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
- 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
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.
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.
- 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!
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
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.