Do Dogs Need Life Vests

dog on a boat with a life jacket

Any dog owner who lives near a body of water of any size is probably familiar with the sight of their pup bounding after a stick or a ball thrown into the river, lake, or ocean or just jumping in for the sheer joy of it. It’s a safe bet that if you have a dog, your dog loves to swim. For this very reason, it might never have occurred to you to ask, “Do dogs need life vests?” But in fact, a life vest is essential for canine safety. Dogs can encounter rough water or other hazards, and just like any of us, they get tired, no matter how much they love swimming. 

Does a Dog Need a Life Vest?

 The answer is yes, and here are just a few of the reasons. 

  • Not all breeds are born swimmers. Dogs with low body fat, such as greyhounds, lack buoyancy. Those with large chests proportionate to their bodies, such as bulldogs, tend to be top-heavy in the water.
  • Swimming is tiring for some dogs. This is particularly true for smaller breeds. However, any dog will get tired after swimming long enough.
  • Some life jackets provide added warmth. It’s a mistake to think temperature doesn’t affect dogs. However, hypothermia affects dogs just as it does humans. If this is a concern, some life vests for dogs are insulated.
  • Life jackets are there for emergencies. People wear life vests even if they are great swimmers in case something bad happens, and dogs need life vests for the same reason. The same kind of accidents that may occur with human swimmers, from swift currents to a severe health problem, such as a sudden seizure, can put a dog’s life at risk in the water. Some dog life vests also have handles, which makes it easy to grab them if they fall out of your boat.
  • Life jackets provide you and your dog with peace of mind. You can both relax and enjoy swimming. These jackets also make your dog more visible in the water, so you don’t lose track of your canine friend.

What Is the Best Type of Life Vest For My Dog?

(Read our Review of the 5 top life vests for dogs for 2020)

Since the answer to the question, “Do dogs require a life vest?” is yes, the next question might be about how you go about finding the right life vest for your dog. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind. 

 1. Your dog’s size is the first consideration. The life vest should be comfortable, but it should not be so loose that your dog can slip out of it. Dogs should be able to do all of their normal activities while in the vest, and breathing should be easy for them. Both the dog’s weight and chest size should be taken into account when choosing the right jacket. While some manufacturers provide sizing charts, the only way to be sure a life vest is a proper size is to try it on your dog. 

 2. Color is important. As mentioned above, a vest can help you quickly spot your dog in the water, so be sure to pick something that is easily visible. 

 3. The mechanism for securing the life jacket on your dog should be sturdy. Jackets may use snaps, hooks, or other methods, but many dog owners prefer buckles. These tend to be more secure than other options, and they also allow adjustments. You may also want to consider a vest on which the buckles are mostly on the inside. Buckles on the inside of the jacket helps ensure that it doesn’t get snagged on anything. 

 4. You may want to choose among extra features as well. In addition to handles, a dog life vests can also come with a D-ring. The D-ring is handy if you want to put a leash on your dog without having to continuously take the jacket off and put it back on again. Another option is a neck float, which keeps your dog’s head out of the water. Although life jackets that help keep your dog warmer are an option, if your dog has a lot of hair and you live in a warm climate, you should also consider whether the life vest is too hot for the dog. 

 5. Every dog owner will have a few additional criteria. Quality, price, and how easy it is to get on and off your dog are all factors you’ll want to take into account as well, depending on your specific situation. For example, if you have several dogs, the cost of the vest may be particularly important. 

How Do I Measure My Dog For a Life Vest?

The size was mentioned briefly up above, but it’s essential to get this right since a life vest that is too large or too small for your dog can be dangerous. 

First, you should know how much your dog weighs. You can get your dog’s weight using the scale at your vet’s office. Or, you can get his weight using your scale at home. Do this by stepping on the scale by yourself. Then, get on the scale with your dog. Subtract your weight from the weight of both you and your dog. The difference is your dog’s weight. 

 Next, you should measure your dog’s girth. This means taking a tape measure and putting it around the dog where the rib cage is widest. Then, measure your dog’s length. Do this by measuring the distance from the neck base to the tail base. Finally, measure your dog’s neck. 

 These measurements will help ensure that you get the right size jacket for your dog on the first try. Many manufacturers recommend that if your dog’s measurements indicate that it falls into several different categories, you should use the weight for the final determination. 

The last test is putting the jacket on the dog. If the fit is not snug but comfortable, the size or the life jacket might be wrong for your dog even if the numbers seem to match up. 

 Do dogs need life jackets? You may think your dog doesn’t because it doesn’t like to swim or you don’t have a boat. However, a dog can fall off a pier or into a pool. Even if your dog loves the water, rough currents, a health issue, or exhaustion can put your beloved canine in danger. Just as you’d protect children with a life jacket even when they weren’t planning to go in the water or if they’d had lots of swimming lessons, you should do the same for your dog. Doing so helps ensure many more days of fun at or near the water with your dog.