Best Dog Life Jackets + Flotation Vests for Large Dogs

I’ve always had labradors who are natural swimmers. It wasn’t until I got into stand-up paddleboarding that I got my dog Lucy a life vest. She’s a very strong swimmer, but I like the extra safety of a personal floatation device on her. But the real reason we always paddleboard with a dog life jacket on her? It’s all about the top handle! I use that to haul my dog back up on our paddleboard after she takes a swim.

Even if you don’t SUP with your pup, a life jacket is a great safety device to have if you’re going on a boat, spending a weekend at the lake, or if your dog isn’t confident in the water.

In this blog post, you’ll find the 5 best life vests for dogs, especially large breed dogs. These floatation jackets come in a variety of sizes that will fit many different dog breeds, but I made a special effort to include the hard to find large sizes.

As a large dog owner, sometimes it can be hard to find things to fit an 80 or 90-pound dog. So I wanted to make sure everything on this list would fit our big dogs!

I also have a checklist of what safety features you want to look for in a good life jacket for your dog. If you end up shopping somewhere in person and can have your dog try on the life vest, this checklist will come in handy!

SUP with dog

*This post contains affiliate links. If you shop with my links, its a great way to support what I do here at Wear Wag Repeat! I may earn a small commission that costs you nothing. Thank you in advance for supporting my blog!

Why Your Dog Needs a Life Vest

Even if your dog is a natural swimmer, like my labrador, they can still benefit from a life jacket or floatation vest. Weird things and freak accidents can happen in the water. I always believe it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to my dog’s safety!

Depending on what kind of water you’re in, there could be strong currents or an undertow. I’ve also been on a perfectly calm lake when a storm rolls in out of nowhere.

In addition to safety, a life jacket might make swimming more fun for your dog. Some of our dogs love water and swimming so much that they don’t know when to quit. Even an excellent swimmer can be at risk if they’re too tired. A life jacket can help prevent them from getting overly tired.

A good quality floatation vest can also keep your dog on the surface of the water so they don’t drink as much water when they swim, too.

Basically, anytime you’re going to be around water, it’s a great time to strap a life jacket on your pup:

  • Boating trips
  • Stand up paddle boarding (see my how to guide!)
  • Kayaking
  • Dock diving and water sports
  • Swimming in open water
  • Playdates on the river or lake
  • Water rehabilitation or physical therapy

Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards for Large Dogs

What to Look for in the Perfect Life Vest for Your Dog

When you shop for the perfect life jacket for your dog, the correct fit is just as important as remembering to take it with you on water adventures! AKA… the fit is very important!

You want a snug and secure fit in a life vest. When you have it fitted on your dog, you should be able to just fit 2 fingers between the jacket and your dog’s body.

The jacket shouldn’t be so snug that it limits your dog’s movement or makes them uncomfortable. The reason for the snug fit is that if it’s too loose it could slide over your dog’s head while they’re in the water. Or worst case scenario, they could get tangled in the jacket and stuck underwater.

When choosing the size for your dog’s life vest, always go off their chest and neck measurements first, then the weight on the size chart. For reference, my dog Lucy has a chest girth of 31″ and weighs about 70 pounds. She wears a size large in the Ruffwear Float Coat.

Checklist for what a good dog life jacket needs to have:

  • Snug and secure fit
  • Adjustable straps for the neck and chest
  • Easy to secure or quick-release buckles
  • Top handle

stand up paddleboard with dog

The adjustable straps should allow you to adjust the fit in the front of your dog’s chest, where the jacket goes around their neck. You also want to be able to adjust the straps on the underside of your dog’s chest. Having multiple adjustable straps will help you get the perfect fit and make the vest as safe as possible.

Some doggy life jackets have adjustable straps and velcro. Personally, I would look for something that has chest straps that clip with buckles, not just velcro. Velcro alone might not be secure enough. 

Quick-release buckles also make it easy to get the life jacket on and off your dog. Less time getting ready means more time having fun!

The most important feature of your dog’s life jacket, in my opinion, is the top handle! I love to do stand up paddleboarding with my dog, and I use that handle to get Lucy back up on my board all the time. If you’re boating, swimming or at the pool, the top handle really comes in handy.

Other optional features you might find on dog float vests are:

  • Reflective strips
  • Bright colors
  • Front neck float
  • Leash attachment ring

Reflective accents and bright colors can help make your dog more visible in the water. Being seen is a big part of water safety. Depending on where you’ll be swimming with your dog, those are two optional features to consider.

I’m also seeing a lot of life vests with a front neck float. This is extra foam under your dog’s chin that might help keep their head up and out of the water. I don’t think this is necessary for most dogs, but if your dog isn’t a good swimmer, you might want to try a vest with this.

If your dog’s vest fits snugly and securely, you may be able to use the d-rings as a leash attachment. Most of the styles below have plastic or metal d-rings on the front or top of the vest that are secure enough to clip on a leash. I wouldn’t take a long walk this way, but you can use it to walk down to the water.

The 5 Best Life Jackets for Large Dogs

As a big dog lover, I’m including the best life vest for dogs that are size inclusive for big pups! They all come in small sizes, too. So if you have small dogs like Terriers or a big dog like a German Shepherd, these are the best life jackets to keep your fur kids safe in the water!

ruffwear float coat dog life jacket

My Personal Favorite: Ruffwear Float Coat

Personally, I think this is the best life vest for dogs! I’ve owned this jacket for about 4 years and use it throughout the summer when I take Lucy stand up paddleboarding. Lucy is like a fish when she see’s water, she has to get in it!

The strong handle on top of the Ruffwear Float Coat is a lifesaver. My dog weighs about 75 pounds and the handle lets me securely pull her back up on to the board.

There are three adjustable straps on this jacket, allowing you to tighten it after your dog has it on. It goes on over their head, and then you can clip in and tighten from there.

The con on this jacket is the price, it’s $89 no matter what size you get. But for that price, it is really well made and will last for years of fun water adventures with your dog. If you’re planning on hitting the water often, I think this is the best overall dog life jacket! Plus, it comes in fun colors! You can buy it from REI and Amazon.

Outward Hound Granby Splash

Outward Hound Granby Splash

Another dog life jacket that we own is the Granby Splash from Outward Hound. I actually got this as a hand-me-down from one of our labrador friends. They bought it for a beach vacation but then I think their dog didn’t like swimming.

This has become my dog Burt’s life jacket. The only thing is, Burt also doesn’t really like to swim! Burt is a tall, long-bodied lab weighing around 85 pounds. This XL life jacket fits him well.

This jacket is very adjustable because the whole belly band is velcro. But I do think that makes it hard to get a snug fit. With straps you can tighten them as your dog has the vest on, the big panel of velcro is a little harder to do that with.

This jacket also has a great, trusty top rescue handle to hoist your dog out of the water or guide them. The one Burt is wearing in this photo is a slightly older model. You can see the latest version on Chewy’s website.

At just $26 for the X-Large, this is an affordable and high-quality life jacket for dogs of all sizes. Also, it has over 36,000 reviews on Amazon!

Shark Fin Dog Life Jacket

Cutest Life Vest: Shark Fin Dog Life Jacket

For a life jacket that’s almost too cute to pass up, you’ll want this Shark Fin style! Cue the Jaws music!

This float vest is a combination of fun and functional. In addition to the cute shark fin on top, there are 2 sturdy top handles. The band under the belly has velcro and adjustable quick-release straps.

With all of these styles, remember that a snug fit is essential to a safe life jacket for your pup! If you’re looking for a life vest that will get a ton of compliments, make for great photos, and is affordable, this Shark Fin style on Chewy is a great choice!

It’s only $25 for the XLarge. Check out the size chart. I recommend you go off your dog’s measurement instead of the weight when choosing which size to order.

Kurgo Surf N Turf best dog life vest

Kurgo Surf N Turf Life Jacket for Dogs

Get your beach towels ready because the Kurgo Surf N Turf screams summer fun. If Burt, Lucy and I were regulars at the beach, I’d definitely have my eye on this one.

This style has the adjustable chest straps that I love. It also has reflective piping around the edges of the vest to help keep your dog visible for an evening or early morning swim. What I really love about this style (it’s similar tothe Ruffwear one) is the cut because it allows for a ton of movement.

If you have an active and athletic dog, this streamlined life vest from Kurgo is one of my top picks. It’s buoyant, but not bulky so your dog will be able to leap, run and swim comfortably.

This one is built to last and costs around $71 for the XLarge. It’s at the higher end of the price spectrum on this list, but think that’s worth it if you’ll use it a lot and your dog is a little rough on their things.

hurtta dog life jacket

Hurtta Life Savior Dog Life Vest

Big pups, this one’s for you! The Hurtta Life Savior has a larger sizes that can fit dogs up to 160 pounds! Please check the size chart and go off measurements first, then weight, then you order.

Although it’s big, this isn’t that bulky. It would be a great life vest for swimming, water rescue, rehabilitation, boating or hunting. It has all the safety features I look for including a top handle and adjustable straps. Make sure to fit the life vest to your dog correctly before heading out in the water. 

Hurtta is another trusted dog gear brand, I included one of the waterproof jackets in this other review post. I believe this life jacket would be durable enough to last your dog for years of adventures. It’s comparable in price to the other well-made life vests on this list eh largest size is about $60 on Amazon.

Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket

Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket

If you’re only going to use a life vest a couple of times – maybe it’s a rare beach vacation – then you should go with an affordable option. This life jacket by Vivaglory on Amazon would be perfectly fine for your large dog. It comes in a ton of colors and it’s an affordable price at $40 for the Xlarge.

This life jacket looks a little bulky to me. It would be great for dogs who want to float and swim and aren’t going to be leaping and running like athletes. That might be perfect for you and your dog and how you plan to have fun in the water!

It has all the safety features we look for like a top handle, reflective strips and adjustable straps. Looking at the Amazon reviews, there are a lot of happy water-loving dogs enjoying this style!

Tips for Introducing Your Dog to Water Activities with a Life Jacket

A life jacket is essential safety gear for a water adventure with your dog. If you’re headed to a lake or river, or hitting the open water on a boating trip, make sure that your dog is safely strapped in a floatation device.

If this is your dog’s first time wearing a life vest, then might need some time to get comfortable with it. I have a video about training your dog to paddleboard that shows how I get my dog comfortable putting on her life jacket. You can find that video in this blog post. 

Here’s how I put my dog’s life jacket on:

  • Hold a treat in my hand
  • Put my hand through the neck opening of the life jacket
  • Let my dog come to me to take the treat
  • Slip the life jacket over her head and secure the straps

You never want to force anything on your dog. Definitely don’t chase them around to get their life jacket on! You want to make this a fun experience that they look forward to.

Using positive reinforcement and a properly fitted life vest, your dog will have a fun day of water activities!

best life vest for dogs

Giving Your Dog Their Best Life in the Water

I hope this post helped you find the best life vest for dogs so you can get outdoors and create new memories with your furry friend! I treasure all the fun I”ve been able to have with my dog Lucy in the water. She truly loves it and it makes me a proud dog mom to see her enjoying herself.

On the other hand, my rescue dog Burt isn’t a fan of the water. We’ve tried it out plenty of times and he’s just not comfortable swimming. I always give him the option to join us, but if he wants to opt out I let him.

Pay attention to what your dog likes to do and doesn’t like to do. Just because you want to spend a day swimming or out on a friend’s boat, it doesn’t mean your dog has to come with you. It’s OK to leave them hanging out at home in their happy place from time to time.

It’s our role as pet parents to make sure our dogs are safe and happy. I hope this post helps you do that!

More dog mom blog posts that I think you’ll like:
5 Best Waterproof Dog Jackets + Rain Coats
How to SUP with your Pup
The Best Inflatable Paddleboards for Large Dogs

*This post contains affiliate links. If you shop with my links, its a great way to support what I do here at Wear Wag Repeat! I may earn a small commission that costs you nothing. Thank you in advance for supporting my blog!


5 Best Life Jackets for Large Dogs


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Tori Mistick is the ultimate Dog Mom Lifestyle blogger with a passion for style, chocolate labs and the color pink. Based in Pittsburgh, PA.


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