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A dog life jacket is an important piece of safety gear. If your summer plans include swimming or hanging out on the water with your four-legged friend, you’ll want them properly outfitted. But dogs have different degrees of comfort in the water, different body shapes, and different play and swim styles—making it hard to know which model is best for your particular pup.
We’ve rounded up our favorite dog life jackets and highlighted their pros and cons so you can find the safest, comfiest fit for whatever kind of pup you’re swimming with, whether that’s an experienced water dog, a senior splasher, or a pup just looking to dip their toes.
What To Look For in a Good Dog Life Jacket
At first glance, a lot of dog life jackets look pretty similar—which can make buying one feel like a decision more about fashion than safety. But there’s more function in a life jacket’s key features than you might expect, and there are some important things to be on the lookout for:
- Bright colors. It’s always a good idea to keep your dog visible when they’re in the water—both for fellow swimmers and boaters and in case you need to get to them fast in an emergency.
- A durable top handle to help you to grab onto and lift your dog, whether you’re hauling them out of the water or helping them make the journey from dock to boat.
- A sturdy D-ring or leash attachment. This will allow you more flexibility when using the vest out of the water and can help give you another place to connect to if your dog does get into trouble.
- Reflective strips. These increase the visibility factor for your dog, especially if you’re swimming at dawn, dusk, or nighttime.
- Extra flotation material around the sides and middle. Different dogs will want different degrees of buoyancy—but full-torso coverage is a safe minimum.
If your dog isn’t a strong swimmer, is a brachycephalic breed (i.e., short snout), or tires easily, you may also want to look for a life vest with an attachable front flotation pad that can help keep your dog’s head above the water.
Best Dog Life Jacket for Pro Swimmers: Kurgo Surf N Turf (Verified Review)
A top-rated favorite of water-loving pups and their people, this jacket features two handles, a built-in D-ring, and three adjustable straps for the perfect fit. It’s made of durable materials to hold up to all your adventures, brightly colored so you can easily spot your pup in the water, and lightweight so they can move easily through the waves and on land. Based on our tests, we recommend it for stronger swimmers who just need a little support and dogs with a shape that requires a custom fit.
- Maximum mobility on land and in the water
- Pups of all dimensions
Not great for:
- Less confident swimmers who need extra buoyancy
- Maximum leash control
Best Dog Life Jacket for New Swimmers: Ruffwear Float Coat (Verified Review)
Coming from a brand known for making durable gear for high-adventure pups, the Ruffwear Float Coat is no exception. It’s made of rugged materials, with thick foam offering maximum buoyancy. We like the all-around coverage for extra comfort and the cushy handle that makes it easy (or easier) to lift your dog out of the water. A hidden D-ring lets you attach a leash, while a fabric loop is intended for a clip-on light. The Float Coat is great for weaker swimmers or dogs exploring rougher waters. We put it head to head with the Kurgo Surf N Turf to see which life jacket performed best.
- New and less confident swimmers
- Choppier water
- Leash and handle control
Not great for:
- Maximum flexibility
- Customizing fit
Best Budget Dog Life Jacket: Outward Hound Granby (Verified Review)
For a more affordable option, our choice is the Outward Hound Granby Dog Life Jacket. It features two handles on top that can make helping a dog out of the water (or back onto a paddle board, in our tester’s case) a lot easier. There’s extra fabric for comfort around the belly and an additional flotation pad at the front to keep your dog’s head above water without restricting movement.
The one thing it’s missing is a D-ring, but for this price, it could be a good choice for anyone who will get only occasional use out of a dog life jacket.
- Dogs who have trouble keeping their face out of the water
- Pups who need to be lifted out of the water (up to 50 pounds or so)
Not great for:
- Leash attachment/control
Best Dog Life Jacket for Durability: Hurtta Life Savior
With plenty of thick padding and extra buoyancy materials around the belly and chest, the Hurtta Life Savior jacket is made for sporty use and durability. We also like the bright color options—yellow, orange, and purple—as well as the super thick top handle and extra stitching around the straps. With the higher price point, this is a good option for anyone hoping to get a lot of use and longevity out of their dog life jacket.Find on Amazon
Best Life Jacket for Big Dogs: EzyDog Premium Flotation Device
The first thing that drew our attention to this EzyDog life vest was the style—this jacket just looks good. But it also has all the elements of a well-made jacket (which is more important).
Featuring a D-ring for clipping a leash, 50% more flotation materials than other jackets, and plenty of reflective striping to really increase a pup’s visibility in the water, this is an all-around solid choice for a life jacket. A well-attached handle and extra buoyancy make it an especially good pick for bigger dogs.
Best Life Jacket for Small Dogs: Paws Aboard Life Jacket
The two things we love best about this life jacket are the funky fabric options—although we’d still recommend a bright color for visibility—and the versatile fit. It features extra fabric below the belly straps for comfort, a leash clip, and extra padding in the front to support the head. Though it has a top handle, it’s a bit thin, so it’s a good choice for small pups and casual swimmers—but not what we’d recommend for heavier dogs or sustained wear and tear.Find on Amazon
Most Fashionable Dog Life Jacket: LandShark Nylon Life Vest
We are big fans of the shark fins on these otherwise-practical life jackets. This model from LandShark is available in four sizes, so it fits sharks (ahem—dogs) of all shapes. The Land Shark also has most of the features we’re looking for: heavy-duty zipper, nylon handle, front buckle, and durable straps. We only wish this jacket also offered a front flotation pad for the little swimmers.
Best Life Jacket for Long Dogs: Outward Hound Dawson Jacket
This bright life jacket by Outward Hound is a great choice for dogs who aren’t naturally gifted swimmers. With extra insulation to keep your dog warm, a dual-grab top handle, and extra-thick foam panels on the sides to increase buoyancy, it’s an especially good option for long pups like Dachshunds and Corgis, who will appreciate the additional under-chin float. We wish they’d add a D-ring, but this is a good overall value and comes in a few bright color options.
Best Life Jacket for Dogs Who Sink: Backcountry x Petco The Flotation Dog Vest
This collaboration between outdoor retailer Backcountry and pet store Petco is specially designed to support a dog’s natural swimming position. While most jackets put the foam primarily at the top, the flotation in this jacket starts at the chest and belly and wraps upward, making your dog buoyant from below.
We love the plastic-covered sport handle, and it has a metal D-ring to attach a leash too. It only comes in one color, a colorblock mix of orange and black, but it’s a solid alternative to the traditional vest—and a good choice if other life jackets tend to sink your dog’s rear end and leave them floating like a pencil.Find on Petco
How To Pick the Right Size Dog Life Jacket
Once you’ve figured out the optimal life jacket for your pup, you’ll want to make sure you get the right size by taking accurate measurements and comparing them to your chosen brand’s size chart.
First, weigh your dog to make sure they fit within the life jacket’s specified weight range. Next, measure your dog’s length from the neck all the way to the base of the tail. Then measure your dog’s girth around the widest part of the neck and the widest part of the chest.
Consult the manufacturer’s size chart and choose the range that fits your dog’s measurements, sizing up when in doubt. (It’s a lot easier to cinch a too-big life jacket snug than it is to make more room in a too-tight vest.)
When your jacket arrives, check the size by opening all buckles and loosening all straps. Then help your dog into the jacket and tighten the straps just until they’re snug. The chest straps do most of the work holding the life jacket in place, so a tight fit is good—as long as your dog is comfortable and can breathe easily.
Before using the life vest in the water, have your dog run around a bit while you watch to make sure the life jacket stays in place and that your dog seems comfortable and happy. If it’s their first time in a life vest, you may need to give your dog extra time to get used to it on land (preferably with treats) before you hit the water.
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