Most dogs are excellent natural swimmers.
That doesn’t mean they can’t get into trouble in the water. Or that you don’t just want the extra peace of mind that you can quickly retrieve your dog out of the water without fuss.
There are plenty of situations and environments where a swimming vest provides benefits for dogs.
And it’s not just about helping your dog to swim and stay afloat. Yes, that’s obviously a primary purpose of any life jacket.
In addition the main jacket, most jackets will have a chin support that encourages your dog to keep his head up in the water. The chin flotation piece usually isn’t designed to function strictly as a chin support but it does help position your dog’s head for the best and safest swimming position. Dogs who have not learnt how to swim with their head up will find this particular feature of swimming jackets invaluable.
But another reason swimming vests for dogs are valuable is this:
They will make it easier for you to stop your dog if he/she gets into trouble in the water. Most of these vests are brightly colored and ensure your dog doesn’t blend into the environment. Top brands like Outward Hound include reflective surfaces on the vest to enhance visibility.
Secondly, good swimming vests for dogs will have a soft handle on top that allows you to easily retrieve your dog from the water if required.
In a difficult situation, it can mean the difference between quickly getting a hold of your dog and lifting him up to a boat or on to the shore, or potentially getting yourself in trouble in the water while trying to get a grip on your dog to lift her from the water.
The benefits of dog swimming vests far outweigh any negatives.
A well designed, well fitting, high quality canine life jacket will be comfortably worn by your dog and won’t be intrusive in the slightest.
Another reason people buy a swimming vest for dogs is for rehab purposes. Just like humans, older dogs and dogs who are recovering from some injuries can benefit from moving their legs in water. Doing this safely and supervised with a swimming vest can mean the difference in being confident in taking your dog into water at this time, or not being restricted to land based exercise only.
Choosing the right size life jacket for your dog
Select the best sized swimming vest for your dog not based on weight, but based on measuring the girth of your dog’s chest. Match this measurement with the provided size chart of the vest you’re looking to purchase. Each brand will have slightly different sizing, so don’t just assume small, medium, large etc are the same for every brand of life vest.
Can you attach a leash to a dog swimming vest?
Most dog life jackets won't have a specific leash attachment. But most have a soft handle on top where you can attach a lightweight carabiner or other attachment for the leash.
Are dog life vests adjustable?
Well designed dog life jackets will be adjustable, so you can select the size that best matches your dog then when fitting the vest, loosen or tighten the straps and velcro to get the best fit. The vest should not be too tight, nor too loose around the abdomen and neck. Most vests will have room to adjust around 5-10 inches so you can get a perfect fit.
Can dogs with two or three legs wear a life jacket?
Yes, dogs who are missing a leg can find joy in the water (supervised) safely wearing a swimming jacket, as long as your dog is able to paddle to maintain balance.