Best Dog Life Vests : Top 6 Options For Outdoor Dogs

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Kurgo Surf n’ Turf Dog Life Jacket Dog Water Life Vest
As we bring our dogs with us on more and more adventures we need to be sure they are as safe as us. Some dogs are good swimmers, some aren’t and all of them can get in trouble due to a sudden emergency or fatigue. We’ll take a look at what will make the best dog life vest for your pal.
To get started, first we are going to share with you our top picks for dog life vests, which will include:
Our Top Picks


Outward Hound Granby Splash Dog Life Jacket

This vest is value priced and has the additional neck float to decrease the head from dropping into water. It’s durable and well-padded so it performs well for flotation, emergency pick up and comfort.

Outward Hound Granby Splash Dog Life Jacket

Our Rating:


Price Range: $$

Outward Hound dog life jacket comes in a size range, measured by chest girth, of 11 to 40 inches. It’s important to be sure that your dogs size and shape allows for a proper fit. Poorly fitting vests could even impede your dog from swimming. It’s not a bad idea to communicate with manufacturers if you are having trouble with fitting.
The double handles allow for a better grip in an emergency situation like trying to pull your pet into a boat. This could be a crucial safety situation. There is padding under the belly straps for more comfortable lifting from water into the boat.

Reflective safety strips to make better visualization in low light. This is really going to matter if you are out at dusk or dawn, and consider a pet at water level in a shadow.

A front chest float to help keep the head out of the water, a very helpful feature for dogs that are not strong swimmers or to combat fatigue.

What We Like About It:

  • Double handles
  • Reflective safety strips
  • Chest flotation piece

what we dont like What We Don’t Like About It:

  • The neck fit can be slightly bulky for some dogs.


Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket Vest

Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket Vest for Swimming and Boating

Our Rating:


Price Range: $$

This vest comes in the size range of 10 to 38 inches as measured by chest girth.

Looking at your dog’s body shape and the shape of the vest will help you start to figure out how well a vest will suit you dog. You should always make sure it stays secure in shallow water before using for emergency purposes.

Although the front chest strap has some padding there isn’t a specific front flotation so for dogs that are poor swimmers this would make it hard for them to keep their head up. Even strong swimmers may not be able to keep their head up when they are exhausted.

The reflective stripes help with visibility but some of the colors are not very bright. It’s a good idea to consider in an emergency that your dog could be at water surface level in shadows. You want them to be easy to find.

The safety handle is very important for retrieving a struggling dog. It would not be plausable to get in the water and push a dog to the boat, you want to be able to grab and lift.

What We Like About It:

  • Reflective striping
  • Safety handle for pulling the dog up
  • Comfortable neoprene belly fit

what we dont like What We Don’t Like About It:

  • No front chest flotation
  • Some colors are not very bright
  • Not durable for heavy use.


RUFFWEAR - Float Coat Dog Life Vest

This Vest runs at a higher price point but is made of strong material and good padding. For dogs that are at least a bit comfortable in the water.

RUFFWEAR - Float Coat Dog Life Jacket for Swimming

Our Rating:


Price Range: $$

The Float coat comes in the size of 13 to 42 inch chest girth. Always be sure to evaluate proper fit for your dogs shape once you get it.

A chest flotation device present on this vest is designed to help keep your dog balanced so that they stay level in the water and don’t have to fight to keep their heads up. This really matters when they get tired, or if they don’t swim very well. For poor swimmers always do some work in shallow water to improve their swimming where you can help them if they panic.

Bright colors help your pet to stand out from the water to track or find quickly. This may not seem too significant in the boat but when they are down at the water surface level and you are trying to see them it is of huge importance. Reflective trim is critical in low light situations to stand out when a light beam is shined on the dog.

The company says it’s machine washable though I recommend you don’t, the foam will last longer with hand washing. Washing machines are just too rough for this sort of material.
Padding under the buckles for better comfort when lifting.

What We Like About It:

  • Extra chest flotation
  • Reflective striping
  • Safety handle

what we dont like What We Don’t Like About It:

  • Stiff collar for small dogs.


Vivaglory Sports Style Ripstop Dog Life Jacket

Vivaglory New Sports Style Ripstop Dog Life Jacket Safety Vest with Superior Buoyancy

Our Rating:


Price Range: $$

This Life vest is in the size range of 17.7 to 40 inches of chest girth. This does not come in as narrow of a chest fit as some of the other jackets. So don’t just base the fit on small, medium or large.

There is a safety handle for emergency situations to pull your dog up or towing them when your dog gets tired. It’s valuable to have an easy way to get the dog up into the boat fast when needed. The padding under the belly straps make for more comfortable lifting.

Heavy duty ripstop nylon material will help provide durability and longevity. Even when this material gets poked by a sharp stick the hole is not supposed to run and split open. This material performs really well in outdoor activity equipment.
This jacket is made for active swimming with open leg spaces and a smoother fit. This will allow your dog to paddle effectively with less rubbing. That makes this a good safety assist jacket for dogs that area already strong swimmers. Front flotation in the neck strap will minimize the risk of the head going under. This feature will also help for fatigue situations on good swimmers.

The vest comes in bright colors to help keep track of your pooch when they are down in the water. This is really important if they swim too far away. Reflective trim for low light situations is critical in dusk and dawn light as well as night swimming.

What We Like About It:

  • Strong nylon construction
  • Bright and reflective
  • Emergency handle
  • Padding under the belly belts

what we dont like What We Don’t Like About It:

  • Tough to fit on some body types.


EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device

EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Dog Life Vest Jacket

Our Rating:


Price Range: $$

Having a size range of 19 to 48 inch chest girth this jacket leans toward the bigger dogs. Be sure to check the fit on your dog when you get it though because shape can really matter.

Added chest flotation helps to decrease the head going under and keeps your dog level while swimming. This could be critical if you dog isn’t a strong swimmer. Always practice in shallow water first in case it’s not working for you pup.

This life jacket design has a low profile grab handle that will allow less drag for active swimmers but may be hard to get a hold of quickly. This is really important to think about for the dogs that are poor swimmers or tire fast.
Reflective striping for low light visibility is really important in early morning hours as well as twilight. I’m sure you’ve stayed at the lake longer than you thought you might more than once.

This jacket has multiple neoprene adjustment straps so the fit can be tailored better to dogs with an unusual body shape. This would be worth a try if you have a dog that you have had difficulty fitting a jacket to in the past.

What We Like About It:

  • Chest flotation
  • Strong multi-point adjustable straps

what we dont like What We Don’t Like About It:

  • Some low visibility color patterns.
  • Low profile handle

Kurgo Surf n’ Turf Dog Life Vest

Best Multipurpose design

For removable pads so it can be used as a rain jacket.

Kurgo Dog Water Life Jacket

Our Rating:


Price Range: $$

Ranging from 14 to 44 inches chest girth gives this vest a middle of the road fitting option. Body shape counts though so be sure to really check your dog closely once you get this jacket home.

Reflective trim is present on the vest to aid in low light visibility. This is really important at the beginning and end of the day.

Two handles are going to allow for quicker and easier emergency grabs. It’s a good thought for those heavier dogs that you can’t lift one handed as well.

The company offers a Lifetime warranty on this vest. Always read the fine print and know what the details are in order to take full advantage of this.

The vest is labeled as machine washable though do recommend hand washing as much as possible to keep the material in shape for the longest time. Be sure to check if any care issues affect the warranty.

Chest flotation is present that will help keep the head above water. This should really be at the top of your list of needs if either you dog wants to swim until they drop or isn’t a very good swimmer to start with.

A bonus feature on this vest is you can remove the flotation and use it as a raincoat. It you like multipurpose gear this is pretty neat.

The belly straps have minimal padding so this would not be a great choice for a dog that will be lifted into a boat multiple times a day. You don’t want to hurt your buddy doing that over and over.

What We Like About It:

  • Chest flotation
  • Double retrieval handles
  • Machine washable

what we dont like What We Don’t Like About It:

  • Belly straps little padding

Why does my dog need a life vest?

Being honest we all struggle some with change. As dogs continue to become more intricate parts of our everyday lives sometimes we forget about some of the safety details.
Can a dog drown? Unfortunately yes. The two times this is likely to happen are unexpectedly falling in the water they can’t get out of (such as ice-breaking or rough seas) and what is sort of the final reason in most cases, exhaustion. If a dog is too far from shore to make it back or plays too much and runs out of steam drowning could happen.

A pool at home

This should be safe enough right? Actually, not always. How many of you can relate to a dog that will play until he/she drops? Unfortunately, if that includes playing in the water until exhausted a drowning could occur.

Taking your pup surfing?

Definitely a life jacket in this case! You know the one thing your dog won’t do? He/she won’t say… “Hey man, I’m tired, let’s take a break.” Due to your dog not being able to speak up, as well as the common desire for them to please us they could become too fatigued to break from a wave rolling them over or get out of the current.

Swimming and boating?

Of course, top of the list is an accident far from shore, be prepared. Don’t think you will be able to swim over and grab your dog in an accident. A lot could be happening all at once. A second consideration is an overzealous dog that jumps overboard chasing something. They are going to see something long before we do and may take the dive without warning.

Camping by lakes and rivers?

Yes, here too. Exhaustion is my biggest concern, just playing too hard all day. If water time is going to be a regular thing a life jacket is a good idea.

Good exercise

This is not a warning of danger but a great positive reason. Swimming is a great non-impact exercise for overweight animals and animals with joint or back injuries. They may not be confident in the water and a vest could give them the buoyancy to get out in the water and both have fun and improve their health.

Ways to choose the best Dog Life Vest for your pooch?


If it doesn’t float it’s of no use. Sounds simple but let’s dig in a little into what makes them work. Front chest pad keeps the head above water. Proper balance in the padding will help to keep them upright and safe. Design matters in safety when we are talking life vests.

Size and Fit

Getting the right vest is critical just like it is in people. If it doesn’t fit right it can slip off, or ride up around the neck and interfere with breathing, or interfere with swimming.
Additionally, your dog can’t tell you the jacket is chafing and could end up with hair loss or even sores at the end of the day.
Most manufacturers recommend if your dog is at the upper limit of the size or an in-between size up.


In some ways, I think of this like I would children in life vests. If it’s uncomfortable they will find a way to get out of it. You want them to be able to wear it for the entire outing.


Camo may be fun in paintball matches but if your dog is in distress in the water you want to be able to find them immediately. Bright reflective colors like yellows and oranges that will stand out against the water and vegetation as well as reflective strips if you are likely to be out during dawn and dusk (you fishing people out there!)
What about the other guy? Bright color will minimize the risk of being hit by another boat.


You want something durable and long-lasting, this is your dog’s safety we are discussing. Material tearing during an emergency extraction would be terrible.

Strong Handle

This is important both to tow the dog if need be as well as pick them up out of the water back onto a boat.

Measuring Your Dog For A Life Jacket

It’s a good idea to check if the specific company you’re buying from has a sizing chart. It’s like women’s clothing a 12 from one brand is a 10 in another. Here’s an explanation of some common measurements. The easiest way to take a measurement is with a tailor’s ruler the soft cloth ones that mom has in the sewing basket. You wrap it gently and pull only tight enough to eliminate kinks but not depress the skin. If you don’t have one use a string, mark the point where the string meets the end with a sharpie then use a flat rule to measure your string.
Weigh your dog: There are two simple ways to do this. If your dog is small enough to lift then you can weigh the dog in your arms and then subtract your weight from the total. The other is to use the scale at your veterinary clinic. If they don’t have a current weight on file for you then give them a call and ask if you can use the floor scale. Most clinics are happy to do this.
Back Length: This measurement goes from the end of the neck to the start of the tail. A good estimation of the end of the neck if you aren’t sure of this is when your dog is standing straight up it’s the beginning of the legs
Neck Girth: This is the thick part of the neck similar to where a loose collar sits in front of the shoulders.

Safety Alert

Putting a life jacket on your dog doesn’t automatically make everything better. You need to be sure your dog will remain safe in the jacket, in the water. Here are some pointers to make sure that’s how it happens.

Teach Your Dog To Accept The Life Vest

If your dog is afraid of the life vest is being put on they will either not enjoy themselves or they will take it off. Here are some techniques for positive vest usage.
  • Don’t force the vest on. In most wrestling matches with dogs, the people lose anyway.
  • If your dog is skittish leave the vest out on the floor for a few days so it’s non-threatening.
  • Encourage your dog to step into the jacket with treats if your dog treats motivated.
  • Make sure your dog is comfortable walking around the house in the jacket before you try to get in the water.
  • Start out in water close to the shore to make sure everything fits when floating.
  • Remember a life vest is not a substitute for swimming. If your dog is a poor swimmer then you should stay with them in the water.

Adjust the straps

Make sure with every wearing that all the buckles are secure. The jackets are designed to fit very specifically and an unclasped buckle will allow it to slip. If any of the buckles seem to not close properly then you have the wrong size jacket.

Never send your dog out unsupervised

Water can be dangerous and it’s best that your dog isn’t swimming unsupervised. In addition, you want to be sure that the vest doesn’t become twisted or caught on something and endanger your dog’s life.
Frequently Asked Questions


How do I pick the right sized jacket?
Study the sizing guide and have your veterinarian help you if the measurements seem confusing. If the jacket doesn’t fit right when you get it, send it back for another size, or change to another company. Some styles just won’t fit your dog.

Will the life vest keep my dog safe if they can’t swim?
Yes and no. This will give you time to rescue a dog that can’t swim but it will not save them without assistance. This will decrease the chances of exhaustion related injury or death.

Will the life vest keep my dog’s head above water?
Some of the vests have good chest floatation which helps but none of them can keep your dog’s head up under all circumstances. This is another reason the dog should always be observed while swimming.

Our Verdict

The Big Splash for Your Water Party

The single most important thing to know among the quality vests out there is get one that fits. The best flotation won’t do any good if it slips and binds your dog’s legs or affects breathing. Use the size guides and if the one you pick doesn’t fit right send it back. Do not use ill-fitting jackets.

The overall winner for best dog life vest is the Outward Hound Granby Splash jacket. The overall combination of flotation and safety features make this one a winner for most dogs.

Be sure to fit the jacket to your needs. A comfort jacket for high activity usually had a bit less flotation which is not the right choice for a dog than can’t swim, but may be perfect for an experienced swimmer.
Teach your dog to be happy wearing it, get a proper fit and the flotation your dog needs. Then get out there on the water and have fun. The dogs love a cool off on a hot summer day too.

Speedy in Hollywood, LA

One request from Speedy

Dr. Peters put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to the dog parent community. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media networks.

Photo of author
Dr. Jennifer Peters DABVP. earned her B.S. from the University of Massachusetts with a minor in chemistry and she was a Howard Hughs grant researcher in Microbiology. In 1998 she graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and went into private practice. In 2007 she was board certified in canine and feline practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (recertified in 2017) and taught for four years at Oklahoma State University Veterinary School. She now resides in the foothills of Northern California.

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