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Why Your Dog Needs a Life Jacket This Summer

Make Water Sports More Fun and Safer This Year

Healthy Dogs |  May 1, 2021

If your dog is anything like my dog, Ellie, activities in the water are a must throughout the year! Not only is swimming a great, low-impact exercise for dogs, but there are so many other ways to incorporate your pup into water activities in a safe way. During the summer, Ellie tags along whenever I go paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Although Ellie’s participation looks slightly different during each activity, one commonality amongst them all is that she always wears her life jacket.

Why Dogs Need Life Jackets

Woman and Dog on Paddleboard

You may be wondering, life jackets for dogs? Absolutely! This is a must-have safety item that should not be overlooked if you’re planning any water adventures with your dog. Similar to humans, even the stronger swimmers can get fatigued, experience hypothermia, or get caught in a current. Plus, a brightly colored life jacket will make your dog easier to spot in an emergency.

Some dogs should wear life jackets at all times even if they are swimming from the shore. Flat-faced breeds, also known as brachycephalic breeds, are susceptible to inhaling water or having difficulty breathing when swimming. Senior dogs, dogs with short legs and long bodies, dogs with low body fat, and dogs with any type of mobility issue will also benefit from a life jacket. The right life jacket will make the water safer, but also more enjoyable for your dog.

When introducing a life jacket to your dog, preparation is key for an easy transition. Practice putting on the life jacket in different situations for short periods of time and reward your dog when they are able to accept the life jacket calmly.

Mud Bay's Favorite Life Jackets

This year, Mud Bay will be offering a choice between the Ruffwear Float Coat and the Bay Dog Monterey Bay Life Jacket. Both options are high-quality, low-profile life jackets that are designed to fit dogs of all sizes.

Husky in Life Jacket

The Bay Dog Monterey Bay Life Jacket in bright Nautical Yellow ensures your dog’s high visibility. This jacket has a UV-resistant coating, full torso support, and salt-water-resistant hardware! The fit on this life jacket is based on three measurements: your dog’s neck, chest, and length.

Ruffwear is known for their durable outdoor gear for dogs and the Float Coat delivers! This life jacket has a purposely positioned handle and telescoping neck closure, to provide your dog with optimal safety while playing in the water. The Float Coat can be fitted with just your dog’s girth measurement.


Fitting a Life Jacket to Your Dog

Dog Wearing Life Jacket with Arrow Marking Girth Measurement

Many life jackets only need one measurement: the girth. Here’s Ellie in Ruffwear’s Float Coat at Mud Bay, and you can see that you only need to measure your dog’s body right around their armpits to find the right size. A flexible tape measure will be your best friend to get an accurate measurement. This type of life jacket doesn’t require as many measurements because the neck and chest area both adjust to fit many dogs. The slim profile design also reduces the spots where it has to fit.

Other life jackets recommend fit based off three measurements: your dog’s neck, chest, and length. Once you have those measurements, you can choose the size that best fits your dog’s overall measurements and make adjustments as necessary for a snug fit.

Choosing the Best Life Jacket for Your Dog

Husky in Life Jacket

No matter where you buy your life jacket, please keep these features in mind before making a purchase:

  • D-ring to Attach a Leash: Make sure any life jacket you consider has a way to attach a lead once you’re on shore. For dogs who like to explore in the water, keep a lead on them at all times can also be a good idea.
  • Sturdy Handle for Emergency Use: An easy-to-grip handle makes sure you can grab your dog quickly when necessary. As a bonus, they’re also great for helping steady your dog if they are learning to swim or still unsure about being in the water.
  • Bright Colors to Improve Visibility: While you might prefer muted colors for most of your dog’s accessories, a brightly colored life jacket can help you spot your dog in low-light conditions. Bright colors are also helpful if you have a dark-colored dog who might blend into the water from a distance.
  • Durable Materials for Increased Longevity: Choose the right life jacket, and you’ll be able to use it for years. A jacket with UV-resistant, salt-water resistant, tough fabric and other upgrades helps prevent material degradation so you won’t have to replace your dog’s life jacket every few years.
  • Low Profile to Reduce Bulk: Modern materials can reduce bulky life jackets to be more comfortable for all breeds. For smaller dogs with shorter snouts, such as French bulldogs and Boston terriers, low profile options that reduce bulk in the front can help these dogs breathe easier when swimming.
  • Excellent Fit to Ensure Safety: Making sure you start with the right size for your dog is important but fitting a life jacket shouldn’t stop there. Depending on your dog’s body type and overall size, a life jacket may need to be specially adjusted to snuggly fit your dog. If your dog can’t comfortably move in the life jacket after you’ve adjusted all the options, take it back and try a different jacket.

Like clothing for humans, life jacket sizes can vary by manufacturer, so please compare your dog’s measurements with the manufacturer’s size chart before choosing one. Or, you can visit Mud Bay, where we’d be happy to help fit your dog, as well as answer any questions you might have. Mud Bay will also gladly accept returns of any item that doesn’t meet your expectations.

Whether you decide to take your dog for a swim, boating, or any other water activity, don’t forget to outfit them in their own life jacket – Ellie will be sporting hers all season! Hope to see you on the water!

Photo of Jenn the Author

I’m Jenn, Mud Bay’s Senior Community Outreach Coordinator in Washington and human counterpart to my Siberian Husky, Ellie. My Mud Bay and pet parenting journey started simultaneously, and for nearly five years, Ellie and I have been adventuring around the PNW while working for Mud Bay. We’re excited to guide your through Mud Bay’s Adventure Series to get you and your pet ready for summer with tips and tricks for outdoor activities!

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