True, buoyancy is a key factor in water safety, but buoyancy without proper fit and features is like beer with barley and no hops–just no good!
Here are a few features to consider when buying a canine lifejacket:
1. Fit. A properly-fitted lifejacket prevents a swimming dog from being bogged down by extra bulk and friction. Following the fit instructions carefully and choosing a size that fits snugly around your dog will prevent the coat from limiting mobility of the dog’s tail, hind legs, and front legs. Sometimes, getting the right fit means the belly panels and neck pieces do not touch even though the straps close–that’s okay. It is better to have a gap between the belly panels than to size up and have the coat be too big.
2. Visibility. While you may love “Ocean Teal”, keep in mind that some colors are more difficult to see in the water. Given a dog’s low profile position while swimming in the water, bright colors are ideal for visibility. In addition, reflective trim on the top and sides of your dog’s flotation device keeps them safe from other boating and paddling traffic, and helps you spot them in low light.
3. Flotation. More buoyancy does not equate to better flotation. Good flotation will work with the dog’s natural swim ability; maximizing, rather than hindering, their mobility in the water. Too much flotation, or flotation in the wrong areas may cause the dog to flip over, or put them in an un-swimable position. Ruff Wear’s lifejackets were designed with more than 10 years of research and development time invested in finding a good balance of fit and flotation on the belly, sides, and back–maximizing comfort and floating them in a natural swim position.
4. Handle. A heavy-duty, reinforced handle is a must for any float coat. Handles make it easy to lift the dog up and out of the water, especially in an emergency scenario where the dog is unable to help itself out the water.
5. Low Profile. At first glance, pockets, zippers, leash attachments, and other accessories may seem like a blessing, but they are all things that could get caught on rocks or floating debris. Low profile handles, strap keepers, and hidden leash attachment points (Ruff Wear’s leash attachment is located on the underside of the the handle) help keep everything in its place, avoiding potential snags.
Still stumped? Check out our float coat comparison article to determine which lifejacket is best for your dog.