9 Best Dog Life Vests for Safety and Style
Some splash-happy dogs seem almost as comfortable in the water as they are on dry land. However, not all dogs are natural-born swimmers. And even if your pup can doggie paddle like a pro, they might not be able to do so for long periods of time, especially if conditions are rough.
That’s why taking precautions to keep dogs safe when they are around water — regardless of their swim skills — is a must. And, for many pet parents, that means investing in a high-quality dog life vest to protect their pup and provide added peace of mind.
A dependable dog life jacket needs to fit correctly, be able to withstand harsh elements, and — most importantly — keep your dog afloat, no matter what. To help pet parents find the best dog life vest amid a vast sea of options, here’s everything you need to know about life jackets for dogs and how they can help protect your pet.
Why Your Dog Needs a Dog Life Vest
Some pet parents may wonder if it’s really worth investing in a dog life vest. For instance, if you rarely go beyond the shallows or your dog is a decent swimmer, spending money on a dog floatation device might seem excessive.
Dog life vests aren’t always needed in every situation. However, like most preventative safety measures, if you wait until your pup needs a dog life jacket, it may already be too late to do them any good.
Here are three reasons experts consider dog life jackets a must-have when it comes to water safety for dogs.
Even strong swimmers get fatigued
Some dogs can swim like (furry) fish. In fact, certain water dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and English Setters, were historically bred for such skills, which enabled them to retrieve game from deep water.
But even if your dog is the canine equivalent of an Olympic swimmer, fatigue is still a factor…especially in rough waters or when there’s a strong undertow. And, since your dog can’t just tell you when they’re tired, you might not realize they’re at risk until it’s too late. That goes for all dogs, regardless of how well they can swim, which is why experts recommend life jackets as a necessary precaution for all dogs.
Senior trainer Krissy Kay, with the Florida-based dog training and behavior modification company UBHaven, recommends that dogs wear life vests any time they are on open water. “This includes when a pup is on a boat, kayak, paddle board, etc,” she says.
Even if your dog is a strong swimmer or you think there’s little chance of them ending up in the water, Kay still advises strapping them into a dog life jacket. “Emergencies are unpredictable,” Kay says. “Having a pup in a life vest can be very helpful if and when an emergency does occur.”
Some pet parents might assume they can jump in and rescue their pup if needed. But that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that you could be incapacitated, too, or your dog could be swept away. A life jacket can help keep your pup afloat no matter how long it takes for help to arrive, which could be a literal lifesaver.
Some breeds need extra protection
Even if most of your time will be on shore, some breeds should wear a life vest even if the water is shallow.
“Brachycephalic breeds — dogs with short snouts and flat faces such as Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers — should always wear a life vest when near water,” Kay says.
“Dog breeds with short legs and barrel-shaped bodies also benefit from wearing a life vest,” she adds. That includes dogs like Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Corgis.
Small breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas and TBD, can tire out quickly and may get easily overwhelmed, even if conditions are mild.
Due to the unique body configurations of these breeds, it’s much easier for water to get up their noses when swimming, and even if they are just splashing in shallow water. Without a dog life jacket designed to keep their heads above water, this could cause them to struggle or compromise their breathing, which is especially dangerous for brachycephalic breeds.
Types of Dog Life Jackets and Vests
There are many different types of dog life jackets on the market to choose from. Some of the details that differentiate them are purely stylistic. However, other features are important to consider because they affect how the dog life jacket fits, functions, or protects your pup.
Here are some important things to consider when selecting the best dog life jacket to keep your pet safe.
Fit – Most dog life vests come in a wide range of sizes and are highly adjustable to accommodate breeds of all shapes and sizes. Still, a snug, secure fit is essential to keeping your dog safe in and around the water. So be sure to measure your dog carefully and consult the manufacturer’s size recommendations to find the best fit.
Most size charts will show a range of measurements, with the most common being neck, chest, and back (or length). Some charts also include weight.
You can use a tape measure or string and ruler to measure around the widest point of your dog’s neck, around the widest part of their chest/ribcage, and the length of their back from the neck to the base of their tail.
If your dog falls between sizes, you can always contact the manufacturer for their recommendation.
Buoyancy – All dog life jackets are designed to provide some degree of buoyancy, though that may differ based on the type of flotation materials used and where they are placed. Look for options that provide flotation support directly under the neck, which can help keep your pet’s head above water.
Handle – Dog life jackets with this handy feature make it easier to lift dogs out of the water, onto a paddle board, or into a boat.
Visibility – Color may seem like more of a style consideration. But when it comes to life jackets, bright colors can make it easier to spot dogs that have gone overboard. Some options also feature reflectors and places to attach safety lights for increased visibility.
Insulation – Life jackets with extra insulation are ideal for cooler climates or dogs without thick, protective coats. These are often made of neoprene, which is the same material that wetsuits are made with to keep us humans warm in the water.
Our Top Dog Life Vest Picks for Water Safety
We picked out the best dog life vests according to a variety of factors, with our primary focus being on those that offered the best defense against water hazards. We looked for high-quality options at every price point, considering user reviews, materials, product construction, and functionality. And, of course, we also considered how comfortable and easy it was for dogs to wear while they were enjoying a day out on the water with their favorite people.
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Living may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
- Best Overall Dog Life Jacket: Non-Stop Dog Wear Protector Life Jacket
- Best Durable Dog Life Jacket: Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket
- Best Affordable Alternative: Kurgo Surf n’ Turf Dog Life Jacket
- Best Small Dog Life Vest: EzyDog Micro Doggy Flotation Device (DFD) for Small Dogs
- Best Value Dog Life Vest: YOULY The Beach Bum Dog Floatation Device
- Best Dog Life Vest for Cold Water: Outward Hound Dawson Swim Dog Life Jacket
- Best Dog Life Jacket for Rough Waters: Bay Dog Monterey Bay Offshore Pet Life Jackets
- Most Stylish Dog Life Vest: L.L. Bean Dog Flotation Device
- Best Dog Life Jacket with Extra Buoyancy: Kong AquaPro Pet Life Jackets
9 Best Dog Life Vests for Safety and Style
After exploring many options, we’ve narrowed our list of the best dog life vests down to nine great picks. They’re organized according to helpful categories, so you can be sure to find options to fit dogs of all shapes and sizes, as well as every budget.
Best Overall Dog Life Jacket
Our Pick: Non-Stop Dog Wear Protector Life Jacket
|2||12.6” – 17.7”||3.3 – 15.4 lbs|
|3||15.7″ – 22”||6.6 – 15.4 lbs|
|4||18.9″ – 26.4”||15.4 – 37.5 lbs|
|5||22” – 30.7”||28.7 – 57.3 lbs|
|6||25.6” – 35.4”||48.5 – 77.2 lbs|
|7||28” – 39”||68.3 – 103.6 lbs|
For uncompromising safety, quality, and absolute peace of mind, we ranked the Protector Life Jacket from Non-Stop Dog Wear at the very top of our list. The Protector offers the best of both worlds — reassuring security on or in the water, plus complete comfort and maneuverability on dry land.
Non-Stop Dog Wear teamed up with experts in biomechanics, buoyancy, and dog anatomy to create a premium, streamlined life jacket that keeps your dog stable and supported in the water without restricting their movements like bulkier life jackets would.
The neck and chest straps are easily adjustable, and the sturdy, bright handle makes it easy to lift any dog into a boat and out of the water. No need to worry about your dog overheating, as the back material is made from HexiVent material, so the vest is breathable and dries quickly. As a bonus feature, the life jacket’s panels are split in two so dogs can turn in the water without restriction. Best of all, Non-Stop Dogwear developed a test system comparable to human safety standards, to ensure your pet enjoys the same level of protection as the rest of your family.
- Ergonomic design and SAFE-T wrap system ensure the perfect fit and support.
- Bright orange color and reflective stripe make it easy to see your dog in the water.
- Leash attachment with two additional attachment points (great for the treadmill or swimming pool).
- Wide variety of sizes for all dogs with easily adjustable neck and chest straps.
- Light, breathable material so dogs get more freedom to move naturally.
- Convenient back pocket for small item storage.
- Hand wash only.
- Cannot be ironed, bleached, dry clean, or placed in the dryer.
- A bit on the pricey side, but worth it.
Best Durable Dog Life Jacket
Our Pick: Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket
|Size||Neck Opening||Girth||Length of Jacket|
|XXS||10.5” – 12.75”||13” – 17”||7.25”|
|XS||12.25” – 16.25”||17” – 22”||10.25”|
|S||15” – 19.75”||22” – 27”||11.75”|
|M||17.75” – 23.25”||27” – 32”||15”|
|L||20.75” – 26.75”||32” – 36”||16.25”|
|XL||22.75” – 29.5”||36” – 42”||19.25”|
The Float Coat is a stylish, lightweight, and well-made life jacket that’s available in three bright color options in sizes from XXS to XL. The recently redesigned dog life vest features upgraded materials for added safety and comfort — two layers of buoyant, flexible foam that moves with your dog and a soft shell reinforced with durable webbing. The jacket has a fully adjustable, telescoping neckpiece and chest straps with sheltered buckles to keep the vest firmly in place. It also has reflective strips for higher visibility and a back handle that makes it convenient to grab your pet from the water if needed.
While the life jacket is priced on the high end, it’s made of very durable and quality materials that fit well, keep your dog safe, and will last through many, many days on the water.
- Wide range of sizes available.
- Designed for full range of movement.
- Comfortable PVC-free foam panels support natural swimming position.
- Telescoping neck closure adjusts for perfect fit.
- Back handle lets you grab your dog quickly.
- Reflective accents for increased visibility.
- Available in three colors (Red Sumac, Wave Orange, Blue Dusk)
- Leash opening under handle, but no built-in leash clip.
- The Beacon clip-on safety light is sold separately.
- Pricier than standard dog life jackets, but the premium quality is worth it.
Best Premium (and Affordable) Dog Life Jacket
Our Pick: Kurgo Surf n’ Turf Dog Life Jacket
|Size||Neck Opening||Chest/Girth||Length of Jacket|
|X-Small||9” – 13”||14” – 20”||9.25”|
|Small||12” – 23”||18” – 25”||12.25”|
|Medium||18” – 27”||24” – 32”||17”|
|Large||24” – 31”||30” – 37”||18.5”|
|X-Large||28” – 36”||35” – 45”||20.5”|
This life jacket offers pet parents an incredibly affordable option that’s easy on the wallet but is still packed with all the safety features you could ask for. The streamlined design lets your dog run, swim, and relax freely, while providing an extra boost of buoyancy and a comfortable neoprene liner to keep them safe and insulated while in the water.
You can ensure the perfect fit with three adjustable, quick-release clips. And lift your dog easily in and out of the water, using two different handles designed for easy maneuverability. The Surf n’ Turf also features two metal D rings (one of which even doubles as a handy bottle opener!) so you can connect your leash directly to the jacket. Both high-contrast color options feature reflective accents to ensure your dog stands out in the water, day or night.
- Quality materials and construction that’s affordably priced.
- Two control handles make it easier to extract your dog.
- Dual D-rings for attaching leash, accessories.
- Available in two colors (red and blue/green)
- Spot clean only.
- Some pet parents said metal grommets rust easily.
Best Small Dog Life Vest
Our Pick: EzyDog Micro Doggy Flotation Device (DFD) for Small Dogs
|Size||Chest/Girth||Length of Jacket|
|XXXS||8” – 14”||7” 9.5”|
|XXS||10” – 16.5”||8.5” – 12”|
|XS||12” – 19.5”||10” – 13.5”|
It’s easier for small dogs to become overwhelmed or fatigued in the water, especially when conditions are rough. So a quality dog life jacket is a must for small breeds when they’re on or near the water. However, it can be difficult to find dog life jackets that fit small breeds properly.
Small dogs deserve to splash and swim, too! That’s why EzyDog created the Micro Doggy Flotation Device to ensure dogs under 15 pounds can enjoy fun in the sun, safely. Designed with small breeds in mind, this petite protective jacket features straps and clips that are scaled down, so they won’t weigh down your pet but still allow you to create the perfect fit. The jacket is made from high-performance, ultra-buoyant materials and designed for full comfort and convenience, complete with a sturdy grab handle, nylon D loop for leash attachment, and even a small, zippered storage compartment on the back of the jacket.
- Maximum protection designed specifically for dogs under 15 pounds.
- Adjustable micro straps for a secure, comfortable fit
- Ultra-bouyant and non-restrictive design.
- Durable ergonomic grab handle.
- Contourned neck opening scaled for small dogs.
- Handy zippered storage compartment.
- Available in red or yellow with reflective accents.
- D-ring for leash attachment is plastic, not metal.
Best Budget-Friendly Dog Life Vest
Our Pick: YOULY The Beach Bum Dog Floatation Device
|XXS||11” – 15”||5 – 10 lbs|
|XS||16” – 20”||11 – 18 lbs|
|S||20” – 26”||16 – 30 lbs|
|M||20” – 28”||16 – 30 lbs|
|L||26” – 36”||25 – 55 lbs|
|XL||33” – 41”||75-110 lbs|
Keeping your pet safe doesn’t have to be expensive. This life vest offers many of the benefits found in premium models, but at a much lower price — even the XL size is priced under $40. This life vest has foam padding that keeps your dog afloat and provides extra comfort without adding bulk. Adjustable clips on the neck and waist allow for a snug fit. It also has a convenient back handle and a D-ring to clip a leash (or a small light or tracking device).
The more affordable price means it may be lacking slightly in the quality of materials, but the tradeoff is worth it for those on a budget or anyone who won’t be using the life jacket often. Other colors and designs are available, including a neon green and blue vest.
- Affordably priced.
- Adjustable clips for a snug, safe fit.
- Convenient back handle and D-ring for leash attachment.
- Lightweight design won’t restrict movement.
- Materials may not withstand as much wear and tear.
- Some pet parents said foam was too thin.
Best Insulated Dog Life Vest for Cold Water
Our Pick: Outward Hound Dawson Swim Dog Life Jacket
|XS||11” – 15”||5 – 15 lbs|
|SM||16” – 20”||15 – 30 lbs|
|MD||21” – 27”||30 – 55 lbs|
|LG||28” – 32”||55 – 85 lbs|
|XL||33” – 44”||85 – 100 lbs|
With their built-in fur coats, you might think dogs are impervious to chilly waters. But prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures could weaken your dog or, in some cases, even lead to hypothermia. So an insulated dog life jacket, like the Dawsom model from Outward Hound, is a great pick to provide extra warmth for your pup.
The Dawson is made with neoprene, the same material surfers and divers use to retain body heat. The side panels have foam padding that keeps your dog afloat without adding extra bulk, and the strap under the chin helps keep their head above water. It also has a back handle and reflective striping.
Keep in mind that some dogs — such as small breeds, dogs with short coats, very young or very old dogs, and those with underlying health issues — may be more sensitive to cold. So even if your life jacket is insulated, be careful not to subject such pups to colder water temps for too long. (When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for guidance!)
- Affordably priced.
- Neoprene side panels offer protection against chilly waters.
- Extra buoyant for novice swimmers.
- Front neck float provides extra support.
- Adjustable straps and belly band.
- Top grab handle for easy rescue or restraint. (Sizes M and above have two handles.)
- Available in four high-visibility color choices (blue, green, pink, and red)
- No leash attachment.
- Keep your pet’s breed and coat in mind when swimming in cold waters and choosing an insulated life vest.
- No D-ring for leash.
Best Dog Life Jacket for Rough Waters
Our Pick: BAY DOG Monterey Bay Offshore Pet Life Jackets
|Size||Neck Opening||Chest/Girth||Jacket Length|
|X-Small||7” – 10”||12” – 16”||7”|
|Small||10” – 14”||15” – 20”||10”|
|Medium||13” – 18”||21” – 28”||13”|
|Large||17” – 22”||27” – 35”||16”|
|X-Large||21” – 27”||34” – 46”||19”|
If you’re boating with your dog, putting a life vest on them is a must. You never know when the waves might pick up. And the last thing you want to worry about is your dog going overboard in hazardous conditions. This life vest is great for ensuring your pet’s safety, whether you’re heading out for a pleasure cruise on the lake or days and nights on the high seas. It has extra flotation features that many other life vests don’t, such as side pontoons designed to keep your dog upright, even in rough seas.
BAY DOG Monterey Bay Offshore Pet Life Jackets are the only canine life jackets made specifically for boaters. In addition to the standard safety features, this sea-savvy option has extras like enhanced chest flotation to ensure your dog’s head stays above water, reinforced stitching, and a saltwater-resistant D-ring for leash attachment.
- Features large velcro panels and secure buckles to ensure complete closure and fit
- Saltwater-resistant leash attachment ring.
- Enhanced flotation features help keep head above the waterline and prevent capsizing.
- Dual rescue handles on sizes M and above.
- Enhanced with reflective panels for high visibility in dark waters.
- Only available in one color (yellow).
- Priced higher than other life vests; but it delivers more, too.
Best Dog Life Vest for Adventurers
Our Pick: L.L.Bean Dog Flotation Device
|X-Small||16” – 23”||12 – 24 lbs|
|Small||22” – 27”||24 – 60 lbs|
|Medium||26” – 32”||60 – 90 lbs|
|Large||30” – 37”||90 – 120 lbs|
Whether you’re rafting, paddle boarding, or simply splashing along the shoreline in a national park, L.L. Bean can outfit both you and your dog for a day on the water. Crafted to the high quality standards L.L.Bean has come to represent, this classic dog life vest allows your pet lots of movement while also providing stability and buoyancy in the water.
Made from super-durable nylon material with reflective accents for increased visibility, the vest has multiple adjustment straps to ensure a snug, secure fit. It also features a sturdy, reinforced handle on the back of the life vest, as well as a leash attachment point.
- Streamlined, stylish design from L.L. Bean.
- Designed for comfort, buoyancy, and unrestricted movement.
- Easy to put on and take off.
- D-ring for leash attachment.
- Large back handle.
- Adjustable clips for sizing.
- Some pet parents caution that the sizes run small.
Best Dog Life Jacket with Extra Buoyancy
Our pick: Kong AquaPro Pet Life Jackets
|XXS||8” – 12”||12” – 16”||5 – 10 lbs|
|XS||11” – 14”||16” – 20”||11 – 18 lbs|
|S||12” – 17”||20” – 26”||16 – 30 lbs|
|M||14” – 20”||26” – 31”||25 – 55 lbs|
|L||19” – 26”||29” – 36”||50 – 80 lbs|
|XL||21” – 28”||33” – 41”||75 – 110 lbs|
This life jacket has three layers of foam — more than any other option we researched — to give your dog an extra buoyancy boost. It’s perfect for dogs who need more swim support or when the water conditions may be especially rough. Instead of slipping over the head like other life vests, it can be fastened with a clip attached to an adjustable strap. (The chest and belly size can be adjusted, too.)
The back has an extra strong handle, there is a reflexive trim, and the jacket is designed to let your dog swim naturally without getting in the way. T and it’s available in two colors that each have a bright strip of neon to keep your pet visible.
- Three layers of foam for comfort and buoyancy.
- Made with top-of-the-line, quick-drying material with reflective binding.
- Adjustable neck, chest, and belly straps for ideal fit.
- Foam-filled belly pad for support and comfort.
- Extra- strong back handle can support the weight of even the heaviest dogs.
- Choose from four high-visibility color options (green, orange, pink, and stars/stripes).
- Some colors and patterns may be limited.
Dog Life Vest Buyer’s Guide
When you’re shopping for a dog life jacket, the fit is one of the most important factors to consider. The jacket should be snug, but not so tight that it impedes their swimming. And because dogs come in all shapes and sizes, that means the more adjustment points, the better.
It’s also a good idea to try on the vest to check the fit and range of motion before you commit. “Ensure that it is not too tight around their shoulders or belly,” advises Kay. “We like the two-finger rule: Make sure you can fit two fingers under all of the straps.”
Look for useful features, like a place to attach a leash or light. “We also suggest purchasing a life vest with a handle on the back,” Kay adds. “This added feature helps when you need to quickly grab hold of your dog — for example, if you need to remove them from the water in an emergency.”
Life jackets in bright colors or with reflective accents can help you find your dog quickly, which is handy when you’re on a crowded beach, but could be a lifesaver if your dog goes missing in the water.
Tips for Using Dog Life Vests
Once you’ve landed on the right life vest for your dog, remember that it may take your pup a little while to get used to it…especially for dogs who may not be used to wearing things like harnesses or jackets.
Consider a few short try-out or training sessions to help create positive associations with the vest. “We suggest that pet parents practice putting the life vest on their dog and providing a treat, then take it off again,” suggests Kay. “Repeat that for about 1-2 minutes. Do this exercise a few times before using the jacket in real life on the water,” she says.
When you do get out on the water, keep a close watch on your pup. You want to ensure the life vest supports their head, so it remains above the waterline and your dog can move all four legs comfortably while wearing it.
Whether or not your dog is wearing a life vest, keeping a close eye on them near water is very important. If you’re on a boat, keep your dog in a safe area, and keep them on a leash if they are prone to jumping out (keep the leash in hand, never tie the leash to the boat).
Finally, remember that dog life jackets can become a little too well-loved after repeated wearing. If your dog has chewed any holes in the life jacket or you notice it’s damaged or worn, it’s time to buy a new one. A compromised life jacket may not be strong enough to protect your dog in the water. The same goes for if you notice that the jacket no longer fits correctly — a jacket that’s too tight could restrict your dog’s movements and put them in danger instead of protecting them.