Best Dog Life Jackets : Top 8 PFD’s for Outdoor Dogs

For those of us who like to get out on the open water, safety should always be our first priority. As such, many people who like to go sailing, paddle boarding, or kayaking are often apprehensive about taking their dogs with them. However, a dog life jacket can often give them peace of mind.

Many dog owners love to take their four-legged friends everywhere they go with them. They’re part of the family for many people, and the idea of leaving them out of an activity they’d probably enjoy is unthinkable.

With a great dog life vest (or even a puppy life vest) your little pooch can enjoy the open water with you in complete safety. Regardless of what your chosen aquatic activity is, having your dog alongside you is an amazing experience that they’re sure to enjoy just as much as you (or even more).

Today we are going to take a look at what makes a good vest, disclose a few buying tips, and review 8 of the best dog life jackets on the market.

Let’s get started.

Tips On Buying A Life Jacket That Fits your Dog

Just like with human life jackets, a dog life jacket is only going to keep your pooch safe if it fits properly. Ensuring you get a product that is the perfect fit is more important than deciding on which model or brand you should buy.

Do not cut corners with this.

The different styles of life jacket on the market have different fitment guides. Some are closed pieces that wrap around the entirety of your dog’s body, and others use straps to stay in place.

As such, It would be foolish (and dangerous) for us to try and detail all the different sizing methodologies here. What we recommend is that you look at the sizing guide provided by the manufacturer (don’t use a general guide from a random website) and follow their instructions.

Most of the time this will involve pulling out a tape measure and sizing up your dog. It can be tempting for some people to just eyeball it and guess, but we’re talking about the safety of your dog here. It could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Take the 5 minutes required to do it properly and measure them instead.

What To Look For In A Good Life Jacket for Dogs

When you’re picking a life jacket for your dog there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration. Let’s take a look at some of the most important points below.

Buoyancy

The most important thing to consider about any life jacket is how buoyant it is. By their very nature, larger life jackets will be more buoyant than smaller ones. There’s no specific metric you need to be looking out for in terms of buoyancy (as it’s all calculated on size). As a rule, bigger dogs need more buoyancy, but they’ll already be wearing larger life jackets.

However, overall buoyancy is not the only thing you should be taking into account, you need to look at where the jacket is going to support the dog. While there are many different designs, the most important feature you should be looking out for is head support.

Some low-quality life jackets will not have any kind of head support built into them, they’ll just provide flotation strapped to the body of your dog. If you’ve got nothing else, then they’re better than nothing, but they’re far from ideal.

The problem with jackets that don’t have head support is one of fatigue. If you notice your dog going overboard you’ll be able to stop your boat (or stop paddling) and rescue them quickly. To be honest, in these situations most dogs would survive without a life jacket providing they can swim (Note: We don’t recommend this in the slightest).

However, what happens when your dog goes overboard and you don’t notice?

Just because a dog is wearing a life jacket doesn’t mean they’re not going to paddle. They simply don’t understand that there’s no need. You’ll be speeding away on whatever vessel you’re using and they’ll be paddling their heart out to try and catch up to you.

And when this happens they’re going to get tired, very tired.

While it may look reasonably effortless, a dog actually has to try to keep its head above water while swimming. They don’t naturally float like a duck with their head coincidentally above the water line.

After a while, they’re not going to be able to hold their head up anymore, and they’ll drown.

This is why any dog life jacket worth its salt will have an included head and neck support section. With these sections the way the jacket positions the dog in the water naturally keeps their head above the water line without requiring any effort at all on the dog’s part.

Luckily these jackets are pretty much the only kind you’ll be able to find on the market these days. But there are still a few out there without head support. If a brand doesn’t specifically mention head support in their marketing, be very careful about putting your dog’s life in their hands.

Bright Color

Once you’ve ensured that you have found a jacket that has adequate neck and head support you can then start looking at other less critical (but still extremely important) considerations. Coloring is one of them.

Picking a jacket with a bright color can literally mean the difference between life and death in some situations.

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Let’s pick up with the hypothetical example we mentioned above where your dog has fallen into the water and you’ve not noticed immediately. If you’re on a boat you can be quite far away from where the dog entered the water by the time someone notices they’re gone.

In perfect conditions on a still lake or close to shore you’re probably going to be able to see your dog regardless of the color of their jacket. But what if something happens at dusk when the light is fading? What if visibility is poor and you can’t see into the distance that well? What if waves are periodically obstructing your vision?

By having a bright colored jacket you’ve got a much better chance of seeing them, and therefore potentially saving their life. There’s no reason not to get a brightly colored jacket, it’s a life jacket, not a fashion accessory.

We highly recommend you get the brightest one possible.

Handles

Once your dog has fallen in the water and you have made your way over to rescue them, the next thing you’ve got to do is get them back on your boat/kayak/paddleboard.

There’s a good chance at one point or another you’ve had to pick your dog up for some reason. Our four-legged friends are (usually) pure muscle, which means they’re much heavier than they look.

This is hard enough (for medium to large dogs) when you’re standing on dry land. But trying to do it while floating on a board (or reaching over the side of a boat) is a whole different ballgame.

Now for smaller dogs, this is less of an issue (but its still important). They’re lighter and much easier to bring back on board. But for bigger dogs, you’re going to need as many handles (and hands) as you can possibly get.

It’s also important to know that the handles are strong and are of a high quality. If the handles break, you’re going to be in a world of trouble (potentially with no way to get your dog out of the water).

Size and Fit

We already discussed size and fit at the start of this article, however, we just wanted to reiterate how important it is in this section again. Ensure that any product you’re thinking of buying has sizing information (and preferably a measuring guide) readily available.

Durability

We’ve already touched on the importance of the reliability of the handles on a dog’s life jacket, but other parts of the jacket need to be reliable too.

The durability of the straps on the life jacket is perhaps more important than the durability of the handles. The straps are what’s going to keep the jacket snug and secure around your dog while they are in the water. They’ve got to do their job under the stresses of your pooch thrashing around in a panic without the slightest bit of slippage.

Because if the straps slip, break, twist, or change in any way it could potentially be fatal.

When positioned correctly life jackets are lifesavers (the clue is in the name). But if they become loose or partly detached, then the buoyancy will be potentially pushing in a different place. This can make your dog have to work extremely hard to keep their head above water.

Check and double check the quality of the straps, and also check the durability and size of the connectors.

Do this before you buy the product, then do it when you receive it in the mail.

And be sure to check for damage every time you go out on the water.

Dog Life Jacket and Vest Reviews

So now we know what you need to be taking into account before you decide on any particular brand of dog life jacket. We take the safety of our four-legged friends very seriously on this site, which is why we’ve devoted a huge amount of time to this section.

Our already stringent review process essentially took twice as long as it usually does for an article of this size. We checked and double checked every product on this list against as many metrics as we can think of. We want you to be able to rest assured that every single one of the products below is more than worthy of being your dog’s last line of defense if they ever find themselves in open water.

We’d be more than happy to use any of these products to protect our own dogs, which also means we are more than happy to make these confident recommendations to you.

8 Best Life Jackets and PFD Vests for Your Dog

Outward Hound PupSaver Neoprene Life Vest for Dogs

Best Overall Dog Life Jacket

Outward Hound PupSaver Neoprene Life Vest for Dogs

If you’re looking for a great all-rounder life jacket that’s safe, secure, and made by a great brand then this is certainly one to add to your shortlist. It’s available in two sizes (but it’s not suitable for small dogs) and it comes in a super bright orange color.

It’s got two thick and durable handles, it’s got super thick buckles / durable straps, and it’s got little reflective strips that will help with locating your pooch in low light conditions. The neck support is sturdy and basically makes it almost impossible for your dog’s head to dip below the water (unless they actually try).

Perhaps most importantly this is an exceptionally comfortable product that your pooch will enjoy wearing. It’s no use having a life jacket if they’re going to spend most of their time trying to take it off.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Very comfortable
  • Pro – Bright orange color
  • Pro – Reflector strips
  • Pro – Durable handles
  • Pro – Durable buckles
  • Con – Could be a little cheaper

Outward Hound PupSaver Ripstop Dog Life Jacket By Outward Hound

Best Cheap Life Jacket for Dogs

Outward Hound PupSaver Ripstop Dog Life Jacket By Outward Hound

As it stands this product is currently the best value dog life jacket on the market. It’s usually priced at around $35, but it’s been on sale for just $6 now for quite some time. It’s a premium quality product that’s been heavily discounted, and if you’re quick – you can get a super safe bargain.

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It’s got two strong durable handles located by the head and the rear of your dog that are exceptionally thick and will be able to withstand the weight of even the largest pooches. The strong straps and thick buckles that reach around the belly of your dog and secure the jacket in place are about as sturdy as they get.

Combine this with the respectable brand name, the super bright orange color, the neck support, and the reflective strips – and it’s easy to see why we highly recommend it.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Exceptional value for money
  • Pro – Bright orange color
  • Pro – Reflector strips
  • Pro – Durable handles
  • Pro – Durable straps
  • Con – Honestly, there are none

KONG AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest By KONG

Best Life Jacket for Puppies

KONG AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest By KONG

The manufacturer of this product, KONG, needs no introduction. They make some of the highest quality pet clothing, toys, and supplies on the planet. As you’d expect, this product lives up to the high standards many dog owners have come to demand from the brand. It’s a two-tone life jacket that has a colored reflective area on the top and is grey on the side. Ideally, we’d like to see the entire thing brightly colored, but in practical terms, this strip is enough.

This product takes a unique approach to head support that we really like. Instead of creating a separate section they have calibrated the buoyancy of the jacket to make the head of your dog naturally stay above water. We also really like the extra long rescue handle that makes reaching over to get your pooch out of the water much easier. The strobe light pocket on the side is a nice finishing touch which provides owners with the option of another layer of visibility if desired (strobe light not included).

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Great brand
  • Pro – Long rescue leash
  • Pro – Unique buoyancy design
  • Pro – Strobe light pocket
  • Con – Entire product could be brightly colored (not just a strip)

Paws Aboard Pink Polka Dot Dog Life Jacket

Best Stylish Dog Life Jacket

Paws Aboard Pink Polka Dot Dog Life Jacket

We know that we said earlier that life jackets are not meant to be fashion accessories, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be!

This amazing jacket from Paws Aboard provides superb safety in style with its stunning white and pink polka dot pattern. This bright color combined with the reflector strips on the solid durable straps will ensure you can spot your dog in all conditions.

The mesh underbelly section of this product is something that we really like, and we’re sure your pooch will love it too. It’s a breathable, comfortable material that’s super durable. The single handle on the top is less than ideal, and we’d like to see two separate ones.

But as it’s long and thick we’re happy to think that it’ll get the job done.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Looks adorable
  • Pro – Bright color
  • Pro – Reflector strips
  • Pro – Mesh underbelly
  • Pro – Comfortable
  • Con – Two handles would have been better than one

KONG AquaFloat Dog Flotation Vest

Best Life Jacket for Small Dogs

KONG AquaFloat Dog Flotation Vest

This is the second KONG product on our list, and it’s perfectly suited to the needs of smaller dogs. Unlike the first KONG product we mentioned, this one is entirely covered in a bright pink (or green) luminous coloring. There’s no chance you’re going to lose your pooch in the water when they’re wearing something this noticeable.

It uses a similar buoyancy distribution system as the other KONG product on this list that manages to keep your dog’s head above water without a dedicated head support (although it does kind of have one).

The belly section is made from a durable mesh which closes with solid Velcro. It’s also got two strong straps on the side to ensure a slip-free snug fit. However, like the product above this vest only has one handle. As it’s designed for smaller lighter dogs, this isn’t a big problem – but again, more would have been better.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Great brand
  • Pro – Super bright color
  • Pro – Comfortable to wear
  • Pro – Durable Velcro
  • Pro – Strong straps
  • Con – Only one handle

Paws Aboard Lifeguard Neoprene Dog Life Jacket

Best Life Jackets for Large Dogs

Paws Aboard Lifeguard Neoprene Dog Life Jacket

This is the second Paws Aboard product on this list, and it’s just as good as the first one (if not better). It’s bright red in color for maximum visibility and its got large reflective strips that cover almost the entirety of the straps.

The mesh underbelly helps prevent heat exhaustion and it contains a durable layer of Velcro to ensure a snug fit. The buckles on the straps are exceptionally large (and strong) to ensure they can withstand the power of a large dog paddling hard. Finally, the head support section ensures that regardless of how tired your pooch gets, their head will not fall below the water line.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Bright color
  • Pro – Mesh underbelly
  • Pro – Reflective strips
  • Pro – Head support section
  • Con – None

Other Highly Recommended Life Vests for Dogs:

We want to quickly mention two other products that didn’t quite make it on to the list above but are more than worthy of your consideration.

Outward Hound Neoprene Dawson Swimmer Dog Life Jacket

This great jacket is strong, durable, and buoyant. It’s bright red color combined with its long advanced handle (and its dedicated head support section) ensure that your pooch will be as safe as they can possibly be in the water.

Outward Hound Lifejacket for Dogs, Orange Fish

They call this jacket “Orange fish” for licensing reasons, but in reality, everyone knows that this is Nemo from Finding Nemo. It’s a stylish bright design (that’s also safe) printed on the side of a durable and well-made jacket from a respectable brand.

Conclusion

So there you have it, everything you ever needed to know about dog life jackets.

Above all else, our primary responsibility to our dogs is to ensure their safety at all times. They’ll happily jump on a boat or a paddleboard without a life vest on, they don’t understand the danger they’re potentially in.

They put their complete trust in you.

Please make sure that if you’re thinking about taking your dog out on the open water, that you buy them a life vest that is either from this list (or of a similar quality).

It could literally save their life.

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