Dog pfd advice

-- Last Updated: Sep-22-06 11:04 AM EST --

This question is for those who currently have dogs that they regularly take canoeing, kayaking, etc...

In your opinion, who makes the most practical, comfortable, best fitting pfd for dogs. Price is not so much a factor. Function, and comfort being of prime concern. I'm sure that since sizes, and builds of dogs vary so greatly, this certainly might not be a simple answer, but your opinions/feedback are appreciated nonetheless. Are there any companies out there that anyone is aware of that make pfds to fit specific breeds of dogs?

Please feel free to include any sites that may be of interest on this subject. Thanks!


I have the ruffwear one for my dog and I think it’s a bomber product.

And with 6 sizes to choose from - not just small, medium and large - you should be able to find a good fit regardless of what size dog you have.

Good luck and happy shopping!


dog vest
My lab has a NRS vest and it fit him well and he can swimn with it without any problem.


– Last Updated: Sep-22-06 12:23 PM EST –

RuffWear makes one of the best but you almost need to try it out on your dog to make sure it doesnt impede any of his functions. A few years ago we bought one that was sized to the dog (ie chest, length, etc) but the build of our mix breed is kinda strange. He has a really deep chest for the length of his body When he sat with the vest on, it would, lets just say, touch and pull on him underneath where HE wasnt comfortable so he would refuse to sit with the vest on. We tried a couple different vests on and ended up with a Stearns with less floatation that just has a strap underneath and no foam. What size is your dog, we still have that RuffWear vest. For a few bucks plus shipping its yours if you want it. Its a Med. and like new condition. He only wore it a couple times before we got him another vest. The vest looks big on him but the front strap around his chest tight and out about as far as it will go.

Heres a couple more options


– Last Updated: Sep-22-06 12:18 PM EST –

We have an older Lotus(not the current model) that's worked well. We recently tried one of the Ruff Wear models, and while obviously well made, we thought it was much too stiff -- our dog wasn't comfortable lying down in it. It might get softer with use.

My little Papillon wears this one…
Fido Floats. It’s available at Petco and is reasonably priced.

This is one of those standard size ones, so if your dog has a narrow, deep brisket or whatever, be sure to check.

My dog is very small. Only 5 lbs on a heavy day. It works well for him.

I can’t speak to how effective (or not) it would be for a larger dog.

I think it makes him look like he is out of the movie, “Steve Zisou and the Life Aquatic,” so that gives it extra marks in my book.

He also seems quite comfortable in it, compared with my other dog, who wears an older (in dog terms) hand me down.

However, I hate to say it, but he’s getting up there, so I will probably save the purchase of a new one for the next dog. Sorry old buddy.

Thanks for the offer…
and I might have taken you up on that if it had been the right size, but I’m probably going to be needing a small.

I appreciate the links.
These are good sites that I have not been able to find through searches, and will give me a better idea of what I’ll need.

Thanks to all! Splash

Grey dog likes her NRS
Here’s her pic.


Schnauzer recommends Ruffwear
Our mini schnauzer rather enjoys the water with her Ruffwear PFD. If she’s not wearing it, you can tell she is more nervous around the water. She’ll wear it hours at a time and not seem to care.

Likewise, Ruffwear
Built well, fits my Britt well. Floats him nice and flat/even, and seems to be comfortable on him.

if a dog cant swim you either:
A) shouldnt take them with, or

B) let them sink.

My wifes got a dog I would love to take to the middle of a large lake to see if it could swim!

ps…anyone lookin for a 14yr old shelty?

happy pawdlin…heheh

I bought a Ruff Wear PFD for my Jack Russell and it works like a charm!!! She really doesn’t seem to mind it too much, except of course right after I put it on her, then once she jumps in the water she forgets all about the vest and has a blast swimming like crazy! It really is cute!

I hope this helps, especially since you mentioned you have a small dog.

Meredith :o)

The safety of a PFD for a dog is not in its floation but in graspability. I like a good grab handle. Most dogs can swim just fine but for a deep water rescue they will need your assistance. Hulling a large dog into a canoe is not a gracefull maneuver. The Ruff Wear Float Coat gets my vote.

Since you’re a beginner, Kurt,
you might not realize that it’s not the ability to swim, or lack thereof, that can determine death in the water. A dog, being a warm blooded mammal like us, can become exhausted and hypothermic in a mishap just like a human. I hope your attitude of let the dog sink if it can’t swim is just blowhard macho blab rather than the way you really feel about another life. Either way, you have my pity and my sincere hopes for your developing a more positive attitude.

Dog PFD = safety and comfort
Since I guess there’s some misconception (further above) about using a dog PFD because a dog can’t swim, I’ll add that in addition to the PFD helping you to haul a dog back into a boat from deep water if needed, there is also just the added comfort for the dog. My dog has one artificial hip and is getting arthritis as she gets older. But being part Lab (part Shepherd), she loves to swim. What I have found is that she can swim longer enjoying the water in her PFD without ending up quite as sore and gimpy by the end of the day. Just like with a human PFD, the dog PFD lets the dog swim, but makes the job easier since the floatation supports them in the water.

Heck, I never kayak or canoe without a PFD, and I can swim just fine. I wear the PFD not because I can’t swim, but because of the added safety and ease it provides if I have to swim in big water or conditions. My dog wears a PFD for the same reasons.

There are also some breeds that can’t

swim period.

These would be dogs with inordinately heavy frames for their size, overly large heads and/or flat faces (such as in the bull breeds).

A dog like an English Bulldog or Basset Hound usually cannot swim, even if they want to.

For this reason, owners of these breeds are urged to have safeguards in place if the dog has access to water, esp. swimming pools which are hard for most dogs to exit.

Tall thin dogs like sighthounds (greyhound type breeds) can also be sinkers instead of swimmers.

These breeds, as well as the toy breeds, have additional danger from hypothermia. The reason is the vast discrepancy in surface/mass ratio in the “greyhound” breeds and the tendency for fast heat loss of the toy breeds.

This tendency to lose heat, and difficulty in maintaining body temp (i.e. losing heat faster than it can be produced) is one of the reasons why some toy dogs tend to shiver.

Although the “average” dog definitely benefits from the advantages mentioned, there are types of dogs where a pfd is definitely a strong safety factor if the dog is to spend much time around deep water.

Thanks again.
I appreciate all the advice, and suggestions here. I believe I have enough information here to make an informed decision on which PFD I ultimately will go with.


I have used a couple on my dog,
and he’s an excellent swimmer at 75 pounds. Although I run him regularly, he is much happier when swimming after his plastic retrieval toy and returning it. He prefers swimming to running, and I have noticed that the Ruff Wear(from holds him up a little higher than the other style. It also gives him some chest protection in case he should hit a branch or obstacle in the water. Any type is better than none though, as they can suffer a mishap. Should you have opportunity to rescue or assist one, you should have a pfd on, too. Happy paddling, and happy times with your dog!

An alternative.