best dog life jackets of 2020

The Best Dog Life Jackets for Your Pup

Dogs have an entire swimming style named after them. But just because dogs love the water doesn’t mean they can’t use the added safety of their own flotation device.

If you’re anything like me, you often plan the activities in your life with your pup in mind. Why go for a swim or on a water-based adventure without your dog? Odds are, your dog will love the exercise and will have the best day of their life every single time.

As with any outdoor outing, the safety and well-being of your dog are top priorities. If your dog joins you regularly for boating or swimming, you need a dog life jacket. Though many dogs are good swimmers and love the water, some aren’t. And even if your dog is a natural-born swimmer, a life jacket is still important for added safety.

When purchasing the perfect life jacket for your pup, there are numerous features to take into consideration. Some of these features include size, adjustability, comfort, security, visibility, buoyancy, and safety.

We researched nearly 20 options, looking at customer reviews and important features. From there, we narrowed our list down to the six top customer picks based on reviews.

Best Dog Life Jackets

Stunt Puppy Float Doggy: $89

Stunt Puppy Float Doggy K9 life vest

Yes, you’re going to spend a little more on the Float Doggy from Stunt Puppy than you will on other options. But that’s because you’re getting a K9 life vest unlike any others out there. The Float Doggy advertises itself as “the only dog life jacket that is enclosed between the front legs.” According to the brand, that makes for better buoyancy and more comfort when being lifted. Plus, the under-chest panel between the legs works to put your pup’s head in a more upright position when floating.

Plus, the Float Doggy sports curved designs throughout to mimic the shape of a dog’s body, and uses variable density, articulated foam paneling to improve flexibility and balance flotation.

Key features:

  • Enclosed design around front legs
  • Reflective stripe
  • Independent front/rear adjustment
  • Flexible, articulated paneling
  • Size XXS to XL

Shop Stunt Puppy Float Doggy

Outward Hound Granby Splash Dog Life Jacket: $20-45

best dog life jackets

This dog life jacket from Outward Hound is one of the most popular life vests out there, and for good reason. Coming in as the most reputable and one of the most affordable life jackets for dogs, this life vest is well-equipped to handle most canine water activities. The material provides buoyancy and protection in the water and comfort while trotting around on land. And the design is not bulky.

For added safety, the life jacket has dual grab handles and a front float feature to keep your pup’s head above the water. It’s important to note that there’s no leash attachment on this life jacket, but you can keep your dog’s collar on underneath the life jacket.

Key features:

  • Dual rescue handles
  • Three adjustable buckles
  • High-visibility color
  • Reflective coat
  • Sizes XS to XL

Shop Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket 

Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket: $80

Ruffwear jacket

This life jacket has foam pads for added buoyancy and to help your pup maintain an upright position in the water. Along with that, the Ruffwear life jacket has an optimal fit with an adjustable neck closure so you can be sure your dog gets the best fit possible. Notably, this life jacket has a leash attachment point in addition to the rescue handle. And it’s machine washable!

One of our editors has used this on his German shorthaired pointer while paddling a lot over the summer, including a weeklong trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He found it to be very durable, and his dog seemed very comfortable wearing it for hours on end. And while she can swim fine without it, his dog floated much more easily while wearing the life jacket.

If you’re wondering about the features on this life vest, check out this helpful video on how to fit and adjust the Float Coat to the needs of your best friend. Ruffwear not only has an excellent quality dog life jacket — the brand also has other gear including harnesses, leashes, and even dog sleeping bags.

Key features: 

  • Sizes XXS to XL
  • Adjustable neck closure
  • Covered buckles
  • Leash attachment point
  • Reflective coat
  • Lifting handle

Shop Ruffwear Dog Life Jacket

Vivaglory Ripstop Dog Life Jacket: $17-34

best dog life jackets

Vivaglory is an Amazon bestseller and one of the more affordable life jackets on the market. It has extra padding for buoyancy but doesn’t restrict the dog’s movement.

The life jacket has a rescue handle and a D-ring to attach a leash. Along with the vibrant color, the life jacket is equipped with reflective strips for added visibility. It also has quick-release buckles that make it easy to put the life jacket on and take it off.

If you experience any issues with the life jacket when you receive it, Vivaglory offers a 90-day warranty. All types of dogs can benefit from the added safety of this life jacket — from the dog who’s afraid of water to the one who can’t get enough splashes.

Key features:

  • Velcro closure
  • A double protection fastening system
  • Bright color
  • Reflective trim
  • Sizes XS to XL

Shop Vivaglory Life Jacket

Queenmore Dog Life Jacket: $24-37

best dog life jackets

OK, a dog with a life jacket is already one of the cutest things in the world. And just when you thought it couldn’t get cuter, Queenmore made a life jacket with a shark fin. This life jacket does come in gray which, for obvious reasons, is more aesthetically shark-looking. But we recommend opting for the pink life jacket — bright colors provide added visibility.

Though the shark fin gives an added cuteness factor to this life jacket, it doesn’t detract from the life jacket’s overall quality. It’s designed with quick-drying fabrics — Oxford cloth, foam, and mesh — and is equipped with a fastening system around the belly and neck that provides optimal security and comfort. Along with that, the foam provides high buoyancy so your dog will always stay afloat!

Key features:

  • Shark fin
  • Adjustable rubber rescue handle
  • D-ring hook for leash
  • Quick-drying cloth
  • Ultra-wide abdominal support

Shop Queenmore Dog Life Jacket

Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket: $24-47

dog life jackets

First off, Paws Aboard is an adorable name. Second, this life jacket comes in eight different colors and patterns including racing flames and pink polka dots.

In addition to the many bright color options, this life jacket also has reflective strips for added visibility. The jacket is designed with a mesh belly for a breathable, quick-drying life jacket. Along with that, it has ventilated Velcro closures. 

The life jacket comes in sizes XXS to XL, making it a great option for pups of all sizes. This life jacket will keep your dog afloat in every body of water so you can relax knowing your dog is safe. And your pup will thank you for the comfortable fit of this Paws Aboard life jacket.

Key features:

  • Numerous bright color options
  • Reflective strips
  • Adjustable collar straps
  • Breathable mesh belly
  • Quick-dry nylon material
  • D-ring for leash

Shop Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket

L.L.Bean NRS Dog Life Jacket: $45

dog life jacket

Just when you think L.L.Bean has done it all, the brand comes out with a high-quality life jacket for your dog. Unique to this life jacket, the NRS Dog Life Jacket has a storage pocket — the perfect spot to store a water toy! Along with that, it also has a leash loop, reflective tape, and a heavy-duty grab handle.

This life jacket provides great buoyancy, allowing your pup to float in the water with no worries. The three adjustable buckles have five adjustment points so you can make sure to adjust the jacket to fit your dog perfectly. The design is very lightweight and comfortable with added safety features.

Key features:

  • Storage pocket
  • Reflective tape
  • Leash ring
  • Heavy-duty grab handle
  • Sizes XS to XL

Shop L.L.Bean Dog Life Jacket

How to Choose the Best Dog Life Jacket

Choose the Right Size

To determine the right size life jacket for your dog, measure your dog’s length, torso, and girth. For length, start at their neck and measure to the base of their tail.

Next, measure your dog’s girth by measuring the widest part around your pup’s ribcage. Along with that, weigh your dog to determine whether your dog falls within the weight ratings of each brand. Certain life jackets are specifically meant for smaller or larger dogs.

Once you have all the needed measurements, you can order the right size! In addition to getting the right size, make sure you get one with adjustable straps to get the perfect fit for your unique pup. If your dog is between sizes, opt for the larger size, as most life jackets have adjustable straps you can tighten.

When the life jacket arrives, make sure you have found the perfect fit. First, fully loosen the buckles and straps and then put the life jacket on your dog. Connect each strap while adjusting and tightening them as needed — it should be snug but not tight. If it’s too tight, the life jacket can be constricting.

Once the jacket is secure, let your dog get comfortable. Make sure they can run around and sit down comfortably while the life jacket stays securely in place. Most importantly, make sure they can breathe.

Now that you know the life jacket is the perfect fit, your dog is equipped for every water adventure under the sun!

Comfort & Security

If the life jacket isn’t comfortable for your pup, they’re going to hate wearing it. You want this life jacket to be associated with fun activities. If it’s comfortable, you should have no problem getting it on your dog.

There’s no point in having a life jacket if it’s not properly secure — make sure to get the proper size life jacket. And you’ll want to make sure the buckles and material of the life jacket are good quality and adjustable to provide the maximum security that your pup deserves!

Rescue Handles

Purchase a dog life jacket with top grab handles. These rescue handles allow you to pull your dog out of the water if an unforeseen circumstance arises. If you have an older dog that gets tired easily, the handles can also double as a dog lift harness in the water. Along with that, the rescue handles can simply serve as a helpful way to get your dog on and off a boat.

Visibility

If your dog is an excellent swimmer, that’s all the more reason to have a life jacket that’s brightly colored with reflective material. Reflective material is especially helpful if you’re swimming when it’s getting darker outside.

You never know when your pup might get a jolt of energy and end up swimming away from you before you know it. With a brightly colored, reflective life jacket, you’ll be able to spot them from far away. It will also help prevent collisions with other swimmers, boats, or jet skis.

Buoyancy

What’s the point of a life jacket if it doesn’t float well? The best life jackets have flotation sections on the bottom, back, sides, and neck. Some life jackets even have an attachable front flotation pad. This is especially helpful for dogs that are older, tire more easily, or aren’t as comfortable being in the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do dogs need a life jacket?

From the moment you adopted your dog, you promised them a life of safety and enjoyment. Some dogs are great swimmers and love the water, while others might be more on the side of being full-on land dwellers.

Regardless of your dog’s relationship with water and expertise in swimming, they need a life jacket. Unforeseen circumstances can always occur, such as unanticipated rough currents while in the water or on a boat.

If your dog is older or smaller, it will give them more buoyancy and keep them warm in the water. In most scenarios, having your dog wear a life jacket is a good idea. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. If your dog is splashing in a shallow pool, and you could easily help them if they get distressed, they may not need to wear one. Use your discretion because you know your pup better than anyone.

The bottom line is dogs grow tired and can panic while swimming just like humans. A life jacket will provide added safety for them in any situation.

Does my dog need a life jacket to be on a boat?

Yes. Most dog life jackets are equipped with safety rescue handles. If your dog jumps or falls out of the boat, you can grab your dog much more easily and pull them back on the boat. Even the most water-loving dog can panic in unanticipated situations. Plus, having your dog wear a life jacket will give you peace of mind on a boat.

What size life jacket does my dog need?

A life jacket should fit your dog in the same way a harness fits them. It shouldn’t be too tight, because that will make your dog uncomfortable. Once you get the life jacket, make sure your dog can comfortably move around and sit down in it.

Before ordering it, measure the dog’s torso and girth. Along with that, weigh your dog. If your dog’s torso and girth measurements work for numerous sizes, the final factor should be the dog’s weight in determining the correct size life jacket.

What features should I look for in a dog life jacket?

You should take into account the following factors: size, adjustability, comfort, security, visibility, buoyancy, and safety.

Joybeth Sullivan
By

Joybeth is a brand new resident of Denver, Colorado, recently graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in English and Entertainment & Media Studies. You can find her anywhere outside with beautiful sights alongside her German Shepherd companion, Jasper. She loves all things photography, film, and poetry. And, hopefully, she'll be hiking a fourteener the very near future!

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