Dog Life Jackets: Dog Kayak, Boating & SUP Safety

There is nothing better in the world than paddling across the water with your best friend on board. Seriously, paddle boarding with your dog is an absolute dream. Your bond will grow even more as you escape to nature with your four-legged friend. And that’s why keeping your pup safe while on your paddle board or vessel is a must!

Dog life jackets are a necessity for anyone considering taking their pooch out for a ride on a stand up paddle board. PFDs (personal flotation device) are not just for humans – they are lifesavers for dogs too.

Do dogs really need life jackets?

Not all dogs are natural swimmers. And even those that are can get tired fast when battling against ocean currents and riptides. Accidents can happen at any time, so preparing with a dog life vest is both responsible and smart.

Dog life jackets not only provide buoyancy aid, but also offer easy grab handles to lift your pup back up on the dog paddle board deck.

There are heaps of bonus advantages to using a dog life jacket. They can add an extra layer of warmth for swimming paws, perfect for the colder month adventures. You’ll have a better eye on your pup in the water with clearer visibility of bright colors. But above all else, a life vest can increase your dog’s confidence, helping them to learn how to swim better, stronger, and further.

Currently, there are no laws or regulations across the states that make dog life jackets a requirement. However, choosing to keep your dog safe should be paramount to any adventurer.

Environments and situations vary where a dog life jacket is advised. From ocean to lake on boat or SUP, or even the back yard with a swimming pool, dog PFDs keep your pup out of trouble and give you peace of mind.

Does a dog life jacket keep your dog afloat?

A dog life jacket provides buoyancy aid and keeps the dog’s head above water. This is a vital feature that helps your dog immensely.

These doggie life vests work in the same way as PFDs do for people – the foam panels provide support to stay afloat and much needed assistance when the swimmer gets tired.

To get the correct amount of float for your dog, you must ensure that the life jacket fits your pup correctly around the girth, chest, and shoulders.

What are the best life jackets for dogs?

The best dog life jackets feature adjustable straps to get the best fit and quick release buckles in case of emergencies. Other features can add fun style alongside practical functionality.

Do your research and find the best dog life vest that will suit your pooch. Also, check out our guide on the best life jackets for small dogs.


Most PFDs for dogs have foam panels along the sides. Some have extra panels around the neck to help keep your dog’s head above water.

It’s important you consider the weight of your dog and ensure this is within the capacity of the dog life jacket. If it’s too big then you run the risk of your pup slipping out of the jacket and getting tangled. If too small then your dog will be restricted in movements and not fully supported in buoyancy.


Bright colors not only look cute but offer a bonus visibility feature. This can be helpful if you’re out in challenging weather conditions.

Orange, red, or yellow are common colors that really show up in the water. Some pooch PFDs also have reflective strips along the side panels or back which is another fantastic safety feature to think about.

Easy grab

Strategically placed grab handles on the back of the dog life jacket help you haul your furry friend back on board after they’ve finished playing in the water. Without having a floor or surface to push off, dogs will struggle to get back on a SUP deck or boat by themselves.

These handles are also invaluable if your dog gets nervous in deep water or encounters an unseen hazard while swimming. You can quickly retrieve your dog, keeping them safe and out of danger.

Most jackets also have a leash attachment along with the handles.

Adjustable fit

Each jacket comes in various sizes. The best life jackets for dogs then feature adjustable straps to customize the fit and ensure your dog is as safe as possible.

Always make sure the PFD fits your dog properly on land before taking them out to the water. It’s also a good idea to allow your dog time to get used to wearing the life jacket, it may feel strange to them at first.

Remember to reward your pup with treats and lots of “good boys”!

Tips on how to measure your dog for dog life jackets

Measure your dog's girth, weight, and length. From this you will be able to choose the correct size dog life jacket from the manufacturer size charts.

  • The heavier the dog, the more float is needed
  • Length is measured from the neck/shoulders to a couple of inches above the tail
  • Girth is the largest part of the rib cage behind the front legs
  • Neck is measured from the lowest part, closest to the shoulders

Dog life jacket styles can vary for different sizes. Some are designed with small dogs in mind, while others may be made for larger dogs. So it’s important to choose a PFD that best matches your dog’s shape and breeding.