5 Reasons Dogs Should Wear a Life Vest for Water Activities

August 5, 2015

dog lifejacket jenBy Linda Cole

Not all canines can swim, even some that are considered to be “water dogs.” Some breeds aren’t suited for swimming, and dogs with health issues, puppies and older canines can be put at risk. Boaters are required by law to provide a life vest for each person on board. A pet life vest is equally important if you take your dog with you on a boat or spend an afternoon swimming and playing at the beach or pool.

Boating is a fun summertime activity as long as everyone on board stays safe, including pets. Swimming can also pose a danger to dogs if the body of water has strong currents, like rivers or the ocean. Life vests can save lives. Here are five good reasons why your dog should wear a life vest when enjoying water activities.

Swimming Ability

Dog breeds bred to work in water have water resistant coats, webbed feet, and a tail that works like a rudder. Even though these breeds are comfortable in water and considered strong swimmers, they can still run into trouble in some circumstances, especially if they become fatigued. Dogs that have a large chest and small hindquarters are top heavy and not strong swimmers. Bulldogs, Boxers and Dachshunds have a hard time trying to stay afloat and are more apt to sink like a rock. Dogs with pushed-in noses and short-legged breeds tire easily.

Small dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier, Pekingese or Shih Tzu may take to the water just fine, but can quickly become chilled and may not have the stamina to survive if they fall off a boat. The Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Greyhound, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, Basset Hound and Chihuahua are some other breeds that don’t typically do well in water.


A dog that has fallen or jumped off of a boat in the ocean and isn’t rescued could have a long swim back to shore and may not have the energy for it. Unforeseen situations can quickly develop that could put your pet into the water. A properly designed pet life vest keeps your dog’s head above water, even if he’s unconscious, and will keep him afloat when he becomes tired. A dog that swims too far out from the beach or a river bank to fetch a ball or stick may become scared and panic, causing him to go under.


It doesn’t take much of an ocean wave to cause you to lose sight of a dog that’s fallen overboard. River currents can sweep canines downstream with ease if your boat is capsized, and wave action even on a river can make it hard to spot a dog bobbing and trying to swim among tree branches and other debris. Hypothermia can occur in as little as 30 minutes when exposed to water temperatures of 50 degrees or colder and make it more difficult to stay afloat. A brightly colored life vest can make it easier to locate dogs floating in water.

A Convenient Handle

If your dog does fall into the water, his life vest has a convenient handle that makes it easier for you to haul him back into the boat or hold on to him until you can maneuver your watercraft closer to shore.

Peace of Mind

It only takes seconds for something bad to happen, but that doesn’t mean you and your dog lifejacket kellypet can’t have fun when boating or swimming. A life vest gives you peace of mind knowing if your dog should run into trouble while swimming, or fall off the deck of a boat or a dock, he will be able to stay afloat until he’s rescued. It’s a way you can keep your arms wrapped around him – metaphorically speaking – and help keep him safe when he’s enjoying water activities.

Some canines may not want to get into the water even with a life vest on. Never force your dog into the water if he seems uncomfortable, anxious or scared about going in. Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best way to enjoy any kind of water activity is to make sure everyone, including your dog, is wearing a proper life vest.

Top photo by Jen DeVere Warner/Flickr
Bottom photo by Kelly Hunter/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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  1. DMatsuura says:

    I always wear a life vest when I go to the beach for surfing and my new sister, The Corgi Princess – Misty, wears her life vest in the pool because she is a baby and doesn’t swim very good yet. Elle, CANIDAE Guest Blogger (Diane @ CANIDAE)