You need to get your dog a life jacket.
Yeah, I know. 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.
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.
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 hard.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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. Let’s look at a few features of a good life jacket for your dog.
Get Your Dog A Life Jacket With These Features
Shop carefully. The best dog life jacket has several important features:
- Fits perfectly
- Feels comfortable for your dog to wear
- Has a sturdy handle
- Comes in a bright color
- Holds your dog’s head up in the water
If your dog slips out of a life jacket when she goes overboard or refuses to wear it at all, you should have saved your money.
I can’t advise you much on fit and comfort. I suggest you take your dog to a bricks and mortar pet supply or marine store that sells life jackets and let her try them on.
Ask fellow boaters whose dogs are the same breed or similar in build what they recommend. Or make sure of return policies before you buy (and give yourself plenty of time to make a good decision before you plan to take your dog on board a boat).
As for the other features, we’ve had good experiences with a few different dog life jackets. You can find all of these at Amazon.
Links that follow may be affiliate links.
All of them have sturdy handles, come in bright colors, and feature flotation under the dog’s chin so they stay afloat no matter how tired they get.
This post was originally published on July 19, 2015. It has been updated to be more helpful and comprehensive.