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Kurgo and Ruffwear are both companies with reputations for making high-quality products for high-adventure dogs. But which of these two leading brands is the real top dog in canine water safety? I tested the Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket and the Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket to find out which of these top-rated products is truly the best to keep a paddling pup afloat.
Kurgo or Ruffwear: Which Dog Life Jacket is Best?
My Terrier mix Miss Bennet is fast in the water, but it’s not confidence that propels her—it’s fear. She didn’t learn to swim until the age of three and still prefers water from its edges, barking at anyone who goes beyond. However, she will occasionally cannonball into the water on a quest for a tennis ball, something she never chases on land.
I chose the Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket for Miss Bennet, measuring her chest and length and selecting a small accordingly. It seemed a teensy bit small on her, but after examining the sizing for the medium, I decided to keep it—and I’m glad I did. After Miss Bennet’s fluffy hair shrunk in the water, it was a better fit.
The Kurgo dog life jacket’s best features:
- Sturdy construction featuring ripstop nylon and neoprene.
- Two small handles on the back of the jacket for excellent control as needed.
- A metal D-ring to connect leashes and other attachments (and even doubles as a bottle opener). NOTE: The design of the Kurgo dog life jacket was recently updated. Some product description say that there are two D-rings, but the newest version of the life jacket, which I tested, has just one.
- Three adjustable straps allow for an all-over custom fit.
- Lightweight and flexible.
- Bright colors and reflective trim for excellent visibility.
- Soft fabric interior for pup comfort.
What I didn’t like about the Kurgo dog life jacket:
- The straps required quite a bit of fiddling to get the right fit, which is challenging when the jacket is on an excited, wet dog.
- The chest padding does not reach all the way around, exposing Miss Bennet’s fur and skin to the straps.
- The single D-Ring is at the back of the life jacket—inconvenient for leash control.
- Neither handle is padded for comfortable lifting.
Overall, I was pleased with the Kurgo Surf N Turf Life Jacket. It gave Miss Bennet support in the water, but it didn’t diminish her mobility. She happily ran laps around the pool until she was ready to jump—or fall—in.
There’s no rating for float strength on dog life jackets, but the slimmer profile indicates that the Kurgo Dog Life Jacket could be better suited for stronger swimmers who don’t need a huge amount of buoyancy. While fitting the various straps can be a challenge, it’s very flexible, making it a good option for dogs who need a more custom fit.
Logan, our Labrador Retriever, loves the water. He’s known to swim in leisurely circles for fun. He’s also a fan of his mobility-focused sessions at the gym pool.
I selected the Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket for Logan, an updated version of an older jacket we’d previously used and loved. At 65 pounds, he is on the smaller side for his breed, but I measured him to be sure, then chose the medium-sized jacket.
The Ruffwear dog life jacket’s best features:
- The foam inside is thick, offering optimal flotation.
- All-around coverage provides cushioning between the straps and the dog’s skin at all points.
- Bright color options deliver good visibility out on the water.
- A thick, padded handle allows for comfortable lifting.
- It features one D-ring, located toward the front of the coat, for leashes and other attachments and a fabric loop intended for a clip-on light.
- Made of durable materials, a smooth exterior and covered straps help prevent snags that could cause damage to the jacket or endanger a dog.
What I didn’t like about the Ruffwear dog life jacket:
- While offering excellent float protection, the thick padding may be uncomfortable—or overkill—for some dogs in some situations.
- The fitting process is less fiddly than the Kurgo, but it’s also less customizable, with the thickness of the jacket making it more rigid.
- The D-ring is plastic and tucked under the handle, protecting it but making it harder to access.
True to the brand’s reputation, it’s evident that Ruffwear built the Float Coat for adventure and durability. The thick outer construction and protected straps will help keep it working in both more rugged waters and relatively calm pools. The Ruffwear dog life jacket is particularly good for less skilled or less confident dogs, with thick foam providing optimal buoyancy.
Even for a water-loving dog like Logan, the Ruffwear dog life jacket allows him to swim at his leisure, putting less stress on his body while also allowing maximum fun.
Based on our testing, both the Kurgo and the Ruffwear dog life jackets are excellent options for a day on the water. Both are all about safety—but their designs prioritize slightly different swim and play styles.
After reading all of the reviews and details of the two products, my original choice for each dog boiled down to color. The features and benefits noted in the reviews and listings weren’t different enough to distinguish them. However, after using the two jackets, I would reverse my original decision. Miss Bennet needs more buoyancy and a sturdy handle to haul her out of the water. Logan doesn’t need as much float support but, with a skinny body and a barrel chest, would benefit from the flexible fit of the Kurgo jacket.
Ultimately, these are pretty small distinctions. Both dog life jackets lived up to their stellar reviews, and I’m looking forward to many more days of happy floating and fun in the pool.
Who will like the Kurgo?
- Experienced swimmers
- Pups who prefer more flexibility and freedom to move
- Dogs with unusual body types who need a more customizable life jacket
Who will like the Ruffwear?
- Water-cautious pups who appreciate extra buoyancy
- Seafaring dogs who swim in choppier water
- Pet parents who prioritize control (good leash attachments and padded handles)