dog swimming with life jacket

Do Dogs Need Life Jackets? What To Know For Your Summer Adventures

You wear a life jacket when on the water, so should your four-legged pal wear one, too?
By Hilary Braaksma
April 20, 2021
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Before taking your pet boating or swimming this summer, it's important to consider some safety measures. One of the most simple, straightforward things you can do to ensure your pup's safety while swimming is to invest in a durable dog life jacket or swim vest.

Some dog breeds and personalities are more naturally suited to swimming, while others can be hesitant or downright panicky when it comes to water sports. Whether your dog is the Michael Phelps of canines (looking at you, retrievers) or not, it's always a good idea to strap your pooch up in a dog life jacket before hitting the water. 

How Do I Know If My Dog Needs A Life Jacket?

If you're going boating or plan to spend a lot of time in or near water, it's a good idea to strap your dog with a dog life vest, just as you do. While it's more necessary for some pets whose bodies aren't naturally suited to swimming, like dachshunds, corgis, pugs, and French bulldogs, even the most energetic, water-friendly breeds can tire, get caught, or struggle in rushing water. And as with any piece of dog clothing, you should let them get used to the life vest before you hit the waves (treats and rewards can help with this part!)

What To Look For In A Dog Life Jacket

1. Buoyancy

Always check the weight limit and read the description carefully to make sure the swim vest you're buying for your dog is designed to hold their weight in water.

2. Visibility

Features like bright, fluorescent fabric and reflective trim and accents can help you keep an eye on your pet, especially in murkier lake or pond water.

3. Rescue Handle

A durable top handle makes it easy for you to lift your dog out of the water if they become distressed or tired.

4. Adjustability

Look for adjustable vests to help you ensure your pooch gets the best, most comfortable fit possible.

Dog Swimming Safety Tips

  • Never leave your dog unattended or unwatched near water, even if they are wearing a life jacket.
  • Always make sure there's an easy way for your dog to get out of the water.
  • Be careful of blue-green algae in ponds—it is toxic to dogs.
  • And a good rule of thumb around safety and water quality: If you wouldn't swim in the water, it's safest not to let your dog swim in it, either.

The Best Dog Life Jackets

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Arcadia trail dog life jacket
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Best Overall: Arcadia Trail Dog Life Jacket

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Take water safety seriously with this durable, water-repellent dog life vest from Arcadia Trail. Safety features include fluorescent material, reflective trim and webbing, a rescue handle for lifting your dog out of the water, and more. This life jacket for dogs comes in XS—XXL and is available in red or yellow.

Shop now: Arcadia Trail Dog Life Jacket, $40; petsmart.com

Frisco ripstop dog life jacket
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Best Ripstop: Frisco Ripstop Dog Life Jacket

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Help keep your pooch safe and comfortable in the water with this ripstop dog swim vest. Ripstop fabrics are woven using special reinforcement techniques to make the material resistant to tearing and ripping. Frisco's dog life jacket has a D-ring leash attachment, reflective accents and brightly-colored material, and a 20mm foam panel for maximum buoyancy. This life vest for dogs also has two safety handles on top and comes in sizes XS—XL.

Shop now: Frisco Ripstop Dog Life Jacket, $24; chewy.com

Ruffwear dog life jacket
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Best Splurge: Float Coat Dog Life Jacket

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The Float Coat dog life jacket from Ruffwear is an adjustable swim vest for dogs with high-quality safety features like a durable safety handle, easy-clip buckles, and a telescoping neck design that adjusts easily to fit a range of sizes and breeds. This dog life vest comes in sizes XXS—XL and includes a handy sizing guide on the website.

Shop now: Float Coat Dog Life Jacket, $80; ruffwear.com

Outward hound dog life jacket
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Best on Amazon: Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket

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Need a life jacket, like, yesterday? We get it—cut down on shipping time with this great Amazon Prime option. The Outward Hound dog swim vest comes in a range of bright colors and patterns—green, camo, orange, pink, or yellow. This vest has reflective accents, two handles for safety, and comes in sizes XS—XL.

Shop now: Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket, $40; amazon.com

YOULY dog flotation vest
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Most Comfortable: YOULY Dog Flotation Vest

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The Youly Beach Bum dog vest is designed to support your pup's natural swimming position, so he can enjoy the water for hours on end without irritation. A breathable mesh construction helps contribute to the comfort, and features like a top handle and D-ring for beacons and trackers make this orange-and-pink option safe and adorable. Available in XXS—XL.

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KONG sport aquafloat dog flotation vest
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Best for Small Breeds: KONG Sport AquaFloat Dog Flotation Vest

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Get a great fit for tiny fur friends with this pretty pink KONG dog life jacket. This safety swimwear for pups comes in sizes starting at XXS and up to L, so it's ideal for smaller breeds—plus the adjustable belly, neck, and check closures make it easy to get the ideal fit. There's also a strong emergency handle for safety and D-ring attachment for convenience.

Shop now: KONG Sport AquaFloat Dog Flotation Vest, $35; chewy.com

EzyDog dog flotation device
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Best for Large Breeds: EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device

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The EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device swim vest provides up to 50 percent more buoyancy than traditional vests, so it can keep even the largest, most rambunctious dogs upright in the water. This adjustable dog life jacket comes in sizes XS—XL, and the largest sizing fits pups 90 pounds and over.

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Queenmore dog life jacket
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Most Adorable: Queenmore Shark Dog Life Jacket

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This adorable, cheeky shark fin-shaped life jacket for pups is a fun way to keep your pooch safe at the pool or lake this summer. Don't worry, this life jacket is as safe as it is silly. Features like a strong top rescue handle and reflective accents help you make sure your dog splashes safely. It also comes in pink!

Shop now: Queenmore Shark Dog Life Jacket, $23; amazon.com