one of those areas where you're going to have to do a bit of research to make sure the dog life jacket you're buying for your dog will fit them just right.
Some of the best dog life jacket manufacturing companies will have a wide variety of dog life jacket sizes you can choose from for your dog, depending on what their needs are.
Or, if they don't manufacture dog life jackets in a wide variety of sizes for you to choose from, the best dog life jacket manufacturing companies will have adjustable straps on their jackets that you can use to either widen or tighten the grip around your dog so that you adjust if perfectly according to their size.
The life jacket you get for your dog should fit them perfectly well and remain comfortable for them to wear at all times and to breathe completely normally - anything other than that simply won't cut it.
Proper Handle & Strap Placement
One of the most common design flaws that dog life jacket manufacturers don't spend enough time on, and one that kills any chances of their products becoming best sellers, is poorly designed handle and strap placements on the life jacket.
Properly designed handles on life jackets should make it as easy as possible for you to use them to take your dog out of the water safely whenever the need arises.
You'd be surprised how many dog life jacket manufacturers get this wrong!
Ideally speaking, the best dog life jacket won't have you coming back for a replacement anytime soon.
For most dog owners that choose any option from the list of the best dog life vests we mentioned above, it's almost always a one time purchase that they won't have to make again for the same dog.
Now of course, this varies depending on how frequently you take your dog out for a swim and how extensively you use this life jacket, but the better the dog life jacket is and the higher quality materials it's made of, the longer it will last you.