Just Add Water: Dog Swimming Safety Tips

Dog Life Jackets Are Essential. Here’s Why.

Not convinced your pup needs a dog life jacket? Whether you’re planning on taking your pup boating, to the beach, hydro therapy, or the pool, it’s important to keep your dog safe. We’re here to break down just a few of the many reasons why you should add one to your pet supply arsenal.

1. Not all dogs can swim

This corgi is wearing the Outward Hound Dawson Swim dog Life Jacket

Dogs with long barrels (or torsos), like corgis or dachshunds, tend to naturally have shorter legs. The density of their body in comparison to the size of their legs make paddling for these pups very hard work!

Generally speaking, the smaller the dog, the more likely they are to need a dog life vest. Their cute little bodies just aren’t buoyant enough to stay afloat. In terms of puppies and extra small dogs, we strongly suggest a life jacket for a couple of reasons.

  • Most dog life jackets have grab handles on top, making it easy to assist dogs new to swimming while they get accustomed to the water.
  • The grab handle also provides a way to quickly and safely rescue your new pup in case of emergency.

2. Even good swimmers get tired

Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are great swimmers. It’s true that certain breeds like Labrador Retrievers were born to swim, but a lot of dogs don’t have that natural ability. Even Lab breeds get tired! That’s why a dog life jacket is essential for safety so they don’t get burnt out.

3. Extra support for dogs with physical health issues

french bulldog life jacket

Swimming can be excellent exercise for extra large dog breeds or dogs who are overweight as a result of having taken in a few too many treats. That being said, the extra weight can weigh them down in the water and they will likely tire easily. A life jacket with sturdy foam panels is a great way to support your dog while they are splashing their way back to their ideal shape.

Many dog parents take their pups swimming as a form of physical therapy after surgery recovery. Lots of dogs also develop joint issues as they age. The floatation aspect of swimming takes the strain off their achy joints. A dog life vest can up their floating game.

4. Peace of mind knowing your dog is safe

little dog in a dog life vest

In order to outfit your dog with the best dog life jacket, make sure it has the following safety features:

  • Above all, buoyancy is a key factor in water safety for dogs. This is especially important when it comes to finding the right fit of a life jacket for your dog (more on that below).
  • Visibility is also a must-have feature in your dog’s life jacket. With the low profile of a dog while they are in the water, you’ll want to invest in a high-quality life preserver with reflective strips and bright colors in order to help you spot them from a distance. (Psst … we just added six new colors!)
  • Grab handles are another must-have feature of the perfect doggie flotation device. They not only allow you to assist your pooch while swimming, but they also provide you with an accessible way to lift your dog from the water in emergency situations.
  • Flotation ,unlike buoyancy, will help to assist your dog in their natural ability to swim by allowing them to maximize their mobility in the water. Look for vests with flotation assistance especially in the belly sides and back of your dog.
  • Adjustable straps will ensure a secure fit when fastening around the girth of your dog.
  • Neoprene belly band and ripstop for sturdy, moisture-friendly material.
  • D-ring to clip on a leash attachment in case you need to keep your pup close.

5. Let’s be honest…your dog looks cool!


It’s a fact of life. Dogs look adorable paddling in the water wearing a life jacket. However, your dog will not be able to float freely in the water if their jacket isn’t sized correctly. This quick, 2-minute clip shows you how to tell if your dog’s jacket is fitting correctly. Key points include:

  • You should be able to comfortably fit your fingers between the body straps of the vest and your dog’s body.
  • The chest strap should not constrict or caress the neck of your dog. It should be securely adjusted to support the chest of your dog.

Once you’re confident in the fit of your dog’s float coat, it’s paws aboard for splashing fun in the sun!

Shop all of the life jackets like the popular Outward Hound Granby dog life jacket featured in this post on our website, Amazon, Chewy, and more!

Ready to hit the beach, lake or pool in your new life jacket? Share your moments with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #OutwardHound

Editor’s note: This post has been updated as of April 2021 to reflect the most pup-to-date information.