Do Dogs Need Life Jackets to Go Swimming?

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Dogs love summertime. It's when they can go outside more often, play with their friends in the dog park, explore the yard, and go swimming or go on a boat with you.

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If they're in the water, however, you wonder whether or not they need a life vest or life jacket in order to be safe. After all, a person should be wearing a life jacket when they're on a boat or in rougher waters. Should you pup have a flotation device on whenever he's in the water, too?


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Do dogs like to swim?

While some dogs love swimming, and are built to be able to swim in different conditions, when your dog swims he may absolutely hate it. It depends on his breed and his own personality and preferences.


Breeds that typically love the water and do well in it have webbed feet and may have been originally bred for hunting in water. They include Toy Poodles, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Water Spaniels, Weimaraners, Newfoundlands, and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.

Knowing whether or not your dog was bred for swimming will help you determine if he needs a life jacket in any situation involving water.


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Do dogs need life jackets?

The breeds that thrive in water usually don't need life jackets or flotation devices. The exception to the rule is if they are in rough currents, deep water or large lakes. They also need one if they are in the ocean and there are strong waves, or if you're taking them on a boat. And even though these water breeds are built for swimming, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If there is any risk of danger at all, err on the side of putting your dog in a life jacket.


If you haven't taken your dog out swimming before, then you might want to use a life jacket for the first time just to make sure he's safe. Also, you need to stay close to your dog at all times because he could become tired and not be able to keep his head above water. As an extra precaution, some pet owners will always put life jackets or life vests on their dogs, even if their dogs are excellent swimmers.



If your dog is not a good swimmer and/or doesn't like the water, then he'll definitely need a life jacket or life vest. Breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs, Daschunds, Bull Terriers, and Shih Tzus need life jackets at all times. If you're going into a lake with them or taking them on a boat, make sure they're wearing a life jacket.


How to choose a life jacket for your dog

When looking into a life jacket for your dog, ensure that it has a handle. That way, you can guide him when you're teaching him how to swim as well as have something to grab onto should he fall off a boat or get away from you. The life jacket should also have a D-ring so that you can attach a leash.


The life jacket should have bright colors or reflective strips on it so you can see your dog at all times. These features will especially come in handy if your dog is in murky waters.

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Life jackets vs. life vests

There is a slight difference between life jackets and life vests. Life vests are lighter and better for a pool or a calm body of water than the ocean or a rough lake. These cover less of your pup and are easier to use for casual swimming situations.


Life jackets cover more of your pup and are more visible and buoyant than life vests. They are better for the ocean, boating, or swimming in rougher waters.

Other water safety tips for dogs

If your dog has a condition like arthritis, blindness, epilepsy, arthritis, or irregular heartbeat, never leave him near the water unattended. Whenever your dog swims, make sure you're supervising him. In some cases, it's wiser to keep these dogs away from water altogether.


The moment you see your dog struggling in the water, run and get him out of there. If your dog has taken in too much water, he may have trouble breathing, start coughing, be anxious, seem weak or have fluid coming out of his nose or mouth.

If your pet has a near-drowning experience, then take him to your veterinarian right away. You should ask the vet to do X-rays on your dog and observe him for at least 24 hours to check his respiratory and heart rate, as well as his breathing. Your dog might need to take antibiotics so that he doesn't get pneumonia, or receive oxygen and IV fluids.


It's always a good idea to get a life jacket for your dog, whether he's going swimming or sitting on a boat with you. Even if your dog is a good swimmer, he'll need a life jacket on a boat or in rough waters and need to be supervised at all times. Never let your swimming pup out of your sight, and have your vet on speed dial just in case your dog gets water in his lungs.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.


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