Choosing the right lifejacket for your dog

Choosing the right lifejacket for your dog

There are dozens of different doggie lifejackets available. Here’s how to choose the option that’s best for your canine companion!

Summer is just around the corner, and that means you’ll be hitting the beach and spending sunny afternoons on the boat. Hold on, though – first thing’s first! If your pup is planning to tag along, he’ll need a good lifejacket to keep him safe. But do you get a basic one, or one with all the bells and whistles? Let’s “dive in” and take a closer look at a few important considerations.

Does your dog really need a lifejacket?

Many animal parents assume that because their dogs can swim, a lifejacket is unnecessary. But just like humans, even competent swimmers can get into trouble on the water. Your Labrador retriever might be able to paddle for 20 minutes straight without tiring, but what if he gets a muscle cramp or swims out too far and gets disoriented? There are more than enough “what ifs” to justify spending a bit of money on a lifejacket. At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on peace of mind.

On the other hand, if your pup is new to swimming or tends to be anxious in or around water, a lifejacket is a great way to increase his confidence. It may not turn him into an Olympian overnight, but it will definitely make your family cottage trips more enjoyable.

Narrowing down the options

Okay, so you’re ready to invest. Now what? Walk into any pet store, and you’ll find a variety of different types of lifejackets for dogs. Some have zippers, others are adorned with buckles. Certain brands have handles, whiles others are much more simplistic. Add in all the different color choices, and it’s enough to make your head spin!

The most important thing to consider is what will work best for your needs. “A handle and bright colors for visibility are some of the basic features of almost any dog lifejacket,” says Katherine Taylor, social media manager with Hurtta America. “If you’ll be out at night, look for reflectors.” See the sidebar below for more available features.

Material matters

Most doggie lifejackets are made of nylon or neoprene. They’re both good options that are comfortable and water resistant (depending on the quality of the fabric), and typically don’t start to stink as long as they’re dried properly in between uses. “Lifejackets without neoprene dry faster and can be especially valuable in humid climates or for frequent use,” says Katherine. “For frequent or heavy use, look for durable fabrics and sturdy, large buckles that will be less likely to get choked with sand.”

Mesh is another common material often used for life jackets, and is great for large breed and active dogs that might feel more comfortable in a flexible fabric. Just keep in mind that mesh tears quite easily, and might not last more than a season or two.

Color doesn’t matter… right?

Wrong! The color of your dog’s lifejacket is actually one of the most vital considerations. You want to pick one that’s bright and bold, ideally with reflectors, so you can spot your dog from a distance or in a crowd. If the waves get big enough or day turns to dusk before you have a chance to call your pup in to safety, that lifejacket will be a lifesaver. Most companies offer a variety of bright hues, so you can pick one that makes him more visible and goes with his coat.

Making sure it fits

Doggie lifejackets aren’t one-size-fits-all. The size you choose is extremely important, and can make or break the effectiveness of the product. “A well-fitting jacket may shift a little, but won’t feel like it’s going to slip off over the shoulders,” says Katherine. “Check the belly panel of the lifejacket for a supportive, secure fit. If the lifejacket has too-long straps and no means of containing the strap ends, trim them shorter after adjusting for your dog, and seal the ends with a flame.”

When fitting your dog with a lifejacket, it’s also important to think about the activities he’ll be engaging in. If he does a lot of jumping – off docks, for instance – you don’t want the jacket to hinder his movements. If your dog is especially active in and around water, a poorly-fitting lifejacket can result in injury, so choose wisely! If after a few uses, you notice after that the brand and style you purchased isn’t ideal, exchange it for another one.

On a budget? That’s okay!

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a lifejacket for your dog. Sure, size and style are important, but you can buy one that works well for under $30. Keep in mind that, as with anything, you get what you pay for, so don’t expect a cheaper brand to last more than a season. If your dog is fully grown and you’re looking for something that will last him a few seasons, you’ll have to pay a bit more.