8 Best Dog Life Jackets

Sometimes, when I mention to friends that my dog has a life vest, they look at me like I’m nuts. Can’t all dogs swim? While most dogs can swim, including mine, there are circumstances when they might want or need a life vest.

Quick Product Links To The Best Dog Life Jacket

  1. Paws Aboard Lifeguard Neoprene Dog Life JacketBest Overall
  2. Kurgo Surf-n-Turf Dog Life VestRunner Up
  3. Outward Hound Granby RipStop Dog Life JacketBest Budget
  4. Outward Hound Neoprene Dawson Swimmer Dog Life Jacket – Best For Dogs That Love To Swim
  5. EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Life Jacket – Best For Boat And Beach
  6. Frisco Dog Life Jacket – Best Small Dog Life Jacket
  7. KONG Sport AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest – Best Sport Life Jacket
  8. Guardian Gear Deluxe Pillow Dog Preserver – Best For Head Above Water

Overview of the Best Dog Life Jackets

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Breathable mesh underbelly for proper draining and drying
  • Bright colored material with reflective elements
  • Variety of adjustable sizes so you can get the right fit for your dog
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  • Both life jacket and raincoat
  • Two handles to help manage your dog
  • D-rings to allow for a leash
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  • Affordable
  • Bright colored material with reflective elements
  • Multiple handles
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  • Bright colored material with reflective elements
  • Durable material and buckles
  • Quick-release buckles for minimum fuss
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  • More buoyancy than other vests, suitable for more dangerous situations
  • Specially designed to keep your dog upright in the water
  • D-ring to attach a leash
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  • Small sizes available for even the smallest dogs
  • Designed to be light and not too bulky for small dogs
  • Bright material with reflective elements
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  • Extra buoyancy for rougher waters
  • Will keep them in a natural upright position
  • D-ring for leash
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  • Extra buoyancy with marine-grade foam
  • Special under-chin flotation piece to support the head and neck
  • D-ring allows for leash attachment
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But how do you know if your dog needs a life vest, and what kind of life vest is best for your dog? Read on for an in-depth review of when and how to use dog life vests, along with my top eight picks of the best dog life vests. Spoiler: which life vest is best for your dog depends on their size, swimming experience, and what kind of activities you will be doing together.

Does My Dog Need A Life Vest?

There are circumstances in which every dog will need a life vest. For example, do you take your children out on the boat without a vest? Even though your dog can swim, if they do happen to fall overboard, you don’t know what the water conditions will be like or how long they will be in the water before you can retrieve them. They should be wearing a vest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most boating accident victims actually know how to swim but may be injured or unconscious or can suffer from exhaustion or hypothermia—all potential risks for dogs as well.

Similarly, if you are swimming in nature near lakes and rivers, a dog life vest is advisable. Excess rain can cause water conditions to change unexpectedly, and we don’t always know what is under the water in terms of reeds, trees, and the like which can make it more difficult for your dog to keep afloat.

Naturally, if your dog likes to join you in water sports such as kayaking or windsurfing, they’ll want the extra protection of a life vest.

While these circumstances apply to all dogs, some dogs may benefit from a vest for less obviously dangerous swimming situations, evening swimming in your backyard pool. Hundreds of dogs die in the United States each year from falling into the family pool!

Smaller dogs and skinnier dogs, such as greyhounds, tend to be poor swimmers and may benefit from a vest. Older dogs who still love to swim but have lost some of their strength and stamina could also use a vest. Not to mention puppies who are just learning to master the water.

8 Best Dog Life Vests Reviewed

1. Paws Aboard Lifeguard Neoprene Dog Life Jacket – Best Overall

Paws Aboard Lifeguard Neoprene Dog Life Jacket

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If you are looking for a quality life vest that will do the job for pretty much any dog, the Paws Aboard Neoprene Jacket should be your go to dog life vest.

Product Features

  • Neoprene material
  • Floatation on back and sides
  • Six sizes

Paws Aboard produces a quality, lightweight neoprene dog life vest in six different adjustable sizes, so there is something for every dog. The vest is made with a special breathable mesh underbelly to ensure that water drains rapidly so that your dog doesn’t get weighed down or overheated. It also comes in a bright red color with reflective elements, so it is easy to keep an eye on your dog even in low light.

The vest is secured with a heavy-duty velcro fastening system which is easy to use. But Velcro doesn’t appeal to all dogs and can be a real irritant when it comes to dogs with longer hair. The vest also has a durable top handle, to help you lift even the heaviest dogs in and out of the water. The vest is also machine washable.

While far from the most expensive dog life jacket on this list, it is not cheap, but you can be sure that you are buying quality.

Pros:

  • Breathable mesh underbelly for proper draining and drying
  • Bright colored material with reflective elements
  • Variety of adjustable sizes so you can get the right fit for your dog
  • Machine washable

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Velcro fastening

If you are looking for something simple to use that is appropriate for most dogs and most situations, then start your search with the Paws Aboard.

2. Kurgo Surf-n-Turf Dog Life Vest – Runner Up

Kurgo Surf-n-Turf Dog Life Vest

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If your dog is a serious adventurer and likes the sea, river, and rain, then this Kurgo life vest will suit all their needs.

Product Features

  • Nylon material
  • Removable floatation on back, sides, and belly
  • Four sizes

This life vest is designed for every situation and will work for your dog whether they are swimming in your backyard pool or the choppy ocean. The floatation elements of the jacket are also removable to make it into a comfortable raincoat, so you can use it with your dog when you are just out and about enjoying the wet weather.

The vest has two metal D-rings so that you can attach their leash when they are using it. It also comes in high contrast colors with a reflective trim to ensure maximum visibility.

The life vest has two handles so that it is easy to manage your dog, even when you are lifting a wet and excited pooch in and out of the water.

Some dog owners have noticed that this jacket is a bit less buoyant than some that they have tried, as there is no flotation material on the underside, but it is still sufficient to keep their dog afloat. Considering that this is for dogs that love swimming, this is no problem. But don’t buy this jacket for dogs that don’t like the water. It also comes in a more limited number of sizes than some other vests.

As you might expect from such a high-quality and versatile product, it is also expensive. But if your dog is a serious water lover, then they need this kind of serious jacket. This jacket is also highly durable and comes with a lifetime warranty, so at least you know that this is a long-term purchase.

Pros:

  • Both life jacket and raincoat
  • Two handles to help manage your dog
  • D-rings to allow for a leash
  • High contrast colored material with reflective elements
  • Durable with lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Less buoyant than some vests
  • Limited number of sizes

Let your water loving dog out with peace of mind with this high-quality and versatile dog life vest from Kurgo.

3. Outward Hound Granby RipStop Dog Life Jacket – Best Budget

Outward Hound Granby RipStop Dog Life Jacket

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If you are looking for a vest to keep your dog safe, but don’t want to spend too much as it won’t see regular use, then look no further than the Outward Hound dog life jacket.

Product Features

  • Neoprene
  • Floatation on back and sides
  • Five sizes

This neoprene life jacket comes in five sizes, from XS to XL, so that you can find the right size no matter your dog. It comes in a bright colored material with reflective piping so that your dog is always highly visible. On thing that sets this vest apart is that it features multiple handles to make manhandling your dog, even when they are soaking wet, as easy as possible.

The jacket is secured with pretty durable buckles, but they may wear out over time with a lot of use. The vest also comes with a flotation guard that will sit under your dog’s chin. This, combined with the relative lack of durability basically means that this is a vest for occasional use and not for dogs that are seriously into their watersports. The low price tag really reflects this.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Bright colored material with reflective elements
  • Multiple handles

Cons:

  • Buckles may wear out quickly
  • For occasional use rather than serious water lovers

If you are looking for an affordable life vest for occasional use, then the Outward Hound is a perfect choice.

4. Outward Hound Neoprene Dawson Swimmer Dog Life Jacket – Best For Dogs That Love To Swim

Outward Hound Neoprene Dawson Swimmer Dog Life Jacket

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Quite a bit more expensive than the other Outward Hound vest on this list, the Dawson Swimmer is their best option for serious water lovers.

Product Features

  • Neoprene
  • Floatation on back and sides
  • Five sizes

This neoprene vest, which again comes in five sizes, is a bit less buoyant than their other vest on our list, offering flotation only on the back and sides with nothing on the underbelly or under the face. While this is not great for timid pups, strong swimmers will love the extra freedom. The flotation elements also offer insulation to help keep your dog warm.

This vest is also more durable than the cheaper Outward Hound model, and the vest and buckles should last the test of time. The buckles are also quick release, so there is minimum fuss when it comes to getting your dog in and out of the vest.

The vest comes in high visibility colors with reflective piping to help you keep an eye on your pooch. The handles aren’t quite as easy to use as on the other Outward Hound model, but they certainly do the job.

Pros:

  • Bright colored material with reflective elements
  • Durable material and buckles
  • Quick-release buckles for minimum fuss
  • Leaves their underbelly free to swim

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Handles aren’t as versatile as on some other vests

If you are looking for a reliable Outward Hound vest for a dog that loves to swim, consider the Dawson Swimmer.

5. EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Life Jacket – Best For Boat And Beach

EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Life Jacket

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If you are planning on your taking your dog on your boat, or they like to accompany you kayaking or windsurfing, then the high-performance EzyDog is an excellent choice.

Product Features

  • Neoprene material
  • Extra buoyant floatation
  • Five sizes

This dog life jacket is more buoyant than most vests to give your dog the extra support then need if they find themselves adrift on the high seas or in other dangerous situations. It is specifically designed to keep your dog upright at all times to minimize the chance of them drinking or inhaling excess water. Again, it comes in a bright color with reflective details to help with visibility.

The jacket is durable and the straps secure snugly so that there is no chance of your dog slipping out of a properly sized vest. It also comes with a D-ring so that you can attach their leash as needed. The grab handle works, but is not as easy to use as I have seen on some vests.

Pros:

  • More buoyancy than other vests, suitable for more dangerous situations
  • Specially designed to keep your dog upright in the water
  • D-ring to attach a leash
  • Durable with a snug fit so they won’t wriggle out
  • Bright colored material with reflective details

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Grab handle more basic than on some vests

If you are considering taking your dog on the high seas and need maximum safety in case  they go overboard, then the EzyDog vest will work for you.

6. Frisco Dog Life Jacket – Best Small Dog Life Jacket 

Frisco Dog Life Jacket

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This is another highly affordable life jacket that is suitable for dogs of all sizes but is especially good for smaller dogs.

Product Features

  • Neoprene Material
  • Floatation on back, sides, and belly
  • Five sizes

If your teacup dog likes to get out on the water, you will find them a vest that fits in the Frisco. The smaller sizes are also specially designed not to be too heavy and bulky and therefore won’t unduly weight down smaller pooches. The vest only has one grab handle, but you shouldn’t need more than that, and it comes in bright colors with reflective elements for visibility. This jacket is also super affordable.

On the downside, it might take some work to get your dog into the harness. There are a lot of snaps involved, as well as velcro which is not ideal for dogs with long hair.

Pros:

  • Small sizes available for even the smallest dogs
  • Designed to be light and not too bulky for small dogs
  • Bright material with reflective elements
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Uses velcro fastenings
  • Relatively difficult to secure on your pup

If you are looking for an affordable life vest for the smallest pups, the Frisco offers a good range of choices.

7. KONG Sport AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest – Best Sport Life Jacket

KONG Sport AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest

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If you and your dog are into watersports, and you want something that is heavy duty and also provides a lot of freedom, consider the KONG.

Product Features

  • Nylon material
  • Extra buoyant floatation
  • Six sizes

Designed for more extreme activities than paddling in the pool, this vest is another that offers a bit of extra buoyancy to keep your dog afloat in unexpected situations. It will also keep them in an upright position in choppier waters.

The vest is made from high-quality and durable nylon to ensure it lasts the test of time, no matter what your dog is up to. It also features a D-ring so that you can attach a leash, so there is no need for an additional collar.

This vest will certainly set you back, but it is worth it for the durability and safety it offers if you and your dog are serious about watersports. One other problem with this product is that it is mostly grey in color, with a relatively small reflective panel, which can make your dog tough to see in the water.

Pros:

  • Extra buoyancy for rougher waters
  • Will keep them in a natural upright position
  • D-ring for leash
  • High quality and durable

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited colored and reflective material

If you plan on taking your dog out on the waves or down river on the kayak, ensure maximum safety with the KONG vest.

8. Guardian Gear Deluxe Pillow Dog Preserver – Best For Head Above Water

Guardian Gear Deluxe Pillow Dog Preserver

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Many dogs love to swim but still struggle to keep their heads above water. Give them the boost they need with the Guardian Gear Deluxe.

Product Features

  • Polyester material
  • Floatation on back, belly, sides, and under chin
  • Seven sizes

This highly buoyant vest, made with marine-grade foam, comes with all the features that you would expect but with the addition of a special flotation pillow that sits under your dog’s chin to ensure that their head stays above water. This is great for pups that aren’t great swimmers or for older dogs whose neck can feel the strain when they hold their head up above water for long periods of time.

The vest comes with two grab straps to make lifting your dog in and out of the water easy and safe, and the easy-release straps mean that it is quick to put on and take off. Also, no need for a collar, as integrated D-rings allow you to attach a leash.

Pros:

  • Extra buoyancy with marine-grade foam
  • Special under-chin flotation piece to support the head and neck
  • D-ring allows for leash attachment

Cons:

  • Affordable
  • Limited durability

If you worry about your dog keeping their head above water while swimming, the Guardian Hear can give you peace of mind.

Buying Guide: Dog Life Vests

There are quite a few factors to consider when choosing the right dog life jacket for your pup.

Buoyancy

The whole point of the dog life vest is to help them keep afloat, so naturally, you’ll want something that does this effectively. Basic vests will have flotation material on the back and sides to keep your dog on top of the water. This is great for dogs that love swimming, and they don’t have anything restrictive under their bellies that might interfere with their swimming ability.

However, it is also possible to get vests that offer flotation on their bellies as well, which is good for dogs that are weaker swimmers and might need some extra help. It is also possible to get vests with additional buoyant material around the head and neck to help ensure that they can keep their head above water. This is good for weak swimmers, older dogs, or pups with a bit of fear of the water.

Color

Depending on where you are swimming, being able to keep an eye on your dog in the water can be a challenge. Dog life vests can also help with this, with bright colored vests making them easier to spot at a distance. It can also be a good idea to invest in a vest with some reflective elements, as this can make your dog easier to see in low light.

Handles

If something does happen and you need to lift your dog out of the water, this can be more challenging than it seems. They are heavier when they are wet, and if they are panicking, that won’t help. A good dog life jacket will have handles that allows you to get a good grip on your pooch when lifting them out of the water.

It is also a good idea to choose a dog life jacket with a D-Ring to attach a leash, as it will probably be easier to attach this directly to their harness, rather than expecting them to wear both the jacket and a collar.

Easy Fitting

If your dog likes the water, they will probably quickly associate seeing the life vest with the promise of a fun day out. It can be quite difficult to put a life vest on a very excited (or very scared) dog. At the same time, you want to be able to remove the vest quickly in case you need to examine a wound, or you just want to get it off before they drag dirty water into your car or home.

The easier it is to get the vest on your dog the better, and quick-release straps that let your dog run off into freedom with minimum fuss will also make your life a lot easier.

Durability

Whether your dog uses their vest almost daily, or it only comes out a couple of times a year, considering that these things aren’t cheap, you are going to want something that lasts a suitable amount of time. Vests need to be made from quality materials with sturdy clasps that won’t fail after a few uses.

Easy To Clean

Your dog’s life jacket will need regular cleaning, as the water that they swim in is often full of salt and dirt that will make its way into the vest. And if they don’t wander through some mud and kick it up onto their vest in the surrounding area, I’m always surprised. A vest that is easy to wash by just popping in the machine will save you a lot of time.

Weight

While dog life vests are designed for them to use in the water, they will also be running about in them. This means that you don’t want anything too heavy that will weigh them down. Moreover, if you are lifting your dog in and out of the water in the vest, you don’t want anything that adds a lot of extra weight for you either.

Size And Fit

You can purchase the best dog vest in the world, but it won’t be effective if it doesn’t fit them properly. Too big and they can slip out, too small and it will be very uncomfortable. If your dog is in discomfort, they are likely to start acting out which is the last thing you need when on the water.

How To Measure Your Dog For A Life Vest

Each life vest manufacturer will have different requirements for fitting their life vest to your dog, but there are a few common measurements that you will need for any vest:

  • Weight – You probably already know the weight for your dog from their regular trip to the vet, but if not, pop them on the scales.
  • Length – This is the distance between the base of your dog’s neck and the base of their tail. Measure this with tailor’s tape.
  • Neck – This is the circumference of your dog’s neck at its widest point.
  • Girth – This is the circumference of your dog’s chest, again, at its widest point.

Once you have these measurements, match them up with the right size for your dog based on the manufacturer’s sizing guide.

Check out this full tutorial on how to measure your dog for a life vest from PetFoodDirect.

Safety Tips

Of course, keeping your dog safe in the water is about more than just popping them in a life jacket. There are many things to consider to keep them safe in the water.

Swimming Training

First, don’t assume that your dog knows what they are doing in the water. Make sure they know how to swim. Teaching most dogs to swim should be quite straightforward, as they are natural swimmers. But you do need to introduce them to the water gradually, taking them into shallows where they feel safe and you feel safe protecting them, where they can discover how to swim.

Use some of our training-approved dog treats to help make the process a little smoother.

Also keep in mind that some dogs, especially smaller dogs and thin dogs such as greyhounds, simply may never be comfortable on the water.

Get more advice on teaching your dog to swim with this video from Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution.

As a word of warning, according to vet Dr Mary Fuller:

Even with the best-designed life jackets, some dogs may be better off onshore. Flat-nosed, barrel-chested dogs with short legs, such as bulldogs and pugs, generally aren’t built for swimming and can easily suffer from heat exhaustion in the blazing sun.

Water Conditions

As much as possible, make sure you are aware of the water conditions before you let your dog loose. You wouldn’t let your kids swim in the ocean if you knew that it had a strong rip or that there was a high probability of jellyfish. And you are a bit more wary of taking them out on the river when you know it is flood season. These same considerations should apply with your dog. Be actively aware of the current water conditions, and make a call on whether it is safe or if you need to pay a bit more attention than usual.

Other Considerations

  • Always give your dog a bath after they have been in the water. Seawater minerals, salt, chlorine, and algae can all irritate their skin and damage their fur.
  • Remove their flea collar before they go in the water so that it does not reduce the effectiveness of their protections.
  • Dry your dog’s ears completely after swimming to prevent ear infections. Find out more about cleaning their ears with this dog grooming guide.
  • Learn canine CPR so that you are prepared in case of the worst.
  • Never leave your dog alone in the water.

FAQs

Do Dogs Need Life Vests?

The short answer is yes, depending on what they are doing. If they will be swimming in the deep ocean, rough currents, or unfamiliar waters, then a life vest is a good idea. Also, some dogs simply aren’t strong swimmers, and they will be safer and happier in the backyard pool with a life vest.

Do Dogs Float In Water?

Dogs naturally float much in the same way as humans do. While they are naturally buoyant, this does not mean that are not at risk. Dogs will also naturally start to paddle when they find themselves in water, but if they panic, they can quickly find themselves sinking. They may also not have the strength and stamina to get themselves to safety.

Should I Wash My Dog After Swimming In The Pool?

The chlorine and chemicals in pool water can cause dogs to have itchy dry skin and a dull coat. If they only swim occasionally, you should consider washing them after every swim. If they are regular swimmers, then consider washing once a week and using shampoo specially formulated to help with chlorine or salt water.

Is Salt Water Good For Dogs’ Coats?

Salt water does have beneficial advantages for dogs, just like humans, but it is very drying. So, if your dog spends a lot of time in salt water, it is a good idea to shampoo them regularly in order to avoid dry flaky skin and a dull coat.

The Verdict

Choosing the right life jacket to keep your dog safe in the water can be challenging, as there are a lot of things to consider. If you just want the best all-around vest for use in a variety of situations, then Paws Aboard is a great place to start your search. If what you want is something affordable for occasional use, then check out the Outward Hound Granby Ripstop for something that will do the job. Outward Hound also make the pricier Dawson Swimmer for dogs that love to swim regularly.

If you are looking to take your dog out to sea on your boat, or they accompany you on more adventurous trips on the water, then consider a more heavy duty vest from EzyDog or KONG. If you need something that you can use in pretty much any situation, including good old rain, then the Kurgo has everything you need.

Remember that keeping your dog safe on the water is not just about strapping on a vest. Dogs need to be trained from a young age how to swim and how to behave around water. You should also be confident in your ability to recall them or get them to drop something in order to keep them out of danger.

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