July 2006

Fishing Talk Radio | New Product Reviews

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K9s Need PFDs Too!

Think Color, Comfort, Convenience

By Jane Lemon Mott

Is your K9 boating buddyís buoyancy challenged? Certain slim, muscular dogs may have a hard time keeping their heads above water, while older dogs who have been your water companions for years may no longer have the stamina for the swims of yesteryear.

Even the best dog paddlers can get into trouble off shore if they are fatigued or feeling the effects of hypothermia from being in the water for an extended period of time.  

Life vests for dogs are becoming standard equipment for many who include their pets while enjoying fun on or by the water. Aside from buoyancy and fit, there are three things to consider when you decide to purchase a PFD for a four-legged boater ó  comfort, color, and convenience.   

  • Comfort, comfort, comfort! ó  When you go shopping for a petís PFD, take him/her along for a fitting.  Most pet supply stores will welcome your patronage with your pal in tow. 

Only with a test fit will you know that your dog is comfortable in the PFD.  If your dog isnít comfortable, he will do his best to get out of it. Although he may not have complete success in his escape, he may manage to do enough damage to the vest that your investment goes overboard.

Look for a design that fits your dogís geometry and is constructed for comfort.  Check the straps. Are they wide enough to not cut into your pal if you need to lift him out of the water? Can she walk, run, and jump easily while he is wearing it?  If not, keep looking. 

If Rover doesnít like it the first time he wears it, imagine getting him into it a second time. 

Your comfort is a consideration as well.  Make sure the vest has a "grab handle" on the back.  If you need to help a wet dog out of the water and onto a boat or dock, the handle will make the task easier on your back, whether you grab it with your hands or a hook. 

  • Color! ó When it comes to color, the brighter the better.  A neutral-colored vest may be a good match for your dogís coat and eyes, but it also a good match for the water, rocks, and drift wood. Choose a vibrant orange, yellow, or red and if possible, one that has a reflective strip. Not only will reflective properties help if you ever need to find your dog after dark, it will also make him/her more visible to the boat-launch traffic at the end of the day. So think bright; think visible!
  • Convenience! ó  Getting your dog into his/her PFD needs to be as easy as possible for both of you.  Look for the best fit with the fewest straps, buckles, and gadgets.  A life vest needs only to be simple and effective.  If a vest appears to have some features that the others donít, think critically about what advantages or disadvantages those features may offer and how they affect the ease of use.  Slipping your pet into his PDF should give him/her a signal of a good time ahead, not a time of twisting, tugging, and cinching.  Keep it quick, keep it simple, and when on the water, keep it on your pet.

Perhaps the best advice on buying a vest for your dog is to talk to those who have already been through the K9 PFD shopping process. By drawing on their experience, you will have the advantage of sound recommendations on things like brands, features, cost and pet-friendly retailers.   

The lessons they have learned will help you avoid any little mistakes that may end up as big frustrations.  There is a wealth of good advice out there, so donít hesitate to ask others for their opinions.

Once the purchase of a PFD is made and your pet is snug and secure in the vest, remember that it is a flotation aid and not a true life-saving device. When it comes to water safety for you or your four-legged boating companion, there is nothing that can take the place of your common sense and good judgment.

You will enjoy, even more, time spent on the water with your best friend knowing that you have taken a step in ensuring his happiness and well being. 

Editorís Note: Cats need PFDs too. Our little 18-year-old Persian is a "boat cat." She also has her own life vest and doesnít mind a bit.


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