Skip to main content

Does your dog need a life jacket?

Whether your pooch loves to play in the water at every chance or you’re giving your dog swimming lessons, it’s probably a good idea to add a personal floatation device (PFD) to his or her list of safety gear. When properly fitted, these life jackets help keep your dog buoyant and visible so he or she can safely enjoy water sports along with you.

Do dogs really need life jackets?

Contrary to popular opinion, not every dog is a natural swimmer. While some dogs like Labrador retrievers and spaniels seem to be built for swimming, others like bulldogs and pugs have trouble keeping their heads above water because their big chests make them top-heavy.

Regardless of your dog’s abilities, it’s a good idea to invest in a PFD if your dog spends any time around water. In addition to an unforeseen accident, even the best swimmers can run into trouble:

  • They may become fatigued. Even the strongest swimmers might wear themselves out splashing around with the kids. And swimming in a body of water with any type of current or waves can be tiring.
  • Something unexpected might happen. An older dog may misstep and fall into the pool while you’re not looking. Even a seaworthy pup can tumble into the drink if the boat takes a sharp turn.
  • Underwater hazards, such as tree limbs and overgrown foliage, can cause injury or impairment. A life jacket will keep your pup’s head above water until you can get him or her to safety.
  • Age can be an issue. If your older dog still loves the water but is having trouble getting around on land, a PFD can give him or her the security and confidence he or she needs to continue splashing around with the family.

bulldog in life jacket

Other benefits of wearing a life jacket

While safety concerns are the most important reason to make sure your dog is properly outfitted with a life jacket, there are other benefits:

  • Warmth. We all know how cold water can be. Hypothermia is a concern for both humans and their canine friends. Wearing an insulated life jacket, like can keep your dog afloat and warm at the same time.
  • Peace of mind. We know you’re a responsible dog owner and always keep a sharp eye on all members of your family. Putting a life jacket on your pooch just gives you an extra measure of assurance.
  • Convenience. Life jackets are brightly colored for a reason — it makes them easy to spot. And most come equipped with safety handles so you can easily help maneuver your dog out of danger if needed.

Will a life jacket hinder my dog’s swimming?

No, not if it fits properly. In fact, many dog owners find that using a PFD helps them teach their dogs to swim. These flotation devices hold dogs in a horizontal swimming position and encourage them to use all four legs to propel themselves through the water.

How to choose the best life jacket for your dog

Most PFDs for dogs are made using weight and girth (the distance around the chest behind the front legs) guidelines. Since all dogs are different, these measurements will give you an idea of which floatation devices to try first; however, you may need to make adjustments based on your dog’s individual preference and body type.

The life jacket should fit snugly but not so tightly that it restricts body movement. Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Choose a style that is easy to put on and simple to adjust.
  • Make sure your dog can walk in the PFD. If any part of the life jacket impedes your dog’s ability to move his or her front legs, he or she won’t be able to swim in it, either.
  • Look for a PFD with straps positioned above the shoulder blades so you can pull your dog to safety if necessary.
  • Choose a color that is easy to spot, especially if your lifestyle includes spending time on large bodies of water like oceans, lakes, or rivers.

If possible, take your dog into the store to be accurately fit. Most pet and marine stores encourage this. Some even have pools so you can test how the PFD functions on your pet.

dog resting head on boat

Have fun on the water

Most states require boaters to wear life jackets; however, those laws don’t include our canine friends. They are completely dependent upon us to protect them. Since most are treasured members of the family, outfitting them with their own personal flotation device is an inexpensive way to keep everyone safe on the water.

Editors' Recommendations

Debbie Clason
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Debbie Clason's work has appeared in Family Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Lutheran Witness, Massage Magazine…
Why is my dog drooling? Here’s when to be concerned about sudden or excessive dog salivation
This is why your dog slobbers all over you and themselves
A drooling Irish Setter looks to the side

Although St. Bernards, Mastiffs, and several other large breeds are known for their tendency to drool, it may be quite a shock if your usually drool-free pup suddenly starts to salivate. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place if you find yourself asking, "Why is my dog drooling?"
We’ve looked into many causes of excessive and sudden salivation, from the easy fixes to the more concerning problems. Most likely, drooling is nothing to worry about, but it never hurts to take a more careful look — especially if your pup is behaving oddly. Here’s everything you’ll want to know about canine salivation.

Why is my dog drooling and is sudden or excessive drooling a cause for concern?
Though drooling has many harmless causes, which we'll cover later in this article, you may want to keep a closer eye on your pet if you notice sudden salivation — especially if it’s a large amount.
Nausea and stomachaches are common causes of sudden drooling for dogs, although they will be temporary. If you think about it, many humans experience the very same thing! You may also notice vomiting or lethargy if your pet has ingested something they’re not supposed to, so don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your best buddy’s wellbeing.
On a more urgent note, dogs may also salivate if a foreign object becomes lodged anywhere in the mouth or throat. This can become a dangerous situation if the object blocks their airways, so you should waste no time in getting your fur baby to your closest veterinarian’s office if this could be the case.
Excessive, sudden drooling can also occur when a dog is overheated. Ashely Gallagher, DVM, explains that although salivation can act as a way of cooling off, just like panting, dogs don’t usually resort to this technique unless they are having trouble regulating their temperature through panting alone.
One last cause of sudden drooling is an upper respiratory infection. An illness of the nose, throat, or sinuses is more likely for pups who have been in group settings, such as shelters or kennels, but any dog can catch one, according to Amy Flowers, DVM. Luckily, your veterinarian will be able to guide you toward the best treatment for your furry friend. In most cases, it's a quick fix!

Read more
Gentle giants: 6 big dog breeds that make great family pets
Family dogs: Large dog breeds perfect for families with children
A Bernese mountain dog stands in the middle of a wooded trail

Large dogs can be intimidating to some, but the truth is that many of them are as sweet as can be -- especially with children! Although it may sound surprising, we've all heard the term "gentle giant" used to describe large dog breeds like Great Danes and Saint Bernards. It should come as no surprise that they can be great with kids with a reputation like that, but they're not the only family dogs out there!

These five big dog breeds make wonderful pets for anyone with kids. They have a history of being patient and gentle with children, and they all respond well to positive reinforcement training. With the right amount of attention and love, any of these dogs can be your child's best friend.

Read more
5 surefire ways to keep your dog off your bed and get a good night’s sleep
Dog sleeping in the bed? Here are some ways to avoid that behavior
Big dog lying on bed

One of the most lovable things about dogs is their attachment to you, their pet parent. They want to be wherever you are — no ifs, ands, or buts. Although you, of course, adore spending time with your four-legged friend, there are times when you might want your space — for instance, when it's time to go to sleep.

Dogs don't always understand these boundaries at first, but it is possible to train them to sleep in their crate, a dog bed, or anywhere else you prefer that's not your sleeping spot. With these five tips and tricks, you can learn how to keep your dog off your bed and in their own in no time.

Read more