The Best Dog Life Jacket

Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket

Our Top Pick for 2016: Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $18.74*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Few things are more enjoyable than an outdoor adventure with your furry best friend. Whether you’re an avid fisherman or just enjoy the occasional canoe trip, bringing your dog along can be a rewarding experience for you both. If you’re a dog lover, keeping your pup safe is always a top priority. A quality life jacket will keep your canine companion afloat in the water, and most models come with an easy-grab handle to lift them out of the water when needed. Choosing the very best life jacket for your dog is essential to his or her safety and well-being.

Table of contents

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Reflective Strips For Maximum Visibility
Convenient Top Grab Handle
Reflective Strips
Handle On Top For Quick And Easy Grabbing
Easy Rescue By Hand Or Boat Hook
Heavy-duty Hook And Loop Fastener System
Adjustable Nylon Straps
Front Float Assists
Quick-release Buckles 
Quick-release Buckles
Keeps Dog’s Head Above Water
Adjustable Nylon Straps
Six Sizes Available
Available In Five Different Sizes
Distinctive Pet Flotation Device

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket

Outward Hound Kyjen Ripstop Dog Life Jacket Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $18.74*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerOutward Hound’s adjustable life preserver is carefully crafted to provide your dog with the very best in safety and comfort for your outdoor adventures. This top-rated life vest is versatile and durable enough for regular use. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or you’re just starting to partake in outdoor excursions with your dog, you can rest easy knowing that your companion will be safe and comfortable for the duration of your trip.

The Ripstop life preserver is available in 5 sizes, from X-small to X-large. Each size is adjustable to allow you to achieve the perfect fit for your pup. The smallest size is suitable for dogs between 5-15 lbs. while the largest can be used for dogs from 85-100 lbs. Outward Hound offers a product-specific sizing chart along with a measuring guide to help owners determine the best fit for their dogs. By measuring your dog’s length, neck and chest circumference, you can be sure you’re ordering a size that will comfortably and safely fit your dog. On top of these measurements, Outward Hound stresses the importance of taking your dog’s unique shape and size into consideration. Dogs with an especially wide barrel might need to be sized up for a comfortable fit.

Crafted with quality materials for a durable and practical design, the Ripstop is heavy-duty enough to withstand even the toughest water play. Users said dogs of all types, from laid-back to rambunctious puppies, were able to play and swim heavily without the vest failing or coming apart.

Made to adhere to your dog’s natural shape without restricting movement, the Ripstop is comfortable and flexible for dogs of all shapes and sizes. The flexible neoprene belly strap provides a secure but comfortable hold. Users reported that their pups were able to run about and swim freely in the vest, with no signs of restricted or uncomfortable movement.

Owners can choose from two highly visible colors. The orange has a matte medium gray reflective strip while the pink vest’s reflective strip is pink as well. Both have medium gray belly bands and straps. The buckles and handle straps are all black. Each color comes with reflective straps for added visibility even in the dark.

Dogs who have trouble keeping their head above water will benefit from this vest’s included front floatation device. This nifty feature is great for dogs who aren’t strong swimmers or dogs whose confirmation makes it difficult to keep their head above water. Dogs with especially short necks often have trouble with this, making this vest a great option for short-necked breeds like bulldogs.

The dual handle straps provide extra leverage when lifting your dog out of the water. Many experts suggest that handles on dog vests should be oriented toward the front of the vest, as this will prevent you from inadvertently dunking your pooch’s head into the water when you pick them up. The front handle on this vest can be grabbed by itself to keep your dog’s head higher than the rest of his body, or both handles can be grabbed for a more secure lift.

The Ripstop is an excellent value at only $21.99. Customer ratings on Amazon put this jacket at a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars, with 88% of reviewers rating it 4 or more stars. Its exceptional customer ratings along with its high quality materials and durable construction has earned the Ripstop the top spot on our list as our Gold Pick.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Paws Aboard Red Neoprene Life Jacket

Paws Aboard Red Neoprene Life Jacket

View it on Amazon for $30.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThis lifeguard-inspired doggy life jacket from Paws Aboard will have your pooch channeling his or her inner Baywatch when you hit the water. The classically-designed life vest is just as functional as it is cute, offering added buoyancy to dogs that need a little assistance in the water.

With a size range from XX-small to X-large, dogs of all shapes and sizes can enjoy the water in style. The nylon straps are adjustable for easy fitting. A sizing chart is available on the manufacturer’s website. Always measure your dog’s length, neck and chest circumference to ensure your sizing is accurate. Many users reported that these vests run somewhat small. Reviewers recommended sizing up if you’re unsure about sizing, especially if your dog is stoutly built.

Durable neoprene makes this vest long-lasting, comfortable and easy to clean. Users report that the vest is comfortable for their dogs to run and play in as well as swim for extended periods of time. One user said her dog is so comfortable that he’ll even take a snooze with it on. A unique underbelly strap is crafted with breathable mesh to keep dogs cool and prevent chafing. The belly strap is flexible but secure for a safe fit with maximum comfort.

The front of the vest is secured with a heavy duty Velcro and buckle system. Extra padding in the front creates more buoyancy for your dog’s front end. Since dogs naturally carry more of their weight on their front end, this is necessary to prevent them from toppling forward when they swim.

While it does provide a moderate amount of buoyancy, the Paws Aboard life jacket is best suited to dogs who are already somewhat comfortable in the water and just need some extra assistance or endurance. If your pup is new to the water or not a strong swimmer, you might want to opt for a heavier-duty life jacket to allow for maximum buoyancy. Many users advised that this vest would probably not be ideal for an extremely large dog with no swimming skills.

The classic red and white lifeguard design is a huge hit for the fashion-conscious among us. The black straps are outfitted with reflective strips for maximum visibility. Additional colors – including pink polka-dot, blue/yellow, and racing flames – are available on the manufacturer’s website.

A handle in the center of the back allows you to quickly and easily lift your dog out of the water in the event of an emergency. Most users did not find any issues with the placement of this handle and said that it was both sturdy and convenient. However, it should be noted that experts advise selecting a handle that is closer to the front of your dog to allow you to lift their front end first.

At $33.00, the Paws Aboard life jacket for dogs is a reasonably priced option with excellent customer ratings. 91% of Amazon reviewers rated this vest 4 stars or higher, earning the Paws Aboard an impressive 4.7 out of 5 stars overall.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Pawz Pet Products Doggy Life Jacket

Pawz Pet Products Doggy Life Jacket

View it on Amazon for $15.49*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardNo matter your furry friend’s fashion sense, the Pawz Pet life jacket can provide both style and comfortable floatation for hours at a time. The highly visible prints along with reflective straps make spotting your dog a breeze for you and nearby boats or jet skis. Three unique prints will help your pooch stand out from the crowd on busy days at the lake.

Whether your canine companion is a Chihuahua or a Rottweiler, you can outfit your pet in comfortable style with sizes ranging from XX-small to X-large. To determine the right size for your pooch, take a look at the manufacturer’s sizing chart, available on their website.

The vest itself is made of sturdy neoprene and nylon, which is both comfortable and durable. Over time, users said that the vest held up fairly well even with rough play. However, consistent lifting of heavier dogs did put strain on the belly strap and some users reported ripped seams. If you have a large dog, avoid consistent lifting from the handle unless necessary.

The lightweight but sturdy construction of this vest is comfortable for extended periods of wear. To allow proper ventilation and drying, the underbelly is made with mesh. This will prevent overheating even on sweltering summer days. Dogs can enjoy free range of motion as the front strap comes high enough to allow their shoulders to move without restriction. Users said their dogs were able to run, play and swim with ease in their vests.

Show your pup’s national pride with a vibrant American flag design. The stars and stripes are sure to catch the attention of other river-goers. Going for a 4th of July river cruise? Show up in patriotic style with flashy red, white and blue. For the princess pooch, a pink bubble design is a fun and feminine option. Or stick to a classic look with a solid reflective yellow vest. Each color comes with black straps and reflective strips for maximum visibility in and out of the water.

Available on Amazon for only $16.55, the Pawz Pet life vest is an affordable and practical option, especially for those who only occasionally hit the water. It’s a great option for owners who want their dogs to have some extra floatation in the pool or for a relaxing day on the river. Users who frequently take their dogs on water-bound adventures might want to opt for a heavier-duty model with more buoyancy.

At 4.4 out of 5 stars, the Pawz Pet life jacket has made a great impression on Amazon reviewers. Critical reviews were mostly related to sizing errors and a few issues with the durability of the belly strap. However, it is imperative to note that one reviewer warned against using this vest on heavier set dogs, as it does not provide the same amount of buoyancy as some of its competitors. If you are looking for a lightweight vest for a dog who is fairly comfortable in the water and just needs some extra assistance, this jacket is a solid option.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket Dog Lifesaver Vest

Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket Dog Lifesaver Vest

View it on Amazon for $24.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickVivaglory’s life vest for dogs is a straightforward and simple design that is comparable to many higher-end versions. 5 sizes are available from X-small to X-large. Each vest is adjustable to allow for the most comfortable and secure fit for your dog. Users consistently reported that the vests run small, and recommended ordering a size up if you’re unsure about sizing. For this reason, owners with very large breeds found that this was not the best vest for their dogs. However, for small to moderately large dogs, reviewers found that they were able to achieve a snug and comfortable fit.

Made with high quality neoprene and vinyl coating, the Vivaglory life vest is lightweight but fairly durable. Most suitable for casual users, the material will hold up through light to moderate wear but is not ideal for those who plan to regularly romp about in the water. Some users reported problems with the handles ripping even after the first couple of uses, as well as the seams of the belly band beginning to come undone.

Overall, users found that their dogs were comfortable while wearing their Vivaglory vests. The front strap is high enough to allow for free range of motion through the shoulders, and the belly strap is mesh to allow for breathability. A few users reported that the material was somewhat stiff at first, but many said that with regular use it became softer and more pliable.

For those of us who appreciate simplicity over flashy designs, these vests are available in 5 classic solid colors. Choose from army green, brown, pink, yellow, or a turquoise blue. Each vest has a wide reflective stripe along the side to enhance visibility.

This vest’s handle is ideally placed near the front of the life vest. This will increase comfort and safety in the event that you need to lift your pup out of the water. Similarly to the Outward Hound model, an additional floatation device is attached to the front to keep your dog’s head out of water. While many users loved this feature, one reviewer mentioned that this seemed to get in their dog’s way while swimming. Unfortunately, the attachment is not removable.

Although it retails for $51.99, the Vivapup lifesaver vest can be purchased at a huge discount on Amazon for only $25.98. This affordable option received an overall rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars, appreciated by users for its sleek, minimal design.


Pre-purchase considerations

Buoyancy

Certain dogs need more assistance in the water than others. Whether it’s a result of lack of confidence in the water or a physical limitation due to their size or build, it’s imperative that dogs who aren’t strong swimmers have a vest that provides maximum buoyancy. A life vest that is cute but doesn’t provide adequate floatation for your dog’s swimming abilities is dangerous.

In a safe and controlled environment, evaluate your dog’s swimming ability. Consider his or her endurance level, body weight and density, and level of confidence in the water. Doing so will allow you to choose a vest that can provide them the right amount of assistance in the water.

For dogs that need some extra help keeping their head above water, look for an option with a front float attachment.

Durability

Consider how often you’re planning to use the life jacket and what kinds of activities your dog will be partaking in. If you’re looking for a vest for the occasional water trip or just for extra safety around the pool, you won’t need the same kind of heavy-duty jacket a seasoned traveler might. However, no matter what your activity level, it’s imperative to find a jacket that will hold up over time. Look for something made of quality materials with strong stitching.

Size Options

Purchasing the correct size for your dog’s life vest is essential. If it’s too tight, your dog will be uncomfortable and may resist wearing the vest. Too loose, and you risk your dog slipping out of his vest while in the water.

If you have a dog that falls on either the extremely small or extremely large end of the spectrum, you’ll want to look for a company that has a large variety of sizes to choose from. An XX-small will be suitable for most tiny breeds like Chihuahuas, while an X-large can fit a large breed over 90 lbs.

Ideally, look for a vest with adjustable straps to allow you to achieve the perfect fit. Keep in mind that not all manufacturers follow the same sizing chart. Before purchasing any life jacket for your dog, take a look at the manufacturer’s product-specific sizing chart and take proper measurements.

Comfort

There are a number of factors to consider in regards to your dog’s comfort when choosing a life jacket. Your dog should have full range of motion in and out of the water. Be sure that the front strap of the life vest doesn’t restrict your dog’s shoulder movement, as this can interfere with their ability to swim or run.

The location of the safety handle also affects your dog’s comfort level. If you are lifting your dog out of the water, a handle that is oriented more toward the front will ensure that you don’t accidentally dunk his head under the water. It will also keep you from putting undue pressure on your dog’s belly, as straps at the front will lift more from the armpits and chest than the tender belly area.

Ideally, look for a vest with a mesh underbelly for maximum breathability. A belly strap that isn’t breathable can cause heat exhaustion and chafing.

Visibility

Visibility is essential to the safety of your furry friend. When you’re on the water, you want to be able to spot your dog quickly and easily. Other boaters or jet skiers should also be able to see your dog. Look for a vest with bright colors and reflective strips.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Dog lovers everywhere loved the Outward Hound life vest’s sleek design, top-of-the-line material quality, and dual handle straps. Suitable for small and large dogs alike, this adjustable vest can be suited to many breeds and sizes. The attached chin floatation device is small enough to prevent getting in the way while still providing unparalleled support. For those of us who can’t wait to hit the water with our pups this summer, the Outward Hound life vest for dogs is a safe and stylish way to protect man’s best friend.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Chris Edmonston, Life Jackets for Dogs, Boat U.S.
  2. What to Look for in a Dog Life Jacket, VetInfo.com
  3. Finding the Best Dog Life Vest, HappyHealthyPuppy.com
  4. Dr. Susan O’Dell, DVM, Why Your Dog Needs a Life Jacket, Kurgo.com, July 15, 2015

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