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Best dog buoyancy aids

An extra layer of safety for dogs

Dog buoyancy aids are a key bit of safety kit. Whilst you may feel confident that your dog is a good swimmer, accidents can happen. Dogs can lose their footing on a boat or on a slippery river bank. A puppy may get over excited and go for a dive. The tide or current may be stronger than either you or the dog realise. You may have a river nearby and a dog that doesn’t see as well as it did or is unsteady on its feet.
Buoyancy aids give you an extra layer of security and the best have a grab handle so you can act fast and pull a slippery dog to safety. Remember that age, fitness and the outside temperature all make a difference to how long a dog can spend in water.  (Read how to look after your dog after a shoot day.) 
Golden retriever fitted with buoyancy aid

Golden retriever fitted with buoyancy aid

Shooting Times contributor and working dog specialist David Tomlinson comments: “Wildfowlers are increasingly using neoprene jackets on their dogs as they not only increase buoyancy when swimming, but help keep dogs warm when working in cold and wet conditions. Dog buoyancy aids do make sense, but it’s vital that they fit correctly. My picture shows a golden retriever fitted with a buoyancy jacket. Handy if you take your dog sailing, as it has a grab handle for hauling the dog out of the water.”

What to look out for in the best dog buoyancy aids

  • A design that keeps your dog safe without stopping natural swimming movement
  • Avoid straps that could get in the dog’s way
  • A handle is useful for helping your dog in and out of the water
  • A securely fitting neck closure
  • Reflective strips to increase dog visibility
  • Flexible, hard-wearing fabric

Best buy


1.Realtree Neoprene Dog Vest Protective Coat Lift Handle Float Aid £26.95

Best for wildfowling

  • Material: Neoprene
  • Colours: As shown above
  • Sizes: S to 2XL
  • Handle: Yes

+ Lightweight

+ Suitable for field and brush work

– Hand wash

Ideal for wildfowling dogs this neoprene jacket is tough and robust. It will protect a dog’s chest, back and sides as well as working as a buoyancy aid. Easy to fit with velcro and zip touch fastenings.



2.Ruffwear® float coat ™ by Orvis £99.95

dog buoyancy aids by Orvis

Best for all-round use

  • Material: 100% nylon
  • Colours: As shown above
  • Sizes: XS to L
  • Handle: Yes

+ Abrasion resistant nylon

+ Telescoping neck closure adjusts for secure fit

– Hand wash


Foam panels in the Ruffwear Float coat keep your dog safe without impairing swimming motion and the covered buckles stop straps from becoming tangled up. You can lift your dog in and out of the water securely thanks to the strong handle and you’ll be able to see where he is thanks to the reflective trim, even when the light is dim.


K9 Pursuits High Visibility Easy Grab Float Coat Life Jacket from £14.99

Best for value

  • Material: Neoprene
  • Colours: As shown above
  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Handle: Yes

+ Waterproof

+ Front floats keep dog’s head above water

A high vis jacket with fully adjustable straps, quick release buckles plus a neoprene chest band for comfort and security. It also has reflective strips.


Westcoast K9 AquaFloat £64.99

Best for movement

  • Material: Tear-resistant fabric
  • Colours: Lime green, orange
  • Sizes: S to XXXL
  • Handle: Yes

+ Suitable for hydrotherapy sessions and walking

+ Snug fit avoids slippage and twisting


Saving lives

Vet Neil McIntosh and Sporting Gun contributor says: “During my career, I have heard of the death of a number of dogs who fell from boats at sea and drowned, when a life jacket would probably have saved them. Similarly, use of buoyancy aids can reduce owners’ anxiety over dogs who spend relatively unsupervised time around rivers or swimming pools. They do, however, make swimming difficult for some, so their use for wildfowling dogs is limited. My rule of thumb would be, if you think your dog needs a life jacket to be able to survive a swim, then they shouldn’t be swimming!

“Remember too, that some dogs’ coats naturally trap air, keeping them afloat, until, that is, they become waterlogged and weigh them down.
“In my opinion, all dogs who exercise near waterways should be vaccinated against Leptospirosis and local advice sought about the dangers of blue/green algae, which can produce toxic Cyanobacteria. Clinical signs include: vomiting, black diarrhoea, salivating, disorientation, tremors, breathing difficulties, coma and even death.”