Best dog life vest: Be water smart

Best dog life vest

Whether you’re lazing by the pool, strolling by the sea or off on a sailing or kayaking adventure, keeping your dog safe around water is a must.

Even though many dogs enjoy the water and are excellent swimmers, they can still find themselves in trouble. Fatigue, strong currents and cold water can all affect your dog’s ability to stay afloat.

Investing in a flotation device will give you peace of mind and protect your dog from getting into difficulties while in the water. Our top pick is the RUFFWEAR - K-9 Float Coat for Dogs but for more options read below.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best dog life vests

Do dogs need a life vest?

It’s never a good idea to assume that your dog can swim. While many are perfectly happy in the water, others struggle to stay afloat.

Some breeds of dogs are just not well-designed for water activities. Short legs, heavy heads, and dense bones all make swimming a struggle.

Boxers, Pugs and Boston terriers, for example, are top heavy which makes keeping their head above water difficult. Meanwhile, Dachshunds and Bassett Hounds have such short legs that they must work exceptionally hard to stay afloat. And all brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pekingese find it challenging to keep their muzzles out of the water.

Besides the breed limitations there are dogs just don’t like the water. It’s not uncommon for dogs to panic if they find themselves in a pool or open water, and that can lead to disaster.

But even if your dog is a good swimmer, it’s worth investing in a life vest if you are spending any time in or around water.

Not only do dogs tire much more quickly in water than they do on land, but they get chilled too. This is especially true of small dogs, puppies, and seniors that need extra care in water.

A flotation device will keep your dog safe in the water as well as making it easier for you to see your dog if you’re in open water and they’ve gone overboard.

Supervised swimming

While a dog life vest dramatically reduces the dangers linked with swimming, they are no substitute for a watchful eye.

Whether your dog swims in a pool, lake, stream or even open water they can quickly get into trouble. Strong currents, fatigue, underwater hazards, choking, panic, and low temperatures are all potential dangers.

Never leave your dog unsupervised while they are in water even if they are wearing a life vest.

How to measure your dog for a life vest

Getting a vest that fits well is vital to keep your dog safe in the water. Manufacturers sizes vary. So while many brands offer small, medium and large sizes it’s important to measure your dog carefully based on the measuring instructions of the vest that you choose.

However, there are some standard measurements that you’ll almost certainly need;

  • Neck: Measure around where your dog’s collar would usually sit
  • Chest circumference: Measure around the broadest part of your dog’s chest, usually just behind the front legs
  • Length: This is from your dog’s collar to the base of their tail
  • Weight: Some manufacturers provide a recommended weight for their life vests. This ensures adequate buoyancy so is especially important to get right.

A well-fitting life vest should be snug without being tight. You should be able to slip two fingers between your dog and the jacket.

Your dog should still have a good range of motion once they are wearing a jacket. Look for any areas of chafing or discomfort.

Also, check that the jacket looks balanced. Is it sitting too far forward or back? Does it ride up around the neck for example? Once you’re satisfied with the fit, you’re ready to take the vest for a test run.

What to look for in the best dog life vest

There is a wide range of choice when it comes to life jackets. But there are few key features to look for when picking one for your dog.

Fit – This is probably the most important consideration when picking a life vest. The fit should be snug but not tight. Your dog should still have a full range of motion without chafing.

Visibility – While not quite as important if you’re sticking to a pool if you’re taking your dog out in open water, good visibility is a must. Look for bright colors and reflective strips as they can make the difference between rescue and disaster.

Buoyancy – It may seem obvious, but buoyancy is critical. Vests vary in how much and where they place flotation materials. For instance, some may have additional flotation pads under the chin which is perfect for top-heavy dogs or under the belly which is excellent for long dogs like Dachshunds.

Handles – Top handles provide an easy way to lift your dog out of the water. These should be durable and positioned so that as you lift, your dog’s head doesn’t drop down into the water. For bigger, or top-heavy dogs, double handles are ideal.

Leash attachment ring — If it’s impossible to lift your dog out of the water for some reason, for example, your dog’s size or strong current, a leash attachment ring or loop can prove invaluable. It enables you to keep your dog close until you can get help.

If you find that your dog is between sizes, always opt for the larger size and adjust down.

The best dog life vest

Outward Hound Dog Life Jackets - Beginner, Intermediate and Expert Swimmer Dog Life Vests
  • 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...
  • 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....
  • MULTI-HANDLE DESIGN: Dual grab handles provide easy access to rescue and restraint dog while swimming or on land.

With five sizes and three color choices, including a novelty clown fish design, the Granby life vest by Outward Hound is a sound choice.

The brightly colored ripstop material also has multiple reflective strips which makes it much easier to spot your dog in the water. Not only that but it has two grab handles on the top handily placed over the shoulders and belly which makes lifting your dog out of the water-a lot simpler.

The vest has both belly and chest straps and a handy neck flotation pad that helps keep your dog’s head out of the water. What’s more, each size has a four-inch adjustment range which means the chances of getting a vest to fit your dog well is high.


  • This life vest is light and easy to put on and take off
  • Good adjustability
  • Colors are vivid, and the reflective strips add additional visibility


  • It could do with a leash hook up, You can attach a carabiner to the top handle, but it isn’t ideal
  • There’s no reinforced stitching around the grab handles – not much of an issue for a small dog but the weight of larger dogs is likely to rip the fabric
  • Sizing is an issue and difficult to get right, probably because it relies only on girth measurement

Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket, Ripstop & Reflective Dog Life Preserver with Enhanced Buoyancy & Rescue Handle, Bright Yellow, S
  • 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...
  • FOR DOG'S SAFETY: Vivaglory dog PFD is constructed with extra padding to enable strong buoyance in the water without restricting your dog's movement. Fastening system around belly and neck will keep...
  • CONVENIENCE & FIT: durable grab handle of the dog life preserver makes it easy to pull your dog out of any emergency. D-ring is for attaching dog leash. Adjustable straps and quick-release buckles...

Available in five sizes and eight colors, there’s a lot of versatility in this life vest from Vivaglory. Made from durable ripstop fabric with additional material underneath to protect your dog’s belly. This vest also has extra padding for improved buoyancy.

This lifesaver is easy to put on and take off your dog with quick release buckles. There’s a grab handle on top to help get your dog in and out of the water and a leash clip if you need more control of your dog while they are swimming.

All the color options have reflective strips making it easier to spot your dog in low light. What’s more the jacket comes with a ninety-day guarantee and twenty-four/seven customer service.


  • The extra material over the tummy area provides extra security and stops straps from potentially rubbing your dog’s stomach secure on your dog
  • As the range of sizes and adjustability are good, it means there’s a decent chance of getting a vest that fits well
  • The customer service is excellent. Vivaglory not only offer twenty-four/seven support on their product but they also have a ninety-day guarantee


  • This jacket is well-padded. However the rear of the vest is as padded as the front which means top-heavy dogs will struggle to keep their heads out of the water
  • The leash clip is plastic and won’t stand much wear and tear
  • The neck closure is awkward and has a large piece of Velcro that can rub or catch your dog’s fur

EzyDog Premium Doggy Flotation Device (DFD) - Adjustable Dog Life Jacket Preserver with Reflective Trim - Durable Grab Handle for Safety and...
  • 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,...
  • 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...
  • 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...

This heavy-duty polyester vest from EzyDog is durable, with extra wide neoprene belly straps and clips. The vest is designed to keep your dog in a natural swimming position.

With six sizes and three bright colors, it offers a lot of versatility. Each of the colors comes with reflective strips and an integral grab handle so that you can help your dog in and out of the water.

The zipped pocket is a nice touch although anything that you put in it has to be water-proof of course.

The neck is well-padded and contoured for a comfortable fit, and it comes complete with a D ring for when you need to attach a leash. There are three sizing points; girth, length, and weight help get the perfect fit.


  • Well-constructed
  • The extra wide straps are perfect for heavier dogs
  • The buoyancy is excellent so no need to worry about your dog staying afloat


  • The grab handle is low profile which means it doesn’t snag easily, however, as such it’s not easy to grasp in an emergency
  • The zipped pocket is a nice touch. Although it has limited use in water.
  • Bulky, especially the neck strap

RUFFWEAR, Float Coat Dog Life Jacket for Swimming, Adjustable and Reflective, Wave Orange, X-Large
  • 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

This Ruffwear float coat is durable and abrasion-resistant with water-compatible webbing ensuring that it stays put while your dog is swimming.

One of the advantages of this vest over some others is that it has additional flotation material in the belly. This means that your dog can stay in a natural swimming position while being well-supported.

Not only that, but the Float coat has a durable grab handle and sturdy, easy to clip buckles that tuck away to prevent them from getting caught accidentally.

The design of the collar is smart. It’s telescopic and adjusts to fit your dog correctly it also neatly secures, so no straps are flapping around your dog’s face.

It comes in six sizes and five color options all with reflective strips, so your dog remains visible even in poor light. There’s also an Ruffwear Beacon Light (not included) if you want extra low light visibility .


  • Lightweight and well-padded without being bulky
  • The material is sturdy, and the handle on top holds up well when lifting your dog in and out of the water
  • The additional flotation material ensures a comfortable swim even for dogs that aren’t well-designed for swimming


  • Don’t be tempted to attach a leash to the loop on top – it’s for an optional light and not strong enough for a leash. The leash clip is under the handle which is a bit odd and inconvenient
  • The telescopic neck is excellent in principle, but there are two issues. The first is that it’s quite tricky to adjust and the second is that as it’s one piece your dog has to stick their head through the opening which some dogs dislike doing

Kurgo Surf n’ Turf Dog Life Jacket | Lifejacket for Dogs | Dog Water Life Vest | Kayak Life Jacket for Pets | Dog Rain Jacket | for Pool or Lake |...
  • Doubles as Dog Jacket and Raincoat - This 2 season coat can be used as a life vest to assist your dog when in water or on a boat, and as a raincoat by removing floatation layer
  • 2 Control Handles - Dog jacket has 2 transverse handles for quick control to extract dog from water when needed; life vest for dogs is made of rugged ripstop material to withstand rough use
  • Reflective Trim for Visibility - Bright colored life vest is visible from farther distances and has reflective trim for night time visibility; has 2 metal D-rings for leash connections; includes...

This Surf N Turf life jacket from Kurgo has a trick up its sleeve. You can remove the flotation layer, and it doubles as a raincoat. This two-season coat, it’s perfect for both the spring and the summer as well as daily walks when it’s wet.

The vest comes with two grab handles one standard one that runs along the top from head to tail and another that runs from side to side offering greater flexibility when lifting your dog from the water. It’s also made from tough rip-stop fabric and has two D-rings enabling secure leash connections.

Available in five sizes and measured using three points of sizing – girth, neck and back to ensure the perfect fit it comes in bright red with reflective strips, so your dog is always visible.

The belly straps offer good adjustability, and the neck has both a belt and Velcro for extra security. Kurgo is so confident in their product that they offer a lifetime warranty on their products if bought new from an authorized seller.


  • Three sizing points makes getting the perfect fit simple
  • Sturdy, durable and comfortable, it’s tapered which makes it less bulky than some other brands
  • It’s great to have the option of using it as a weatherproof jacket as well as a life vest


  • As with most life vests, if you have a large dog, it can be very uncomfortable for your dog if you need to lift them out of the water as there is no padding under the belly.
  • It’s a small pint, but it’s only available in red
  • The belly straps run through loops which are intended to hold the straps in place. However, these are single stitched and rip easily

Best dog life vest conclusion

When it comes to the safety of your dog you need a reliable, well-made and durable product that won’t let you down. We love the RUFFWEAR - K-9 Float Coat for Dogs for those very reasons.

The Float Coat is worth the investment if you and your dog spend any time in and around water. This vest is constructed to last and we particularly like the tuck-away straps as they minimize the chances of your dog getting caught on anything as they swim.

Last update on 2020-10-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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