Overview of Dog Life Jackets and Where to Find Them

A life jacket makes retrieval easier.

Dog life jackets can be important to the safety of your dog if you spend any amount of time in or near the water. Even if your dog is an excellent swimmer, a life jacket could save his life.

Why Use Dog Life Jackets

Canine life jackets are typically used for the same reasons that a personal flotation device (PFD) would be used for a child. They keep pets safer around the pool, at the beach or in a boat. PFDs are required by law for children, but not for dogs. This may make you wonder whether it's really all that important to provide a life jacket for your dog. Here are a few things to consideration:

  • Some dogs, especially breeds with low body fat, do not do well in the water. These dogs may need the extra buoyancy that a life jacket or vest provides.
  • Young puppies and older dogs may not have the stamina needed to keep their heads above water.
  • Dogs who are excellent swimmers still become fatigued. A dog that excitedly goes after a duck in a large lake may be so focused on retrieving the catch for his master that he may not pay attention to overly cold water or tired muscles.
  • Any dog may have trouble in large waves if he has fallen out of a boat. A PFD may provide the easiest way for the dog owner to grab the dog and pull him back into the boat.

Types of PFDs for Dogs

There are essentially two types of PFDs for dogs. The life jacket and the life vest.


The life jacket for dogs covers more area. It is intended to provide visibility as well as buoyancy. This type of PFD is best for dogs in a boat or at the beach. If your dog jumps/falls overboard or gets caught in a current, having a life jacket can help him stay afloat until you can rescue him.

While jackets often come in designer colors, bright safety colors can make a dog in the water easier to spot from a boat or the shore. These jackets also have a handle on the back that makes it less of a struggle for you to hoist your pet out of the water once you've reached him.


Dog life vests are best for swimming. If you take your dog to a pool for exercise or rehabilitation, a life vest can be very helpful. It provides extra buoyancy and confidence so your dog can exercise more without struggling to keep his head above water. Vests are best used when you can constantly supervise your dog. Dog life jackets are good for times when you may not be watching every second, such as when you are boating. Note: A PFD is not a replacement for supervision. You should always keep an eye on your dog when near any type of water.

Which PDF Is Right for Your Dog?

If you've decided to get a PFD for your dog, there are a few options to consider. First, do you want a vest or a jacket? This will depend on the type of water activities and the type of dog you have. If you have a very small or aged dog, or if you plan to spend time on the open water, a life jacket is best. If you just take your dog to a pool once a week, a life vest is probably sufficient.

Once you've decided on the type of PFD, you need to determine if you are more concerned about fashion or safety. While there are many designer colors and patterns that your dog will look adorable in, they may not be helpful if your dog falls out of a boat. Pastel colors are not as easy to spot as bright colors. If you spend most of your day at the beach where your dog can run in and out of the surf, designer colors may be just fine. However, if you are in a boat, safety colors such as bright orange or yellow are a smarter choice.

Now, on to the most important consideration; you need to determine the proper fit for your dog. Often dog life jackets fit smaller than the manufacturer indicates. So, it is always better to shop in person than online. Most places will allow you to bring your dog in to try on different life vests to find the perfect fit. Straps should fit snugly without cutting in anywhere on your dog. Have your dog sit in the vest as well as stand so you can be sure it is comfortable all over. Since straps tend to be long, you may want to cut off the excess material once you've made your purchase. Leave enough excess for adjustments, but not so much that you will trip over them in the boat.

Where to Buy

There are many places that sell dog life jackets. Most boater's supply and pet supply stores will carry them. These are the best places to go so your dog can try them on before purchasing.

Overview of Dog Life Jackets and Where to Find Them