10 Reasons Every Dog Needs A Life Jacket

With leashes spilling out of your closet and tennis balls stuffed in your jacket pockets, you may think you have all the gear your dog could possibly need.

But if your dog doesn’t live in the desert (and even people in the desert own swimming pools), you should get your dog a life jacket.

Honey the golden retriever models her life jacket.

Okay, I’m all dressed up. What are we going to do?

10 Reasons To Get Your Dog A Life Jacket

Let’s start with the most obvious reason:

Dogs are klutzes.

How many times have you seen your dog roll off the couch while scratching himself or trip over her own feet?

Remember, cats are the graceful ones.

To see what happens when you combine dogs, clumsiness, and water, just search YouTube for “dog falls in water” and see what you get.

Your dog will do anything to be with you.

Even if it’s something really stupid, like jumping from a dock onto a boat casting off.

We found that Honey’s desire to be near us gave her the courage to walk a ramp from the dock to a boat.

But I’d hate to think she might do something dangerous to be close to us.

Honey the golden retriever at Treasure Island marina.

This ramp is freaky scary at home on the porch. But here, it means adventure.

Some dogs are bad swimmers.

I recently met a couple who were teaching their Doberman puppy to swim.

The pup managed to stay afloat and moved forward. But his butt kept sinking which meant he had to work harder to keep his head above water. In fact, he swallowed quite a bit of it.

I’d get that pup a life jacket before spending serious time with him around water.

Even good swimmers get tired.

Do you know why the swim is the first event in a triathlon? Because it’s so freaking dangerous.

The overwhelming majority of people who die in triathlons die while swimming. And we’re talking about the most fit people in the world.

So why wouldn’t your lab get tired after a day chasing balls in the waves?

Cold temperatures make swimming difficult.

Even with thick coats, dogs can suffer hypothermia in cold water.

A human can become unconscious or unable to swim in as little as 30 minutes when swimming in water below 50°F (10° C).

You dog probably has more stamina than a human. But do you really want to take that chance?

So if your dog enjoys cold season swimming, a life jacket will keep him safe.

Honey the golden retriever models her Kurgo life jacket.

I feel ridiculous wearing a life jacket in the snow. But I am pretty snugly.
Maybe not snugly enough to go swimming, though.

Your dog may be unconscious in the water.

Of course your dog is a champion swimmer. But what if he goes in the water accidentally? Say after hitting his head?

Properly designed life jackets keep the wearer’s head above water, even when they’re unconscious.

A life jacket gives you a handle for hauling your dog out of the water.

What if your dog falls off a tall dock? Will you have to jump in after him to help him out of the water (not that you aren’t willing to, but who will take care of your pup if you get hurt rescuing him)?

Or can you grab the handle on the back of her life jacket to help her back to safety?

Honey the golden retriever naps on a sailboat.

I’ll just doze while my people are sailing the boat. I’d hate for them to use the handles on my life jacket to toss me below.

Your dog will be more visible wearing a life jacket.

There’s a reason life jackets come in bright colors. If someone goes overboard, you need every advantage to keep them in sight.

With even a little chop, it’s easy to lose sight of a person who has gone overboard, much less a dog in a more horizontal posture.

How hard is it to spot someone overboard? Well, conventional wisdom is to toss everything that floats into the water so the detritus can help you find the victim after turning your boat around.

And don’t even think about how hard it would be to find a dog who went overboard or off a dock after dark. It will just give you nightmares.

My dog rides in a canoe.

How hard would it be to find a black dog in the water in the dark?

You’ll have one less thing to worry about.

If your dog is playing at the water’s edge during a family picnic, wouldn’t you rather know you have an extra safety margin?

After all, you have enough to do keeping Aunt Margie and your sister from arguing politics or choking down that nasty potato salad your mother-in-law thinks you love without having to worry about your dog drowning.

And finally,

Dogs look darn cute in life jackets.

Okay, I say I’d never dress up my dog. But even I find Honey adorable in her life jacket.

And Honey’s life jacket has removable flotation so if I wanted her to stay drier (or even more visible) in a storm, she could wear the jacket as rain gear.

Have I managed to convince you to get your dog a life jacket?

I sure hope so. And if so, this is your lucky day.

Golden Retriever puppy in life jacket

Don’t I look adorable in my puppy life jacket?


Win A Kurgo #SurfNTurf Jacket

We’re cohosting a giveaway with DogTipper and several other great blogs.

Kurt Surf 'N Turf life jacket collage.

This is your chance to win a Kurgo Surf ‘N Turf life jacket just like the one Honey wears.

The safest way to keep your dog safe around water is with a dog life jacket.

Whether we’re taking Honey kayaking or sailing, we’re glad to have an easy and comfortable way to keep her safe.

Honey the Golden Retriever rides in a kayak.

I always wear my life jacket kayaking.

I bought Honey’s Surf ‘N Turf life jacket because it had several important features that were important to me:

  • lots of ways to adjust the jacket so it would be properly snug
  • sturdy handles on the back in case we needed to fish Honey out of the water
  • flotation under the chin to help keep her head above water

Are you ready to try to win one of your own?

How to Enter

You’ll enter in the widget below. One winner will be selected at random; Kurgo will ship the prize directly to the winner in one of five sizes you choose. This giveaway is open to readers in the USA and Canada. Good luck!

Disclosure: This giveaway prize is sponsored by Kurgo; the company will ship the prize directly to the winner. All opinions and statements are entirely my own. I bought my own Surf ‘N Turf life jacket and did not receive one from Kurgo.

Your turn: Does your dog have a life jacket? Does he or she need one?

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  1. I don’t know if my dog is a swimmer. He seems to dislike everything about the water. I’d like to help condition him to it but want him to have the best possible experience so a life jacket is a must!

    • Be patient and keep things safe and fun. My Honey didn’t start swimming until this year and she’s 5 years old!

      Good luck in winning your pup his own life jacket.

  2. Such a great post. I am so convinced, and now a little nervous. A life jacket is a must. Honey looks so gorgeous in hers. XS

    • And as Roberta states below, if you live in a flood zone, they’re just good preparedness.

      Good luck. I can just see Kilo in a stunning red jacket, can’t you?

  3. The only reason I tried to opt to enter was I live in a flood zone. A few years ago, when the flooding was very deep (surrounded my house on 3 sides; boarded the Coonhounds and watched the smaller dogs like hawks), I was talking to a neighbor on his pontoon boat attached to one of my trees. I was on dry pavement, he was on his boat in at least 2-3 feet of water. His small Shi Tzu type dog walked around on the boat. The water had a green sheen. She just walked off into the water and dropped like a stone. He immediately reached in and pulled her up (no currents) but shook us both, and her eyes were as wide as they could be. So, yes, life jackets are worth having even on “dry” land….especially if you live near the Mississippi. My elephant in the room: I hate Rafflecopters or whatever that is people (you) use for contests. I don’t tweet, I tried to enter a comment but wouldn’t take at the click place so only get 5 points maybe and I already follow you on FB. I just don’t like them, but I like YOU and what you post.

    • Roberta, I honestly wrote unexpected floods in the notes for my post. But when I started typing I left it out because I thought no one would really get a life jacket just to put in their emergency ditch bag.

      Your story goes to show that one scary experience is enough to make anyone think twice about what’s necessary.

      Sorry the contest widget is such a pain. I feel the same way about commenting systems that make you sign in with a password.

      Even if you already follow us on FB, you can click the tab to visit us there and get more points. But I’ll ask Paris at DogTipper (she’s running the giveaway) to make sure you got credit for your comment.

      The good thing is that random means random and the universe doesn’t know who got 100 entries and who got 5.

      Good luck. And thanks for sharing with me one more reason every dog needs a life jacket.

  4. This makes sense. My dog is a great swimmer but you just never know. Better safe than sorry.

    • Heck, it’s the swimmers that need a life jacket most. Dogs who hate swimming avoid water and only run into danger by accident.

  5. I love my Surf n Turf life jacket! I am not a good swimmer at all so it is a necessity when we are canoeing and of course, having the handle is perfect for carrying me in and out of the boat or scooping me out of the water (if I fall in, which I haven’t yet, thank goodness). Great post!

    • So glad to hear you wear a life jacket, Oz. In South Florida, water is everywhere. We certainly are glad to hear you’re staying safe.

  6. Those are very nice life jackets! Great tips!

    • We’ve been very happy with it so far.

      Have you ever considered designing your own jackets with flotation? They’d certainly look stylish.

  7. We are wanting to get a couple of kayaks, so both dogs are going to need these.

    • Oooh, very cool. Can’t wait to see the pics you’ll get from the water.

      BTW, we’re thinking of getting a Porta Bote to serve as our dinghy. They’re hard bottom boats that can take oars or an outboard engine. They’re very stable. And they collapse to about the size of a surfboard. Apparently a lot of RVers get them because they’re so easy to transport.

      There are lots of used ones on the market. Maybe you want to check them out as another affordable way to get on the water.

  8. Whoa, you brought up some interesting points I’d never considered before. Definitely things to consider before going out on the water. Now if only Sam would even get near water…

    • What, Sam doesn’t know he’s a water dog? Funny, because Honey doesn’t either.

      What’s with these crazy pups?

  9. Harper is quite the efficient swimmer, but not an enthusiastic one. 🙂 I’ve been considering getting a jacket for her to maybe help her feel more comfortable in the water since we spend so much time at rivers and lakes during the camping season!

    • Interesting for you to say that about Harper. Because that’s how I’d describe Honey too. She looks smooth and beautiful in the water. Just not happy.

      Maybe Harper would enjoy swimming more with extra buoyancy. My husband enjoys hanging out in the river or lake more when he’s wearing his life jacket.

      Good luck in the giveaway.

      • As I’ve read about Honey and water, it very much makes me think of Harper – she’s only 2.5, so we’ve got lots of time to practice!

        Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

  10. Bailie and I are both good swimmers and we love the water!

  11. Just yesterday, after 8 years of NOT swimming ever, Koly walked up to the ocean and went for a swim. I tell you, NO ONE was more surprised than me. He had a fabulous time and I really regretted not having a jacket for him so we could go a bit further.

    • He did it just to keep you guessing, don’t you think? 🙂

      Over the years, we heard lots of stories about people whose dogs spontaneously decided to swim after years of not swimming. It kept us hopeful for Honey.

      Good luck in the giveaway.

  12. Harlow has a life jacket, but Monty doesn’t. I bought her one as part of our travel kit, as you never know what opportunities you have!

    Monty and Harlow

  13. This is something I haven’t bought yet for Haley, but I think it would be a good idea, if for no other reason than she might enjoy spending more time in the water with us. Now I have 10 good reasons to stop putting it off. Thank you, Pamela!

  14. I’m a big fan of life jackets for dog. If something happens grabbing that handle is so much easier than grabbing a struggling dog. I got my leg tore up once from Sherman. He wasn’t struggling but I wanted to be close in case he did.

    • With dog claws, it doesn’t take much to get hurt by a scrambling pup. I’m sorry you got war wounds from Sherman. But better to be close at hand than having regrets.

      And yes, the handle is such a help. With a little dog, it’s just a convenience. But with a big dog, you need every advantage you can get to lift them back on a dock, swimming pool deck, or on board a boat.

  15. Makes PAWfect sense to me. Especially out in the open waters.

  16. Carmen H says:

    My dachshund, Frida, is a great swimmer. She loves any body of water except clean bath water.

  17. We have four rescues. My flat coat retriever would live in the water if he could. My middle pup Stuart hates water and walks around puddles 🙂 Still TBD on Sammy. With our crew, we could use at least on life jacket!

  18. Dante is a good swimmer but he definitely needs a lifejacket, it’s next on my list!

  19. Our boy likes water, but he hasn’t yet figured out why his feet would ever need to leave the bottle to swim when he can splash just fine in the shallows.

  20. I just tried a life jacket on my girl over the weekend!

  21. Fozzie is a great swimmer–he just goes in the water for a recreational spin. Lamar and Tashi were the same way–they’d just go in, do a little lap, and climb out. Dahlia is still learning–she loves the water but gets stressed out when it is deep! She is a good and adorable little swimmer but needs more practice.

  22. My Josey looks about the same size as your Honey. She is also a golden and weighs almost 70 lbs.What size jacket did you get for Honey?

    • Leah, Honey is deceptively small. She only weighs 50 pounds (which according to the AKC means she’s not a golden retriever at all). 🙂

      I believe her jacket is a medium. So your Josey would probably take a large. Check out the measurements for the different sizes at the Kurgo website: http://www.kurgo.com/dog-jackets/surf-n-turf-dog-life-jacket/.

      I hope you win one. But if you don’t, if you click the badge on my site, you’ll get a 20% discount when you buy one.

      Good luck.

  23. I’ve been dying to take Bailey swimming for more than a year now. Until last weekend, she just got far enough to splash around. The water was never deep enough for her to really swim, despite how much she tried. Then we went to Myrtle Beach and I braved the sharks to get far enough out that Bailey could lift her legs. She loved it! Now we just have to find some places closer to home that aren’t shark infested.

  24. Lady Girl loves to swim!! She could really use this for safety!

  25. Shasta, our Yorkie/Schnauzer mix doesn’t really like to swim. He does like to go everywhere with us-the beach, kayaking, boating etc so he always wears a life jacket. The Kurgo surf & turf jacket looks like it is more comfortable/usable than his current jacket. So if we don’t win one we’ll probably have to purchase one anyway…. 😉