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Do Dogs Need Life Jackets?


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Published: 6/10/2021
Planning your next outdoor adventure with your water-loving dog? Swimming at the beach or kayaking at the lake sounds like a puptastic way to spend an afternoon with your canine BFF. But before you and your furry friend head out, make sure you’ve packed a well-fitting dog life jacket for them. You may think it’s an unnecessary accessory since your dog is a good swimmer, but regardless of swimming ability, all canines that spend time in and around water should wear a life jacket. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t leave home without this essential flotation tool!

Why Your Dog Needs a Life Jacket

#1 Not all dogs are built for the water.

The notion that all dogs are natural-born swimmers simply isn’t true. While most canines will instinctively start paddling once their legs hit the water, this motion is not enough to keep some dogs afloat. Even if they manage to keep their head above the water, many don’t know how to propel themselves in a specific direction. Breeds with very little body fat such as the Greyhound are not very buoyant, while those with large heads like the Bulldog need to adopt awkward swimming positions and exert more effort to keep their nose and mouth out of the water. In addition, older dogs and younger puppies do not have enough stamina to keep their head above the water. 

#2 Good swimmers get tired too. 

Even pups who are excellent swimmers get tired. Dogs who love swimming can become very excited about being in the water and bite off more than they can chew, not knowing when to take a break. They can quickly run into trouble if they aren’t wearing a life jacket—one possible scenario is when a dog has swum too far from shore and is too tired to make their way back. A dog life jacket lets your pup conserve energy and enjoy the water for a longer time. Aside from putting your furry friend in a flotation device, it’s also a good idea to know the exact amount of time it takes for them to start showing the basic signs of fatigue. 

#3 Accidents can happen.

Accidents can happen at any time. Even an experienced canine swimmer may need help keeping their head above the water if they unexpectedly fall off a boat—the mishap can startle or frighten them and negatively impact their swimming capability. There could also be unseen dangers in the water, especially in lakes, rivers, and oceans. These include strong currents that can pull a dog and exhaust them more quickly, as well as underwater branches or foliage that they can get tangled in. A life jacket could potentially save a dog’s life should any of these situations occur.  

#4 Spot and grab your dog more easily.

Dog life jackets come in bright colors with reflective strips, allowing you to spot your pooch easily from a distance. Some dogs like to venture out on their own; having them wear a colorful flotation device reduces the possibility of losing sight of them. Moreover, dog life jackets have handles that let you grab and pull your pup to safety if needed. 

#5 Make swimming lessons more fun.

If your pooch is just learning to swim, a life jacket can help boost their confidence in the water. Keep in mind that your dog is new to this, so they might feel nervous or intimidated. Additionally, dogs often swim with just their front legs when they’re unsure in the water, leading them to wear out sooner. Life jackets not only help beginner swimmers stay buoyant but also encourage them to use all four legs when swimming.

Choosing a Life Jacket for Your Dog

Dog life jackets come in a variety of colors and styles. There are no standards, but here are some key features that you should look for: 

  • Size. A life jacket has to fit properly in order to work. If it’s too small, it may not keep your dog afloat. If it’s too big, your pup may slip out of it. While a life jacket should be snug, your dog should still be able to walk, run, jump, and breathe without difficulty while wearing it. Manufacturers often have measuring guidelines to help you choose the right size for your pooch.
  • Color. A life jacket with high visibility can help you locate your dog more easily in case they fall into the water or swim out too far. Be sure to choose one with bright colors and reflective strips.  
  • Handle. A well-attached handle is a must for a dog life jacket. This feature will make it easier to grab hold of your pooch if necessary. It’s also useful when teaching your dog to swim. 
  • D-ring. A D-ring lets you attach a leash to the life jacket, so there’s no need to take off the jacket when a leash is used. 
  • Buckles. Go for a life jacket with buckles instead of other attachment methods such as snaps or hooks. Buckles are more secure and are typically adjustable to ensure a proper fit.

Keep in mind that even if your dog is already wearing a life jacket, you should always supervise them when they’re out in the water. Once you've taken all the necessary steps to keep your canine companion safe, it's time to go have fun with your best friend!

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